spouses & mobility

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at nih.gov
Sat Jun 21 18:21:33 EST 1997


My newsreader isn't letting me post (and driving me mad with an
unquenchable desire to post), so, I've resorted to deja news.

Regarding spouses/SO's and mobility. In my experience, mobility of spouses
is the significant factor that keeps women out of tenure track positions.
And, it's frustrating, because I don't know what we, as a society, can do
about that. The most difficult search is when both the scientists work on
closely related areas -- hardly anyone needs two people studying the
neurophysiology of the parietal lobe structures in the primate.

But it's a problem even when the spouse have relatively mobile professions
-- for example, medicine, law, etc. The main reason that I've seen for
this, is how long the training period is for scientists. It's hard for the
spouse (if they are career oriented) to maintain flexibility for such a
long period in their career. A couple of professions with a lot of
flexibility (and mobility) programming & biotech have been mentioned. But
even in these industries, as the person becomes more established (moves up
the career ladder) their options become limited. It's true that a
programmer can find a job almost anywhere, but what about when you are a
Senior Vice President at Microsoft in charge of Windows 2000 development.
There won't be many positions out there at your level any more. And, the
Senior Vice President will be earning 90% of the family's income (if the
other wage earner is a post-doc, or a grad student).

I've found no solution to this, but warning the young people who are
planning science careers to have their eyes wide open to how much
complexity this adds to planning one's life. A famous female scientist I
know advises young people that you should find your tenure-track position
first, and then find your life's mate. This advice is amusing, but not
very helpful.

Bharathi

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