On-ramping is the process of re-entering the workforce after taking a career break (usually to care for family). It is paired with the term “off-ramping”, or exiting the workforce as a temporary career break.

The Hidden Brain Drain, a taskforce led by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, defined the term as “many women in the US do not drop out of their careers altogether, but they often find it difficult to re- Enter the workforce. This has been called ‘off-ramping’ (joining the career path). (Around 2.2 years), but even this incur financial penalties. Women who spend three years off-ramp see their earning power by 37 per cent. ” [1] A study by the Center for Work-Life Policy found that more than 90 percent of those women who off-ramp eventually wish to on-ramp back into the work force.

The term appears as early as 2005, [3] reaching public on NPR [4] that same year. The term appears in publications in Articles Such As the Wall Street Journal [5] by 2006, and by 2008 appears in formal training materials for Such organisms have the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants [6] as a business best practice .

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, as the likeliest originator of the term (in Hewlett & Luce (2005), [7] ) has developed a career site (YourOnRamp) to capitalize on it and is a supporter of the entrepreneurial networking organization LadiesWhoLaunch .


  1. Jump up^ Elaine Aarons, Hidden Brain Drain Taskforce, as reported inhttp://www.thelawyer.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=114645&d=pndpr&h=pnhpr&f=pnfpr
  2. Jump up^ Hannah Seligson (2008-12-06). “Off Ramp to On Ramp: It Can Be a Hard Journey” . NY Times . Retrieved 2012-07-25 .
  3. Jump up^ “We Can Stop the Female Brain Drain,” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, March 6, 2005
  4. Jump up^ marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2005/12/09/off_ramping/
  5. Jump up^ Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal writes about the efforts of Lehman Bros and other employers to help achieve women reenter the workforce.
  6. Jump up^ http://www.aicpa.org/download/career/wofi/0666-331_WLWIECs_Off-Ramping_Program.pdf
  7. Jump up^ “Off Ramp and OnRampers” (PDF) (Press release). Center for Work Life Policy. 2005-02-25 . Retrieved 2006-07-03 .

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