flexible partners

Beth Shuster eoshuster at UCDAVIS.EDU
Mon Mar 20 15:15:18 EST 1995

On Mar 17, rgyure at aol.com (RGyure) wrote:

>[An aside-- are women usually the flexible partners? Seems this way to

  Sometimes, but not always.  Our approach has been to try to maximize the
opportunities for both of us.  My spouse & I met 14.5 years ago when he was
starting his 4th year of grad school & I had just entered the program. 
When it became apparant (more rapidly than either of us was prepared for!)
that our relationship had long-term potential, he decided to look for
post-docs in the area.  I suppose that I could have left the program &
followed him elsewhere, but we both agreed that that wasn't an option.  His
decision meant that one of his references refused to write him a
recommendation, on the basis that no woman was worth "destroying your
career for"  (the same professor congratulated me when we announced our
engagement the following year - he hadn't realized that I was the woman
involved!) and he had a much harder time getting a fellowship (a friend
later told us that fellowship review committees automatically assumed that
a woman staying in the same area had personal reasons, but that a man must
just be a second-rate scientist - luckily, one committee looked at his
record & awarded him a fellowship).   

  We looked for my post-doc & his job together, targeting areas of the
country where there were opportunities for both.  Luckily, we both had good
options to choose from.  Given the lag in setting up a post-doc (find a
sponsor, write grants, write your thesis) versus starting a biotech job
(can you start next month?), this strategy meant that we spent over a year
apart while I finished my Ph.D., and then I commuted over an hour each way
to my post-doc.  It was hard, but worth it, since neither of us could ever
accuse the other that "I'm just here because I followed you".  

  When time came for me to look for "a real job", my spouse said that he
was willing to move, but only to a job at least as good as the one he was
currently in.  After a nationwide search, I landed an academic job 1.5
hours away, forgoing a potential biotech opportunity closer to home, and we
moved so that I now had the shorter commute.  

  Two years later we got extremely lucky - my husband was offered a
fabulous opportunity to work in the same town as I - this was an
opportunity he would have taken even if it meant increasing our commute. 
Finally, after 10 years of commuting, we live & work in the same town.  We
also finally took the plunge & had our first child 16 months ago (which
brings up a whole host of other issues, but that's another post...).

  Our path hasn't always been easy, but it's worked for us.  Neither of us
has ever felt "held back" by the other, although we each made compromises
along the way.  


Beth Shuster
Univ. of California                   
Davis, CA  95616-8598                  
e-mail: eoshuster at ucdavis.edu

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