Over the last fifty years women's employment has increased markedly throughout developed countries. Women of younger generations are much more likely than their mothers and grandmothers to enter the labour market and stay in it after they marry and have children. Are these changes due only to changes in women's investments and preferences, or also to the opportunities and constraints within which women form their choices? Have women with higher and lower educational and occupational profiles combined family responsibilities with paid work differently? And have their divisions changed? With an innovative approach, this book compares Italy and Great Britain, investigating transformations in women's transitions in and out of paid work across four subsequent birth cohorts, from the time they leave full-time education up to their 40s. It provides a comprehensive discussion of demographic, economic and sociological theories and contains large amounts of information on changes over time in the two countries, both in women's work histories and in the economic, institutional and cultural context in which they are embedded. By comparing across both space and time, the book makes it possible to see how different institutional and normative configurations shape women's life courses, contributing to help or hinder the work-family reconciliation and to reduce or reinforce inequalities. Women in and out of paid work will be valuable reading for students, academics, professionals, policy makers and anyone interested in women's studies, work-family reconciliation, gender and class inequalities, social policy and sociology.