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The Two-Body Problem, Part II: Seeking Employment Solutions for Dual-Science-Career Couples

by Laurie McNeil and Marc Sher

January 2001

Laurie McNeil is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Curriculum in Applied and Material Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Marc Sher is a professor of
physics at the College of William and Mary, specializing in particle theory.
Both authors are members of dual-career families.

ONE OF THE PRIMARY PURPOSES of our dual-career-couple survey was to look for interesting solutions and innovative responses to the problem. Despite the gloomy picture painted by many dual-career situations, such solutions do exist and can be used as models by institutions that wish to take a positive approach to the issue. 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 provided 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. 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.

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. A solution which
is being increasingly adopted involves shared positions. 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 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. 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 deadend 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.

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 is "the strong personal tendency
to do more than the agreed-upon parttime 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."

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 leads 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 halfposition
to a full-time 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 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.

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.

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 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.
Many institutions have programs that assist in finding non-academic positions for spouses.
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.
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 particularly
advantageous if the spouse's department anticipates retirements within the next few
years. 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.

There are difficulties involved with asking candidates about their spouses. 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. 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 worth-while 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 following
section on alternative academic positions). 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 member’s 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.

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 four 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.

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 section).
Possible positions available include shortterm (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.

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.

Although a soft-money researcher (SMR) does 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 micro-inequities 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 position 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 fulltime
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 aren’t even considered secondclass 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.

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-behired faculty obtain positions outside of the institution. Fortunately, a growing number of institutions are doing what these respondents suggested. The spousal hiring programs mentioned previously (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, VP‘s, 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. 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 contacts in the area. It is important for department
chairs to make contacts with companies before job searches even begin. Companies that 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 dualcareer 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 when 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.
With children, however, the situation is much more difficult. Many couples are forced to
either give up the idea of children, or drastically scale back a career, rather than live apart.

Alas, there do not appear to be any simple solutions to this problem. There have been some
fairly creative approaches, however. A wellknown 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.


We have summarized the responses to a survey of the experiences of dual-science-career
couples, and many of the institutional responses that they have received. Many of these responses
either made the situation worse or did nothing to improve it. We have argued that it is in the
interests of institutions to instead take an active, positive role when faced with potential hires
who seek employment for their spouses. Such actions will benefit not only the job candidate
and the institution, but also the physics profession as a whole. For institutions that choose to
aid themselves and the physics community in this way, we have offered recommendations foraction and sources of information, as well as examples of successful programs and policies. We hope that institutions will decide to meet this challenge, and thereby achieve their hiring goals and also enhance the representation of qualified women in physics. The "two-body problem" will inevitably worsen in the future, and forwardlooking institutions will choose to take appropriate action. As physicists who have experienced the dual-career situation ourselves, we hope that an increasing number of institutions will choose this path.


We have argued that it is in the interests of both the hiring institution and the physics profession
as a whole that institutions take an active role in addressing the dual-career situation of
the physicists whom they wish to hire. Such efforts can help an institution to hire and retain
the candidates they choose, and will also help to ameliorate the significant barriers experienced
by talented women entering the profession. Since women represent a much larger fraction of
younger physicists than of the more senior population (14% of physicists 31 and under vs. 3% of
those over 40), the number of new hires who will face such a difficulty can be expected to
increase dramatically in coming years. It therefore behooves all institutions to take appropriate
measures to address the situation. Below we recommend various of actions which institutions
and individuals should consider.

(a) Recognize the existence of the dual-career situation and choose to deal with it

This is the obvious first step, but as responses to our survey reveal, many institutions have
yet to take it. As the statistics cited above indicate, institutions of all types at all levels will be
increasingly faced with potential hires whose partners are in need of help in finding suitable
employment in the area. It is crucial that institutions choose to make an appropriate response.
That response may involve anything from establishing a formal, institution-wide office with specific
responsibility for such assistance (as in the Spousal Hiring Programs described above), to
informal efforts on the part of faculty members to learn of potential physics positions in local
industry. But the problem will not go away if institutions ignore it.

(b) Take action before beginning a search

Institutions need to take action in a timely fashion. Once an offer has been made to a candidate,
there is generally too little time left to begin an investigation of local employment
opportunities or possible model policies for split/shared positions. Institutions, upon recognizing
that the problem is likely to affect their next hire (not to mention subsequent ones),
need to determine what kind of assistance they will be willing to provide, and obtain the necessary
information. Responsibility for this effort should be specifically assigned, whether to an
institution-wide office or a faculty member. If assistance with dual-career problems is everybody’s
responsibility, it tends to be nobody’s.

(c) Establish policies regarding split/shared positions, nepotism, etc.

As our survey responses have shown, many institutions have been asked by a candidate to
consider a split/shared position but were unable to do so in the time frame of a specific hire.
Therefore it is important that institutions explore the various models for such positions
beforehand and discuss them in the context of their own needs, present and future. By working
out some of the details of such policies in advance, an institution can be prepared to act
quickly when such an arrangement becomes desirable in a particular hiring situation. The
same is true of nepotism policies; department chairs and other responsible parties have a duty
to investigate the actual policies in force in their institutions (not just what they believe them to
be), and to discuss the status of these policies with the institution’s legal counsel. Given that
these policies appear to have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of women in
physics, physics departments should consider measures to remove or modify such policies. But
such actions must be taken in advance of a specific hiring situation.

(d) Seek information

In conjunction with this report, we are establishing an internet site (http://
www.physics.wm.edu/dualcareer.html) to provide institutions with access to information
about actions they can take in response to the dual-career situation. On this site we have
posted specific policies for split/shared positions, spousal hiring, and the like which have been
adopted by various institutions. The site also contains the names of contact points at these
institutions for those wishing to learn more about the implementation of specific policies and
the effects they have had. We invite individuals and institutions that have found creative
approaches to the dual-career situation to contact us with information they are willing to
share, which we will then post on the site. Links to and from other relevant sites (such as thehome page of the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics) will be provided.

(e) Federal policies

It is clear that the dual-career-couple problem is one of the major factors in slowing the
growth of the percentage of women in physics. Yet, to our knowledge, there are no federal policies
or programs aimed at helping dual-careercouples. Some programs, such as the Professional
Opportunities for Women in Research and Education (POWRE) program, can give valuable
short-term help, but such programs are woefully underfunded. One can imagine programs similar
to this program specifically aimed at dual-career couples (yes, such programs discriminate against
single scientists, but we have seen that the entire system discriminates against married scientists). In any event, programs that offer flexibility in location (such as the POWRE program) or that
can supplement a partial college/university salary could certainly alleviate some of the difficulties
faced by dual-career-couples.

In addition, funding agencies can be more sensitive to the needs of dual-career-couples. For
example, the agencies are reluctant to provide support for an individual who has a particular
soft-money-research position for the long term (more than five years). The reasons are that the
salary eventually becomes too high, and that the individual gets trapped into the position and has
difficulty finding employment elsewhere. However, in a dual-career-couple situation, such
a position might be the only way a spouse can stay in science, and thus a more proactive
response of the funding agencies in such cases (perhaps, for example, with gradually increasing
institutional support) would be helpful. In general, it would help if funding agencies would be as
flexible as possible in dealing with dual-careercouples. Finally, the ruling that anti-nepotism
laws in male-dominated professions are illegal was a ruling of only the 8th circuit and thus only
applies in that circuit. A more widely-applied ruling would be welcome.

(f) Develop contact networks for hiring

Because the number of physics-related positions in a given area is usually low, it is important
for institutions to be able to provide contacts for job-seekers in their area. As discussed
above, such contacts may benefit a department in other ways (such as job opportunities for their
graduates). Simply being aware that "Company A might be willing to hire a physicist" or
"Department B might need a part-time instructor" is not enough. Job-seekers need to be provided
with names and phone numbers of specific individuals with whom they can explore what
opportunities might actually be available. Although that individual may not be aware of a
position that suits the job-seeker’s qualifications, s/he should be able to direct the job-seeker to
other points of contact. While it is the individual's responsibility to "land the job," the institution
can at least tell her or him where to place the hook.

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