V. SOLUTIONS---POSITIVE RESPONSES AND SUGGESTIONS
One of the primary purposes of our survey was to look for interesting solutions and innovative responses to the problem. Despite the gloomy picture painted in the previous section, such responses do exist and can be used as models by institutions that wish to take a positive approach to the issue. It is important to emphasize that there is no magic answer to the dual-career-couple problem; there were almost as many different situations as there were respondents, and each of the various solutions discussed in this chapter will only apply to a subset of these situations. Some of these solutions involve formal institutional responses to the problem, while others are more ad hoc.
In spite of the large number of different dual-career couple-situations, they do tend to fall into several broad categories. Either the members of the couple are in the same scientific field, or they are in different fields. Either they are at a similar stage in their careers, or they are at different stages. Either children are (or will be) a major factor, or they are not. The various suggestions in this chapter will generally only apply to certain groups; split/sharing positions, for example, will not generally be relevant to those in different fields or at different stages in their careers; some of the ideas for commuting will not be practical for those with children.
Nonetheless, there were some interesting ideas discussed by survey respondents and many people might find some linear combination of these ideas to be applicable to their situation. We hope to convince the reader that the dual-career couple problem is not always hopeless, that institutions and couples have come up with innovative and interesting solutions, and that the problem can be dealt with at all levels of the profession.
(a) Shared or Split Positions
(i) What are shared or split positions?
Perhaps the most difficult dual-career couple problem occurs when both scientists are in the same discipline. Jobs in physics are very rare, and the probability that two jobs which match the partners' subdisciplines will occur in the same department is very small. In the words of Montgomery and Powell, "if you have the same level of training in the same field of study, then don't expect to have the same zip code". A solution which is being increasingly adopted involves shared positions (also called "split" or "joint" positions, although there are important distinctions between them which will be discussed later). Shared positions began at colleges and universities in isolated areas (since there were so few alternatives for spouses), but their popularity has been growing rapidly in recent years, and they are now becoming common at major research universities.
In a shared position, a single faculty position is shared by two individuals. Each has half of the duties of a full-time position. There are many issues in such an arrangement, including conditions of tenure and promotion, merit raises, benefits, start-up funds, voting rights, etc., and a number of different ways of dealing with these issues--they will be discussed in detail below.
The first reaction that many couples have when first considering a shared position is "No way!" From a financial point of view, sharing a salary seems no better than one partner having a full salary and the other being unemployed. There is also concern about the "two for the price of one" syndrome--it is unlikely that an academic who is paid half of a salary will actually spend only half as much time as full-time academics. Thus it appears to be much less money for a lot more work.
In practice, however, the financial situation as not as dire as it might seem. The single salary only applies to the academic year--if both partners have research grants, and can get support during the summer, the total annual salary can reach 1.25 person-years. In addition, the half teaching loads frees up a lot of time in which additional compensation can be found. For example, most large departments have people on leave every semester, and so extra teaching can be done. By offering to pick up extra courses to teach, many couples can earn an additional 1/4-1/2 of an annual salary. There is also more time for consulting and outside employment.
But the main advantage to sharing a position is the additional time freed up for other pursuits. This is useful for those wishing to establish stronger research records, and is especially useful for those wishing to have a family. This advantage was described very nicely by Jane Lubchenco and Bruce Menge, who shared a position in biology at Oregon State University ; their positions were eventually converted into two full-time positions. Dr. Lubchenco, who was President of the AAAS in 1996, says:
"We both wanted to have a family but had difficulty imagining when we would be able to squeeze in enough time with our children. We both wished to be active participants in raising our children and to spend significant amounts of time with them. However, neither of us wanted to give up teaching or research. Moreover, we understood that traditional part-time positions in academia take scientists out of the mainstream with little opportunities to reenter. We wanted to have it all but not go crazy in the process. We sought not what later came to be called "the mommy track" in which career goals would be sacrificed, nor the so-called "fast track" which we were already on and for us would have precluded having sufficient time with our children, but rather what we intended as a "sane track". The ideal arrangement seemed to be one in which we could each work part-time but do so in mainstream positions."
In our survey, we found several couples who had high praise for the way in which their shared positions were working, and none who complained about them. There were also many situations described by respondents whose problems seemed amenable to the "shared position solution", but they didn't seem to have considered the possibility.
We will first look at the advantages and disadvantages of shared positions, and then look at the mechanics of shared positions and how issues such as tenure, benefits, raises, funding, office space, etc. are dealt with, several specific examples (including examples of formal "shared position policies") and contracts, and finally look at our survey results and the question of how to obtain such a position.
(ii) Advantages and disadvantages of shared positions
Here we discuss the many advantages (and few disadvantages) of shared/split positions. Many people in such positions rave about them, write articles about them, and spread the gospel about how wonderful shared/split positions are. In our survey, we found much support for these positions, and not a single negative report.
Shared positions are best for two people in the same field, at roughly the same level of training. In many cases, they provide the only mechanism for both partners to stay active in science, in mainstream positions, and still live together. When a position arises in a department, there is generally only one position available, and so a spouse will come along, often without support. The trailing spouse will often be able to play some role in the department, as a part-time instructor or post-doctoral associate. But part-time, non-tenure track positions are dead-end positions, without much future. Advancement in academia progresses in very specific steps, and it is hard for someone "off the track" to get back on. Thus, by splitting a position, both partners can be in tenure-track positions, continue to teach and to do research. It may very well be possible for the half-time positions to evolve into full-time positions in the future
However, the main appeal of split positions was described in the quote of Lubchenco in the last section, in which she noted that she could avoid the "mommy track" and the "fast track" by getting onto the "sane track." Lubchenco and her husband, Bruce Menge, were one of the first couples to obtain a split position (at Oregon State in the mid-70ís). They both had assistant professorship positions in Boston (his at U. Mass, hers at Harvard), and gave them up for two half-time positions. This enabled them to play a much more intensive role in raising their children. Natalie Adolphi and Andrew McDowell share a position at Knox College. The flexibility of the position is its most attractive aspect, Adolphi notes, "for us, it was the freedom to define the job to be whatever we wanted. We have a young daughter, so we have time to spend with her. Also, we're only starting our teaching careers, so we're not too efficient yet. It's nice to have extra time to prepare." They share a research lab, but each works on a separate line of research.
Carol and Andrew de Wet share a position in geosciences at Franklin & Marshall. They note that "The split position is an attractive option for balancing the demands of both career and family, particularly during the pretenure, preschool years." The de Wets have been very happy with their split position. It is providing "students with positive and alternative role models; they see an equal division of teaching responsibility, research, student interaction, and time with our children.... we show, by example, that women can have both a fulfilling family and a successful scientific career, thereby encouraging our female students to continue with graduate study..." Carol de Wet recalls from her undergraduate years: "A renowned female professor from a high-caliber university gave a professional talk as a visiting speaker. She offered to answer questions about careers. Someone asked her about her career decisions and she stated, quite unequivocally, that it was impossible for a woman geologist to have a career and children. She opted for the career. We hope we can demonstrate another option."
There are also major advantages to the institution. For the price of one (or slightly more) faculty member, it can employ two people. As noted by Lubchenco and Menge, "Two individuals bring two different ways of thinking, two different backgrounds, two different approaches, multiple skills, and generally much greater richness of experience than would be possible with a single individual". The advantages to a small department of such a situation are clear. In research-oriented institutions, there will be two people who can obtain funding, and summer salary, increasing the total departmental funding. Lubchenco and Menge also argue that "an additional, but unexplored advantage might be that individuals who work only part-time while their children are young may be less apt to suffer professional burn-out". Two people in a split position are much less likely to leave: as noted by Mark Schneider, Chair of Physics at Grinnell, "offering shared positions adds stability to the faculty and reduces our difficulties due to attrition". Perhaps more importantly, the effect on students, especially female students, can be electrifying. It provides them with alternate role models--they see that it is possible for a couple to have both a family and two productive, exciting scientific careers.
The primary personal disadvantage to a split or shared position, of course, is financial. As noted above, supplemental income can be obtained through summer salaries, extra teaching and outside consulting; and much money can be saved by not needed full-time child care. Nonetheless, two full positions will provide a significantly higher income. Another disadvantage, noted by the de Wet's is "the strong personal tendency to do more than the agreed-upon part-time work, and the (usually unintended) external pressure to assume that more can be done than the agreed-upon work load. To counter this the split position faculty may need boldness to speak out when the workload goes beyond reasonable levels. There is, however, a fine line between being exploited, and being willing to accept some amount of overload as compensation for both partners being employed in the same place in a highly competitive job market."
In Box 1, we have summarized the advantages and disadvantages of shared/split positions, for the individuals and for the institution, as well as the potential stumbling blocks involved in obtaining such positions.
(iii) How do they work?
Shared and split positions are similar in that a single FTE (full-time-equivalent) nine-month faculty slot is occupied by two individuals. In principle, however, they are very different. In a shared position, a single position is shared by two people. This one position is considered for tenure (either both get tenure or both do not) and promotion, a single salary increase applies to the position and the salary is divided evenly, the two individuals can negotiate the division of responsibilities. In a split position, a single position is divided into two separate, independent, half-time (0.5 FTE) positions. Each half-position has a separate contract to do half the teaching, research and service, each is eligible for tenure and promotion independently, each receives a separate raise, each has separate benefits (note that half-time positions might not be eligible for full benefits).
The differences between shared and split positions can be quite significant. Each has different advantages. In a split position, the independence of the two positions lead to much greater flexibility in research, as each partner can pursue separate research goals, and dividing up the responsibilities of a single position is not necessary. In a shared position, dividing the responsibilities can be an advantage--if one partner wished to take some time off (to rear an infant, for example), the other can take on full responsibility for the position.
In practice, we have found that split positions are much more common than shared positions. However, there is a significant variation in individual contracts, and many arrangements that dual-career couples have made with their institutions have aspects of both types of position. In some, for example, each member of the couple in a shared position is evaluated separately for tenure (as in a split position), but if one is denied tenure, the other can convert their half-position to a full-time position. We will now give a number of examples of such positions, including explicit examples of formal "shared-position" policies at some colleges and universities.
With a total faculty of approximately 100, Knox College has 5 couples in shared positions. Natalie Adolphi and Andrew McDowell share an assistant professorship in the Physics Department. Their position is a shared position; McDowell comments that "Each of us is evaluated (for tenure) independently, but both of us must be deemed tenurable for the shared position to continue." If one of them does not receive tenure, the college will declare the position open, and the tenurable spouse would be free to apply for the opening as a full-time person. "After tenure, if one person leaves, the other person assumes the full-time position as the first option". They receive the same benefits for the family that one full-time person would receive.
Adolphi points out that a major factor in their success in obtaining this position was the fact that Knox had an established policy on shared positions before they even applied for the position. "If an administration hasn't yet decided on a policy, convincing them to come up with one in the midst of a job search will undoubtedly be quite difficult. ('What if they get divorced?", etc. '). The easy way out for the administration is to simply say no, even if the department is extremely keen on the idea of a joint position". She urges people to urge their institutions to develop such policies before the job-searching season begins. Knox College's Policy on Shared Appointments is given in Appendix B. It has been quite successful to date.
Note that there is no explicit requirement that the participants in a shared position be married, although that has always been the case to date. In addition, there is the presumption that both participants are in the same department. In general, shared and split positions are only feasible when this is the case--we know of no counterexamples (as yet).
The Adolphi-McDowell position is an example of a "shared position". Split positions are much more common. It is difficult to find formal policies regarding split positions. Many institutions, such as the College of William and Mary, have a number of split positions. However, the institution is reluctant to "lock in" a formal policy, since that would make it more difficult to be flexible (some positions are 60-60, some have different benefit policies, etc.). Rather than adopt a specific structure, they rely on the fact that they have a number of such positions to provide templates for future hires. Unfortunately, in some institutions there are formal college policies which forbid tenure for part-time positions, and split positions are thus not allowed.
As an illustration of how a typical split position works, one can look at the position held by Carol and Andrew de Wet, who are in the department of geosciences at Franklin and Marshall. In a recent article in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering[5 ], they described the position. The description is given below:
"We currently split a tenure-track geoscience position at Franklin and Marshall ... We are now in our fourth year toward tenure (this was in 1997) ... and have two preschool-aged children and one other in school ... The College provides us each with an office, laboratory space, computers and telephones. We received generous start-up financial support and have been fortunate with the acquisition of new equipment. In addition, we each have internal funding for attendance at professional meetings and discretionary faculty development monies, equivalent to one full-time appointment. We can both apply for in-house grants for student research funds, course innovation and other professional expenses as though we are individual, regular faculty members. We each have a full vote in college faculty meeting and a half vote in departmental matters. We both serve as premajor advisors and serve on college committees. ... There are a number of options concerning tenure, and policies tend to be institution-specific, negotiated by the split position faculty and Dean or other administrator. Our contract states that we will each be evaluated for tenure as separate members of the faculty. The expectation is that we will demonstrate the same quality, but half the quantity of work, as our peers. If we both get tenure, then the situation remains unchanged. If one gets tenure and the other does not, the successful one can stay on as a half-time faculty member. At that point, the college may open negotiations concerning the position's extension to full-time."
Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell have a split position in Economics at Grinnell, which allows them to supplement their income with extra teaching. They described their position in the CSWEP Newsletter: "We each represent between .7 and 1.0 associate professors at Grinnell, with an annual mean of .9 and a standard deviation of about .1 (this is not something we try to explain at cocktail parties). Our joint contract stipulates that we teach no fewer than seven courses between us per year, and up to ten if we and the college mutually agree". In Appendix C, we show their contract arrangement. They also noted that when they began, "Grinnell insisted that we be paid identical salaries, prorated by the number of courses we taught. As it happened, one year Powell ranked 5 on the merit scale, while Montgomery ranked only 3. So they averaged and gave us both a rank-4 raise. As a result, Montgomery became professionally jealous of Powell and Powell began to think of Montgomery as a drag on her career. Recent reforms made it possible for a couple at Grinnell to opt for separate salaries. For us, financially, this should be very worthwhile since those divorce attorneys cost a fortune." Thus, their position had aspects of a shared position (equal salaries), but has evolved into more of a split position.
Split positions are much more common than shared positions. In discussions with various college administrators, the most serious concern about shared positions is the "all-or-nothing" aspect of the tenure decision. It could turn out that one member of the shared position is very good, and the other is very poor, putting the institution in a very difficult situation. As a result, many so-called "shared positions" treat tenure as if it were a split position (with each person evaluated independently).
In an article in Geosciences Canada, Catherine Shrady surveyed nine institutions with shared/split positions in the geosciences---Albion, Colgate, Franklin & Marshall, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Vanderbilt, Michigan Technological, Cornell and U. Mass Amherst. 6 of the 9 defined the position to be a "split position" (4 were 50-50, 1 was 60-60 and 1 was 75-75). The other 3 defined the position to be a "full-time shared" position. However, these 3 "shared" positions had the same basic tenure policy as the split positions---each member is considered separately, with the position to be renegotiated should only one member be denied tenure. All of them provided full office space. They had a variety of voting rights policies--most gave each member a full vote in both university and departmental matters, one gave each member a half vote in departmental matters and another gave each member a half vote in university matters. They each provided full travel funds and (with one exception) allowed each member to apply for university grants as if they were full-time. There was a fairly even split as to whether start-up funds were shared. Benefits are an important, and often contentious issue, since part-time employees generally receive limited benefits. All the institutions offered full medical benefits for both partners, and at least offered them each one-half of the "other" benefits (such as life insurance, pension, and tuition exemption for children). Some were more generous.
One can see that the distinction between shared and split positions is narrowing, especially concerning tenure. In recent years, the number of these positions has grown to the point where their novelty has worn off, and they are becoming part of the standard menu of options for those seeking positions in academia. Yet our survey showed that a large number of dual career science couples seem unaware of this possibility. To remedy this situation, we have constructed a special Web site, which we hope to link to the APS Home Page which will give many details concerning shared and split positions. The page can be found at http://www.physics.wm.edu/dualcareer.html. We will invite couples in such positions to visit the site and to submit information about their positions. Dual-career couples and institutions who would like to investigate the possibility will then have many examples to show administrators, thus helping overcome administrative inertia.
(iv) Survey results
Several of the survey respondents discussed their split or shared positions, and a couple provided e-mail addresses so that we could contact them and get their "shared position file" of information (we are especially grateful to Natalie Adolphi for providing us with a large number of articles dealing with these positions). There were some who had heard of such positions ("a friend of a friend ..."), but didn't know much about them. We were surprised by the general lack of information about split positions among the respondents. Following are some of the comments:
"It would sure be nice if teaching and/or research positions at colleges or universities could be split between a couple. I have some friends coming out of grad school soon, with both in physics, who would make a great addition to any faculty as a pair. She does not want to work full-time, but still wants to stay in physics at some formal rank. He wants to work full-time, but still have as much time with their children as time allows."
"Splitting a faculty position is widely mentioned as an option, but we have found very few institutions willing to do this. No state institutions that we have had contact with have been able employed full-time), and even most private institutions are unwilling (they are nervous about tenure issues...)."
"When we originally applied for shared positions at several places, we were told that they did not know how to deal with issues such as health benefits, tenure, etc."
"Part-time or joint appointments at an undergraduate institution would be appealing to us, but it seems that they are not feasible due to the tenure situation. It doesn't seem realistic for a school to give a joint tenure to two people who have only shown up for half a day of work each. I am sorry that we do not fit neatly into the two-career category since we have made choices that lead us to only one career. "
"My husband's potential employer rejected the suggestion (of a shared position) because there is no previous example, and they are not ready to set an example."
"I have not found much positive in our search for a 50-50 position. The most positive thing I can mention is that there are occasionally advertisements for dual career couples. But these are very rare, and we have never been interviewed for these positions."
These respondents certainly know about the possibility of split positions, but seem less aware of how common they are. The last comment gives a clue as to the best way of obtaining a shared or split position. Seldom do institutions advertise for a split position--they generally arise in response to a search for a single position.
This leads to a crucial question. When is the best time to discuss the possibility? Our respondents seem divided on this question. Elsewhere in this report, we point out the serious problems that can occur by mentioning one's spouse's situation too early in the search process, and argue that it is generally best not to discuss the matter until after the interview process. Split positions are different. If a couple is set on such a position and would not accept anything else, then one should bring it up early, possibly in the initial application. After all, it is a condition of employment, and is only fair to alert the employer at an early stage. In mentioning the position, however, it would help (if the institution does not already have one or more split positions) to make a specific proposal--or give some explicit examples--thus showing the institution that these positions are feasible and not uncommon. On the other hand, in many cases, the couple is not specifically set on a split position, and is willing to consider other options. In that case, it is probably not best to mention it too early in the process (although waiting until an offer is made might not give the institution time to respond). Alas, there do not seem to be any hard and fast rules for when to bring up split positions.
There were also several respondents whose situations seemed very amenable to a shared/split position, but they seem not to have considered the possibility:
"I think the chair could have gone to the Dean and said that they had a chance to hire a women physicist (dept. was all male), but she only came as a couple and another position would have to be found."
"Several places interviewed both of us if the institution wanted one of us. Ultimately, however, we did not both get offers from the same place. In the end, it made no difference to the employer that we were dual-career. People at labs and universities were sympathetic, but unable to help (i.e. make two offers, or assist the second person in finding a local job). There was no motivation to assist us because of the funding/job crunch in the physics job market.. (That is, either we accepted one position and dealt with the problem on our own, or we turn down the job and the institution offers the position to one of the other 199 good candidates)."
"We decided that we may want to have children, and that if so, we would want to be at the same place. Since I had the more promising academic job at the time, my wife chose to take a lesser (and temporary) academic position where I was so that we could live together."
"Later, we were both in temporary teaching jobs and did job searches...when my husband was offered a tenure track job (and I was not) we moved to the city in which he was offered a job. Because we plan to have children, I have restricted myself to working in this geographical area. I am currently teaching part-time, but have not figured out how to advance my career and leave flexibility for having children."
We see that a major problem with split/shared positions is that people don't know much about them. On the dual-career-couple Web page that we are establishing, we will present a number of examples, strategies, etc., and will invite couples with such positions to add to this number. Over time, the database will make it clear how common such positions are, provide templates for couples to suggest to institutions and for institutions to establish clear policies, etc.
Shared/split positions are not for everyone; they generally require the couple to be in the same department, and to be at roughly the same point in their careers. For such couples, however, they can be a godsend, allowing both people to maintain active, productive careers without sacrificing their family lives. The "sane track" can be a welcome alternative to the "mommy track" or the "fast track".
(b). Spousal Hiring Programs
Shared and split positions are a potential solution for couples in the same department, however, in the majority of cases, a dual-career couple will be in different fields. Many institutions have recognized that the dual-career couple problem makes hiring more difficult, and have established formal spousal hiring programs. The checklist for the Spousal Hire Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says, in its preamble:
"Increasingly, University professionals are part of dual career couples. Thus, decisions to accept a University position are often made based on the availability of employment for a spouse or partner. The following steps [described below] are provided to assist departmental chairs and other administrators in arranging a needed spousal/partner hire. The spouse may be hired as faculty, academic staff, or classified staff. The terms used apply to a spousal hire within an academic department. (The process is analogous for spousal hire in administrative and support units: substitute "supervisor" for "chair"; "unit" for "department", "director" for Dean, etc.)"
This makes clear that spousal hire programs do not just apply to situations in which both persons are ready for faculty positions, but also to cases in which one member of the couple is not suitable for a faculty position but is qualified for an academic or classified staff position. In this section, we will discuss these programs as if they were both qualified for faculty positions, however one must keep in mind that they also apply much more generally. Many institutions have programs that assist in finding non-academic positions for spouses, and they will be discussed in section (d).
How do spousal hiring programs work? Typically (and there are wide variations), the spouse's salary is split, with 1/3 coming from the original hiring department, 1/3 coming from the spouse's department, and 1/3 from the Provost's office. This arrangement lasts for a number of years (usually three to five, but sometimes permanently), and then the spouse's salary comes entirely from his/her department. Many institutions have these programs; our survey respondents mentioned programs at University of Wisconsin, UC-Davis, Purdue and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We now describe these programs briefly.
The program at UW-Madison was established as part of a five-year Faculty Strategic Hiring Initiative, and was designed "to support a faculty, academic staff, or classified staff position for the spouse/partner of a new faculty member". The funding arrangement mentioned in the above paragraph is in place for three years, after which the spouse's department assumes full responsibility. This funding arrangement assures "quality control", since it is unlikely that a department would hire someone who is not appropriate for a mainstream faculty position if they will be providing funding for 27 years of the typical 30-year faculty career. It is particular advantageous if the spouse's department anticipates retirements within the next few years.
UW-Madisons procedures for a spousal hire are given on page 25 of the Search Handbook, at <http://www.wisc.edu/ohrsbkmainwfrm.html>. The Chair of the department interested in hiring someone with a spouse/partner who needs an appointment initiates the process, contacting the unit or department that might provide such an appointment, and (if both departments or units are in agreement) goes to the Dean's office with a formal proposal. Special funds are available for start-up packages, if needed. The department hiring the spouse can get a formal waiver (to hire someone without a formal search) from the Office of Human Resources. The offer to the spouse is contingent on the first hire's acceptance.
We have discussed elsewhere the difficulties involved with asking a candidate about their spouses. So how does Wisconsin bring the program to the attention of a candidate, without causing these difficulties? They have a sheet on "Some 'Best Practices' for Spousal Hiring" that explains how they inform candidates--we have copied that in Box 2.
The procedure described seems optimal. All candidates are treated equally, and the candidate must be the one to bring up the issue of a spouse. The Program has been quite successful to date.
At the University of Illinois, there is a Dual Career Couple Program. It is aimed at "enhancing the ability of the campus to recruit and retain faculty members when the appointment or retention of one person is contingent upon employment of another. The program recognizes that the Champaign-Urbana labor market, compared with those where many peer universities are located, offers limited employment opportunities for a faculty member's partner. The result is that UIUC is at a competitive disadvantage in the recruitment and retention of faculty. The Dual Career Couple Program addresses this problem by provided a waiver of search and by allocating resources to the unit that hires the accompanying partner".
The procedures are similar to that of Wisconsin. The executive officer of the first unit is responsible for contacting the appropriate unit for possible employment of the partner. This executive officer must provide justification to appoint the partner in order to successfully recruit/retain the faculty member and must be willing to provide 1/3 of the salary of the partner. The executive officer of the second unit must be able to justify the appointment on the basis of legitimate unit needs and the candidate's qualifications, and must be willing to support 1/3 of the partner's proposed salary. Upon approval of a proposal from the two units, the Provost will provide a waiver of search and the remaining 1/3 of the partner's salary. Nominations are accepted for tenure track and tenured faculty prospects. Although the policy is geared to appointments to the faculty, requests for partner appointments to academic professional positions will be entertained.
At UIUC, the salary arrangement is permanent. Research funds can be requested. For positions other than a faculty position for a spouse, an office on the campus assists the Dual Career Couple Program in finding suitable employment.
Purdue University has an extensive Spousal Relocation Assistance Program. This is designed to find spouses of newly-hired faculty employment in the area. An evaluation of the program recently noted "The existence of a Relocation Assistance Program serves to humanize a university. Such a program tells the world that Purdue recognizes and understands the needs of the whole person and is concerned with more than just the skills and expertise of that individual ...We believe that programs of this type are necessary in a competitive environment and a worthwhile expenditure of funds ... To be competitive, we need to be viewed as a family friendly employer, sensitive to the difficulties of relocation ... From a recruitment standpoint, it can help with meeting minority and female hiring goals and create a more diverse work force. From a retention standpoint, we know that the primary hire will only be comfortable if the accompanying spouse is happy with his/her situation ..."
The office has a permanent half-time staff member, who actively helps spouses find positions. Every year, they have successfully placed approximately 50 spouses of newly-hired faculty or staff. This program is somewhat different from those at Wisconsin and UIUC mentioned above in that they do not deal with assisting spouses of newly-hired (or newly-offered) faculty in obtaining a faculty position, but do help them in obtaining other University positions (see section (c)). For those looking for a faculty position as well, Purdue has a "Spousal Bridge Program". The program is described as follows:
"To help academic departments recruit and retain dual-career couples when both spouses seek faculty positions, Purdue established a Bridge Program in 1992. The program's intent is to achieve partnership between the academic department hiring the recruit and an academic department that would be appropriate for the accompanying spouse. The administrator responsible for hiring the recruit can attempt to locate a partnership with an appropriate department for the accompanying spouse. When an appropriate academic department wants to consider hiring the accompanying spouse but needs assistance, the academic departments and schools work in partnership to try, in some cases, to achieve an appointment for the spouse of a recruit. In certain situations, the Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs also provides assistance through a special Bridge Program. The Spousal Bridge Program is also available for one academic department when both spouses are in the same discipline."
This is, of course, considerably more vague than the programs at Wisconsin and UIUC. Many institutions prefer to be deliberately vague, to allow for more flexibility of action. There is some tension here. It is important for institutions to have some specific policy or program in place, and to be prepared to deal with dual-career couples; yet too much specificity can constrain the institution and make it difficult for them to be flexible.
At the University of California, Davis, there was a policy several years ago that the university should assist partners and spouses find employment. However, there was no formalized method for finding or funding partner employment, and UCD realized that it were losing potential and current faculty because it was unable to effectively implement this policy. So, in 1996, the Partner Opportunities Program was started to address this issue. Each year, it works with approximately 100 spouses and partners.
The Program assists partners/spouses in finding academic and non-academic positions. In the case where the Program feels that the partner/spouse should be considered for a UCD faculty position, the appropriate dean and department chair are contacted and asked to review the CV. If there is the possibility of a position, the Program arranges for the partner/spouse to meet with the dean and chair. Partners/spouses being considered for faculty positions go through the regular faculty appointment review process. They find that having a central office to handle these placements is very effective. Even in the case of same department appointments, the Program often provides funding; when successful recruitment or retention involves two different departments, the Program can work to make sure that all parties know what is happening and assist in authoring agreements. Assistance in funding is done on a case by case basis with sensitivity to department funding issues. The Program has bridging funds available with a negotiated term of 1-3 years. In most cases, the Program pays only a part of the salary with the faculty members department and the employing department paying a share.
This program does define "partner" as domestic partners who are the same or opposite sex. Our survey did not elicit information about the additional difficulties of same-sex partners, which can be quite significant (most states will not recognize them for standard family benefit packages). Only four of our 620 respondents said that they had a same-sex partner.
Perhaps one of the most important things that spousal hiring programs can do is to provide bridge positions until the next retirement occurs. This can get around the difficulty that so many dual career couples have in timing. Often the department appropriate for the spouse will be interested in hiring him/her, but will not have a position (or at least a position in the spouse's subfield) that year. If a bridge program can provide funding until a particular retirement, then this difficulty can be alleviated.
We see that spousal hiring programs can be of great benefit to dual-career couples. Note that all of the above institutions are large universities. Only such institutions are large enough to justify having special offices dedicated to spousal hiring programs; only at large institutions can special funding be set aside for bridge positions. In many cases, smaller institutions simply don't have the resources. A possible solution might involve a federal program designed to support bridge positions. For an investment of a couple of years of salary, such a program could "save" a scientist's position for a lifetime.
(c). Alternative Positions (academic)
Although split/shared positions and spousal hiring programs can be invaluable for couples who are both at the same stage in their careers (and both ready for faculty positions), a more common situation occurs when there is a disparity in either the respective stages of their careers, or in their respective talents.
One of the problems is that there usually is an imbalance in talent and/or years associated with the two-body problem. As an example, we can cite the situation of one of the authors of this report. As a faculty candidate, the author was about 4 years further advanced in career than the spouse. The author managed to get a job at a reasonable institution, but the spouse is still at the postdoc stage of establishing credentials within the physics community, making it hard to ask the institution for anything at the present moment.
This problem is especially acute for women, who typically have older spouses (in our survey, the mean age difference was 2.1 years); the male partner will typically be further along in his career, and thus when the two-body problem strikes, she is more likely to lower her expectations.
When neither member of the couple is being considered for (or has been offered) a faculty position, it is unrealistic to expect institutional assistance. Nonetheless, individual faculty members can be of great assistance:
"Since I was offered a postdoc fellowship to work with a particular person, I contacted my potential boss. He, as an individual, responded by giving us names of friends and colleagues to contact about possible jobs. He also contacted some of those people for us to set up exploratory appointments during one of our visits to the University. The director of the Dept. contacted several other department heads on campus to see about appropriate openings. Several other faculty members gave us names of contacts and suggestions for finding information/job openings. Each time I asked for help, a bit more effort was put into finding my partner an acceptable job. In the end this paid off, since a positions was created for him by the University."
The moral of the above story is "ASK". Even though one partner is only coming for a two to three year post-doc, it can often be very productive to ask the supervisor for assistance. Universities have a number of soft money positions (teaching and/or research), and there is much less difficulty in getting a two to three year position for a spouse than in getting a tenure-track position. Of course, the position that the spouse obtains may not be the best for his/her career. He/she will then have the choice of taking a position that is not the best from the career point of view, and living with his/her spouse, or taking a better position, and commuting. In the next section, we will discuss various ideas to make commuting somewhat more palatable. In any event, any separation would be for a limited period of time.
Of greater concern is the situation when one spouse obtains a faculty or other "permanent" position, and the other can't get something similar. This is the situation that causes more physicists, especially women, to leave the field. It will occur when the two are at different stages of their careers, when the "trailing spouse" is either not qualified for a long-term position or has research interests that don't match the needs of the institution, or when the institution has a hostile or indifferent response to the needs of dual career couples (as described in the last chapter). Possible positions available include short-term (2-3 year) postdocs, soft money research positions, and adjunct or part-time teaching. Each of these will be discussed below, but it must be emphasized that there is no general procedure for arranging such positions. Thus it is difficult for couples negotiating with an institution to know what to expect or even what they can ask for.
Short term postdoctoral research positions for a "trailing spouse" are (at research universities) not particularly difficult to arrange. Assistance from the administration can generally provide full or partial funding for a couple of years. Many of our respondents were able to get such positions. Of course, the obvious question is: what happens when the postdoctoral position ends? At this point, the department will be aware of the research potential of the "trailing spouse"; if he/she has been wise enough to volunteer to teach a course or two, they will also be aware of the teaching potential. Assuming these are good, then they will have a strong incentive to create a tenure-track position, in order to avoid losing both partners. In many cases, our respondents "solved" their two-body problem in this manner. The details varied--some only had part-time positions for a couple of years, for example--but the basic pattern persisted.
"Initially for the first five years I had a part time job at the University and therefore our department knew about my teaching and research abilities. Thus when they had an opening for a tenure track position they hired me."
"The institution was very helpful. They spoke with my partner's department to locate a part-time position. This turned into a full time tenure-track later on."
"I was in serious contention for a faculty position at XXX, and I asked about opportunities for my husband. XXX and YYYY (another university where he had a postdoc at the time) worked together to arrange a visiting appointment for my husband at XXX., and I accepted a "permanent" position. After a few years of visiting and short term appointments here at XXX, my husband now has a "permanent" faculty position here as well. In all cases, people have done as much as possible to support our dual career situation. It has been nerve-wracking, to be sure, but we have been most fortunate."
It is advisable, BEFORE the original offer is accepted, to learn about future hiring plans for the department. If no hire is expected in the trailing spouse's subfield for many years, then this should have an impact on whether the offer is accepted. Of course, even if a hire in the subfield is possible in the next few years, no institution would (or should) be expected to make any promises about that position.
Since the job market is so tight, it may very well be that the spouse who gets the offer has no real choice but to accept it, and that the prospects for a tenure-track position for his/her partner are very dim. In that case, one can still consider long-term soft money positions. Many research groups do have very long-term positions, which can last for decades (this is especially true of high energy physics groups, where experiments can last for half a career). There are also positions involving systems management--one respondent got a "permanent" position which was half-time research and half-time managing the departmental server.
A study of SMR's (Soft Money Research Positions) was carried out in 1993, and involved 69 universities (primarily research universities). An SMR is defined as a position in which all of an individual's salary comes from grants or contracts rather than the institution, although the institution might provide initial funding for a year or two while grant support is sought. For the overhead funds, the institution provides all of the support generally given to tenure-track faculty. SMR's can often parallel the standard tenure track (going from "research associate" to "research assistant professor" to "research associate professor"). Institutions vary widely in whether SMRs can vote in faculty meetings, serve on dissertation committees, and teach courses. Most institutions have formal policies about SMR's. In the above study, 40% of the SMR's at the universities were spouses of tenure line faculty, and three quarters of those were women.
Although SMR's do have access to research facilities (although to a somewhat lesser extent than tenure line faculty), the above study cautions about the psychological stresses of these positions. "The stress of the difference in status between their positions and those of regular tenure-track faculty, can further reduce research capabilities. SMR's can be especially stressful if there is a sense of entitlement or expectation that is not matched by institutional actions. As one respondent noted verbally, it is very hard not to take personally the lack of institutional recognition. These stresses can become exacerbated for many academic couples because differences in access to resources are combined with the perception that the spouse with an SMR is somehow not as good as the spouse with the tenure-track position. It is still further exacerbated for women, because they are more commonly the "trailing spouse" and still subject to the many microinequities of gender discrimination. As one respondent put it, 'It is very frustrating for female Ph.D. spouses to be second class citizens at home campuses and yet enjoy national/international recognition by peers globally. The stress of such a position is serious and ignored!'" Nonetheless, an SMR may very well be the only way for the "trailing spouse" to continue in his/her scientific career.
The ultimate "soft money position" has nothing to do with research. It is adjunct or part-time teaching. Adjunct teachers are typically paid between $500 and $1000 per credit hour, and it is usually possible for a faculty spouse to obtain such a position. The pay is absurdly low (a full-time three course per semester load would typically pay at most $24,000 per year for a Ph.D. scientist!), and the positions are extremely unstable, requiring the spouse to "beg" for courses semester by semester. The stresses discussed in the above paragraph are significantly worse for adjuncts; they arent even considered second-class citizens by other faculty, but often non-citizens. Institutions typically offer little or no support for adjuncts to do research.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that adjunct/part-time teaching is the first step on the road out of science for many women scientists. The inability to do research causes them to lose touch with their field; the low status within departments causes them to not be seriously considered when faculty positions do materialize.
Nevertheless, they do offer one of the few ways in which a faculty spouse who wants to only work part-time for a few years (say, due to very young children) can keep his/her brain cells active. The challenge is to keep the spouse from the depression that their low status in the department tends to induce, keep them actively involved with the field and to provide some method of re-entry.
There are several possible ways to improve the status of such positions. Having longer-term contracts (even just a couple of years at a time) would help the morale of adjuncts, by giving them some sense of stability; most institutions can make such a commitment, even if it might mean occasionally creating a new course or two. Institutional recognition (say, through opening up teaching awards to non-tenure-track instructors) would also be a low-cost way to boost adjunct morale, as would giving adjunct faculty access to institutional resources, such as career counseling. Even if formal research funding is not available, some departmental funding for travel to conferences would help keep the adjunct involved in their field. Finally, re-entry funding, which exists on a small scale through federal funding agencies, can facilitate entry back into the post-doc market.
(d). Alternative Positions (Non-academic)
In the above discussion, we have focused on dual-career couples in academia. This is understandable, given the relative paucity of positions in academia compared with industry. One should note, however, that most of the members of the American Physical Society are not in academia, and a "one-academic, one-industrial" situation (or even a "two-industrial" situation) provides a common solution to the dual-career couple problem.
One problem that many of our survey respondents noted was that many colleges and universities provide virtually no assistance at all in helping spouses of newly-hired or soon-to-be-hired faculty obtain positions outside of the institution. In response to Question 20 ("What would you have liked the potential employer to have done that was not done?"), they commented:
"I would think the personnel office could keep a list of employment resources, etc. in the area to share with new hires."
"Put my partner in contact with a headhunter, and pay for any related fees."
"Have resources to ACTIVELY help find a job for partner."
"Have information on the opportunities in the geographic area; e.g. listings of colleges/industries/labs"
"Use their networking connections to find local job leads for him."
"Aid us in making employment contacts in industry."
"Would have liked the institution which had many good connections to have been willing to give us names and contacts to facilitate the search for employment for my spouse, and to consider helping my spouse visit the area to see if he thought he could find employment."
"I would have liked a list of contacts in the area, interviews set up in-house, a route sheet distributed on the second spouses behalf."
Fortunately, a growing number of institutions are doing what these respondents suggested. The spousal hiring programs mentioned in Section V (b) (at Wisconsin, Illinois, UC Davis and Purdue) all actively help spouses obtain positions in industry. As an illustration, we will discuss the program at Purdue, but one should keep in mind that the other programs are very similar.
The Spousal Relocation Assistance Program at Purdue has a half-time relocation specialist. The specialist, Tari Alper, has a comprehensive knowledge of local companies, industries and organization, and will identify resources in the Greater Lafayette area, suggest networking possibilities, and alert appropriate companies and organizations of the availability of the talents of the accompanying spouse. She will assist spouses in finding employment by generating network leads, making referrals, facilitating and coordinating contacts, and developing job search strategies.
The relocation specialist serves as a resource to deans, VPs, directors and chairs in their recruitment efforts, works with Personnel Services and other University offices, and periodically updates information on employment opportunities in the community. In short, the Program does everything suggested in the above comments (and the relocation specialist is the "headhunter").
During a job search, when finalists are selected for on-campus interviews, the administrator will send them the Program brochure. As discussed in Section V (b), no specific questions about spouses are asked during the actual interview process. s discussed in Section V (b), no specific questions about spouses are asked during the actual interview process. Should the candidate be interested in getting assistance from the Program, they ask the hiring administrator. The hiring administrator then contacts the relocation specialist, who can then begin to work with the spouse. Formally, the spouse becomes part of the Program once an offer to hire is made in writing and the hiring administrator has requested spousal assistance. At that point, the specialist will meet with the candidate, and will assist the accompanying spouse by generating network leads, facilitating and coordinating contacts and circulating the resume.
The Program has been very successful. Last year, over 60 spouses of newly-hired faculty used the Program. Most obtained employment, some at Purdue, and some in nearby industries. The total cost of the program is relatively small (requiring only a half-time hire plus some office equipment) and comes out to be much less than the cost of an extra recruiting visit for each new faculty hire. This extremely productive, and "family-friendly" Program can greatly facilitate solutions to the dual-career couple problem.
Of course, many of the functions of these programs can be performed by concerned department chairs and faculty members. Physicists should be much more aware of the possible industrial contracts in the area. It is important for department chairs to make contacts with companies before job searches even begin. Companies which hire scientists welcome close ties with Physics departments, since these departments can be sources of highly-trained future employees, and such contacts can lead to co-operative internship opportunities and funding. Establishing close contacts between industries and college and universities can be very beneficial independent of any dual-career issues. Then, when a dual-career issue arises, the contacts will already be there. Departments can also work closely with programs like the above Relocation Program or Career Counseling offices to develop expertise in scientific/technical job searching. Thus, it is crucial for departments to take a proactive role in establishing close ties with companies in the area, for the sake of undergraduates (through internships) and graduates (through possible positions) as well as dual-career couples.
One of the most difficult aspects of the dual career couple problem occurs in which the only way the couple can both continue their careers is to live apart from one another. We did not specifically ask survey respondents whether or not they had been lived apart. However, the large number of respondents who mentioned that they had done so, as well as overwhelming anecdotal evidence, indicates that a sizable percentage of dual-career couples have spent at least some time living separately. Commuting becomes a major factor in the lives of many dual-career couples. (By "commuting", we refer to relatively long-distance commuting which requires maintaining two residences, not day-to-day commuting.)
For couples without children, commuting for a limited period of time, while unpleasant, can be tolerated, although it certainly can put a severe strain on the relationship. When the positions are permanent, some couples simply accept commuting as a long-term aspect of the relationship.
"He was a doing a post-doc in Europe and later worked on the East coast while I finished my degree in California. These long term and long distance separations may be bearable (but unpleasant) when there are no family obligations, but I would not see them as a long term solution."
"We were a "commuter marriage" for 3.5 years (across country). Even during graduate school, we attended universities 400 miles apart. My impression was that most male colleagues did not approve of this living arrangement. It could have terminated our marriage; in the end, not without effort, it made it stronger."
"I'm working in one city while my husband works in another city. While I have heard of this situation working for some people, we are finding it a horrible strain on our relationship."
"When you spend 10 or more hours every week in an airport or on a plane, you can't do your best scientific work, you aren't necessarily present for important networking opportunities, and you aren't relaxed enough to enjoy the time you have with your spouse. On the other hand, if you don't see each other on a very regular basis, the relationship suffers irreparable damage. Finding a balance is extremely difficult, especially if family is important to you."
"We are currently living 1000 miles apart. She has been told that there are at least 5 other science faculty at the institution who are living away from their spouses for the same reason."
With children, however, the situation is much more difficult:
"At this time my husband is staying home with our infant son. I already had a job and he'd been trying to finish his graduate degree at the time our son was born. Our decisions have been deeply affected by us living 2000+ miles apart for a year when I first got my postdoc. We have vowed not to put our family through that again."
"It is common in our field (high energy) lately that families live separately (different states, even different countries). This is because it is not easy to find a job, and even more difficult to find two jobs in the same geographical location. Family life is not usually a priority for high energy physicists, but it is for us. We would never live separately, even if we had no children. Since we have a kid, the option is unacceptable."
Many couples are forced to either give up the idea of children, or drastically scale back a career, rather than live apart.
"Being tenure track at two different universities separated by 900 miles, we have had to postpone having children. Like many academics, neither of us had children during graduate school. So we are now facing the situation of having children at a time in our lives when most people choose to stop having children. The biological disadvantage in our case is obvious."
"He chose to take a post-doc at the university where I am employed so we would not have to be separated. He turned down a faculty position at a university in another city so we could be together. Ultimately, he took a job in industry in the same city. Probably we would have considered living apart if we had not had children."
"We decided to try to get pregnant, but we each have tenure at institutions separated by 270 miles. We've been otherwise doing well with "the Commute" but the decision to have children changed this--we began applying for jobs elsewhere."
"My wife left a very nice teaching position at an outstanding University which was 3 hours away be car to start a family. "
"At the time of my job search (post-doc), my husband had an 8-year career with NASA and we had a 9-month old son. These two factors basically anchored me to our current geographical location and made me uninterested in going on the post-doc circuit. I was not (and still am not) willing to sacrifice the family's well being to the very interesting and challenging job offers I received from out-of-state"
Alas, there do not appear to be any simple solutions to this problem. There have some fairly creative approaches, however. A well-known couple, Joseph Weber and Virginia Trimble, have faculty positions at Maryland and Irvine, respectively. Every fall quarter, she is on leave from UCI and visits Maryland; every spring semester he is on leave from Maryland and visits UCI. Both institutions basically pay each a half-salary (this varies slightly over the years). The arrangement has been informal, but has continued for a quarter of a century. They do sacrifice some benefits (retirement and sabbaticals), and lose a month of summer (UCI is on a quarter system while Maryland is on a semester system), but have successfully managed to deal with the commuting problem. In a sense, this arrangement is similar to two shared/split positions, discussed earlier. If a couple has two permanent positions separated by some distance, they could suggest a similar arrangement, alternating semesters. For a large department (which can adjust to having two faculty members during one semester, and none for the other semester), such an arrangement can have many of the positive aspects of shared/split positions. It certainly can't hurt to suggest the possibility.
This sort of arrangement can also be done even more informally. Since many institutions allow sabbaticals every seven years, and also often have support for visiting scientists (and don't object to the occasional year on unpaid leave), couples can stagger sabbaticals and leaves, thus ending up spending a rather high percentage of their time together. For example, in a seven-year period, with two sabbaticals, two leaves, plus summers--they would be apart for 20% of the period, with very little loss in salary.
Institutions can also do a great deal to alleviate the stress of commuting relationships. Assigning Tuesday and Thursday classes, for example, would make moderate-distance commutes much more palatable, allowing more frequent weekend visits. For longer commutes, employers can help in other ways:
"The university where my husband is a faculty member is on the opposite coast to my university. My employer has provided an ample travel budget in my start-up package. This allows me to travel to the national laboratory where both my husband and I do research. Therefore, I see my husband several times per month at the lab."
For couples that don't have faculty positions, interesting short-term arrangements can also be suggested:
"At that time, we had an arrangement where I had a postdoc in Boulder and my wife had one in Berkeley. To avoid being separated, we lived in each location simultaneously by spending a month in Boulder, then a month in Berkeley, etc. My postdoc finished first, and potential employers were open to us continuing the arrangement. I should say that it was much easier for us as a theorist and a numerical modeler to telecommute in this way than it would be for an experimenter."
The above suggestions apply primarily to academic positions, but employers in industry can also be helpful. The increasing use of telecommuting has the potential to alleviate many of the difficulties of dual career couples. When one partner is in industry and the other is in academia, increasing cooperative arrangements between the institutions can be beneficial to all concerned, as discussed in the previous section--such arrangements can allow couples to follow some of the above suggestions.
Another possible way to alleviate the situation would be more federal support directed at scientists, rather than institutions, such as moveable postdoctoral fellowships. One respondent noted:
"The situation in France is easier than in the U.S. because most academic jobs in France are concentrated in Paris and there are nationally funded positions that can be taken to any institution in the country."
Obviously, one can't change the location of academic jobs in the U.S., but nationally funded positions (that could be taken to any one of a number of acceptable institutions) would help. It is unlikely that any such permanent positions could be arranged, but post-doctoral positions could. These could be similar to NSF Graduate Fellowships.
An example of such a program is the POWRE (Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education) program. POWRE awards are "designed to provide a one-time input of funds at a critical stage in the Principal Investigator's career, a means by which she can take advantage of an opportunity that will contribute to a significant, identifiable advance in her career path." These awards are associated with the P.I., and not with a particular institution, and thus can be moved. They would seem to be a good short-term solution to the commuting problem. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to get. Last year, only 38 awards were given for the entire mathematical and physical sciences program.
(f). Legal Responses(i) Nepotism laws
Many of the respondents to the survey mentioned that their attempt to get a position in the same department as their spouse was blocked by so-called "nepotism" rules (more precisely, "anti-nepotism" rules):
"A friend of mine applied to the department where her husband already had a tenure track position. The chair said she was clearly very qualified for the job but that he was afraid that if he hired her, he'd be accused of nepotism. He suggested it would help if she could get an offer from a comparable or better school. "
"(State University) does not support dual career couples. They adhere to the letter and the spirit of an old (state) anti-nepotism law still on the books. This is contrary to the behaviors of other (state) univs. "
"Because of nepotism rules, I changed fields and moved to another Department than
Physics (e.g., Planetary Science and Geophysics)."
"One cited anti-nepotism rules as making it impossible to consider both of us."
"I was offered a job they even refused to consider my husband for a second job even though he was well-qualified for it (this was University of XXX and they said it was because they worried about nepotism). "
"My husband and I applied for two positions which were open simultaneously at the same department- the one for which I was applying was somewhat beneath my qualifications, but he was applying for a tenure-track job, and at least the one for which I was applying was still in the field, and was a full-time position. Apparently, the department felt that there was too much opportunity for conflict or possible nepotism issues if they hired both of us, so they offered my husband the tenure-track job and offered to hired me as a P/T adjunct teaching."
"There was a position open at my institution which matched my wife's qualifications perfectly, but my institution refused to even interview her for the position because they have a strict anti-nepotism policy."
In many states, old anti-nepotism laws are still on the books, and seem to be enforced when it is convenient to cite them. However, our respondents seem to be unaware that such laws are generally in violation of federal law.
It must be emphasized that we are not referring to "chain-of-command" nepotism rules, which would prohibit a situation in which one spouse is higher up in the academic (or industrial) hierarchy over the other, and has some control over that spouses salary, promotion, evaluation, etc. We are only referring to "parallel" nepotism rules, which prohibit, for example, two spouses in the same department.
The relevant case law can be found in the section on Recruiting and Hiring Practices, Federal Law: Prohibitions, published by the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Some anti-nepotism laws are allowed (p. 421:108) "Anti-nepotism policies designed to prevent the aggregation of family members in a company generally do not violate federal law if they are applied evenhandedly and do not have an adverse impact on males or females". It is this last clause that is relevant for physics departments. On p. 421:356, "An anti-nepotism policy which prohibits or limits employment opportunities of a spouse or other relative also could be illegal if it has an adverse impact on job opportunities for women, according to the agency (EEOC). Whether such a rule will be upheld depends on the specific facts of the case as well as on which court hears the complaint." On the next page, a specific case is citedhere, a no-spouse rule in a meatpacking plant where most of the workers were male was found to be in violation of Title VII by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (EEOC v. Rath Packing Co., 8th Cir., 1986, 40 FEP Cases 580). Thus, it appears that in a profession dominated by one gender, anti-nepotism laws are not only de facto sex discrimination but also de jure discrimination, and are in violation of Title VII. Physics is clearly a profession dominated by one gender.
There are no specific challenges, to our knowledge, of anti-nepotism laws when applied to science departments, although one would expect the above case law to apply. Readers who have been denied consideration at a spouses institution because of "parallel" nepotism rules are urged to seek legal counsel.(ii)Inappropriate QuestionsAs seen in the last chapter, it is very common for inappropriate and illegal questions to be asked during job interviews, especially of women applicants. A very informal (and completely non-scientific) survey of colleagues indicates that illegal questions (primarily about spouses, and occasionally about children) are asked in a majority of interviews of women candidates for faculty positions.
One should not immediately assume that those asking such questions have some nefarious intent. In "small talk" at dinner, for example, it is natural for people to ask about each others families, and many simply dont think about the fact that discussions at dinner are part of the interview process. In other cases, the questioner might understand that many candidates have a dual-career couple problem, and might legitimately want to help the candidate. However, as we have seen, such questions often are asked to find out if there will be a "problem" with the hire. It must be emphasized that all such questions, at any stage in the interview process and regardless of the intent of the questioner, are illegal and inappropriate.
Note that we are concerned here with questions asked of a candidate who does not wish his or her spouses situation to be a factor. Many candidates do wish to discuss the issue at the interview stage. There is a fine line here. Bringing up a dual-career issue during the interview process can hurt the candidate in getting the position in the first place, but can help with a spousal position once an offer is made. Certainly, if a position for a spouse will be a necessary condition of accepting an offer, then the candidate should bring it up at an early stagethis is only fair to the potential employer. But if the candidate does not wish to discuss the issue, and does not initiate the discussion, all such questions are inappropriate.
So, what should the response be to such questions? A candidate can "get legal", refuse to answer the question, and remind the questioner that such a question is in violation of federal law. Such a response is likely to backfire, however. If the questioner has just asked the question casually (as "small talk"), this response will seem very unfriendly and could adversely affect the candidates chances. On the other hand, if the question is asked during a more formal part of the interview process, such as an interview with the search committee, then a legal response might be more appropriate.
One can try to "deflect" the question or provide minimal information. For example, if a woman candidate, at dinner, is asked "What does your husband do?", one can respond with a brief answer, then say that his situation is not relevant for the position, and change the subject (if the questioner persists, then a "legal" response would be more appropriate). She could also respond with a question, "Why do you want to know that?".
Many candidates, however, choose to simply answer the question, and hope that the answer wont adversely affect their chances of getting the position. Informal and non-scientific surveys indicate that this is by far the most common response.
Once the interview process is over, a candidate who has been asked an inappropriate question does have various options. Much depends on the outcome. If the candidate gets the offer, then there is seldom a problem (although a brief word to the head of the search committee or chair about the question might be helpful for future cases). However, if the candidate does not get the offer, then there are a variety of options ranging from a few words to the search committee chair to a formal complaint with the EEOC. We spoke with some affirmative action officers, chairs and deans about what the best response would be. Most said that the first response should be to contact the affirmative action (or "human resources") officer at the institution, and to tell them (confidentially) precisely what was asked and by whom. They will then make a suggestion based on the nature of the question, as well as previous experience with the particular department and/or individual, as to what the most effective action would be. Affirmative action officers tend to be very understanding about these issues, and are most knowledgeable about what actions would be most effective at that particular institution. Suggestions of affirmative action officers in past cases include a range of options, from informing the search committee chair about the question, and asking that the offender simply be told that the question was inappropriate, to informing the Dean so that appropriate formal action may be taken. Affirmative action officers emphasize that it is very important to be explicit about the specific question(s) asked, and the name of the questioner, and many suggested sending a copy directly to the Dean. Once the position has been filled, such action will not hurt the candidate, and might help prevent such inappropriate action from occurring in the future.