A significant proportion of women STEM scientists seeking academic positions have partners who need appropriate professional employment in the same region. More specifically, while 36% of academics in the United States have a partner who also works in academia, a startling 83% of female scientists have a partner in academic science, typically in a similar field (Schiebinger, Henderson, & Gilmartin, 2008). Among those women who are part of academic couples, women are more likely than men to resign from their career to support their partner’s career advancement. Women STEM scientists are also more concerned than men STEM scientists with how to make a dual professional career partnership possible.
Given these statistics, it is not surprising that many institutions offer a wide variety of assistance to dual career couples. Programs include membership in a HERC (Higher Education Recruitment Consortium) or other networks; “home-grown,” specialized assistance offices typically housed in Human Resources departments; bridging positions where the recruiting institution offers a temporary fellowship to the partner while searching for a suitable position; or in some cases, a shared tenure track position. Such programs do not currently exist at the University of Cincinnati. A suitable program for UC will be a critical tool in the hiring and retention of more women STEM scientists.
At UC, in 2012, there were 1,707 faculty members, 599 of whom were STEM faculty. Based on address matching for these people, we determined that 11% of STEM faculty had partners who were also on the UC faculty (versus 7% of all faculty). Our results are lower than the 36% national number for all academics for at least two reasons. First, we examined only people in the AAUP faculty bargaining unit, thereby missing people whose partners might be in research positions at UC but not formally on the faculty. Second, we could examine only UC employees, and not people who might be partners of UC faculty but who have jobs at places like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center or elsewhere in the region. Nevertheless, the results would seem to suggest that UC might have a serious problem in not doing more to recruit dual career couples.
The benefits of providing dual career support are two-fold. First, such a system will facilitate the recruitment of women STEM faculty by positioning UC as an employer of choice within the academy. Commensurate with the growth in the number of dual career couples in academia has been the emergence of various work-life and dual career policies and programs used to support these faculty such as those noted above (for examples, see http://www.portal.advance.vt.edu/index.php/tags/Dual-Career). To remain competitive as a potential employer, UC must embrace similar efforts. Second, by having a system in place to support dual career couples, UC will be able to directly influence one of the primary causes of women STEM faculty’s attrition from the workforce. In particular, those women who depart due to dual career challenges and consequently struggle to re-enter the workforce, or not take as illustrative a position because of the difficulty in accommodating a spouse, will not only have an easier path to sustained employment, but also the support needed to flourish in their careers.
We plan a regional exchange for dual career couples in the Greater Cincinnati area. UC does not currently have a campus-wide, let alone a region-wide, exchange system to meet this perceived need. Similar systems, including Tech Valley Connect (see http://www.techvalleyconnect.com/) have proven to be an important tool for increasing the number of women STEM scientists hired at other institutions. Although alternative mechanisms for addressing dual career issues are available, the decision to create a regional exchange was guided by three primary beliefs:
- Establishment of a regional exchange will have a sustainable impact within UC but also for multiple organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area;
- The Greater Cincinnati area offers a wide variety of regional opportunities for placement of a spouse including academic institutions, world class corporations, small start- ups, engineering and industry; and
- Establishing a regional exchange will provide the foundation for any number of future reciprocal relationships and opportunities.