The UCI ADVANCE program sponsored a forum for all women graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the School of Physical Sciences entitled "Our Lives as Women in Physical Sciences" on March 4, 2005. A panel of four senior women faculty from Physical Sciences gave a short introduction of themselves and their career paths and then moderated an open discussion with the audience. The panel members were Professor Barbara Finlayson-Pitts (Chemistry), Professor Ellen Druffel (Earth Systems Science), Professor Chuu-Lian Terng (Mathematics) and Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane (Physics & Astronomy). With the email invitation that was sent out to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, we sent two relevant, recent articles published in the Washington Post to stimulate thought and discussion. The first was an article entitled "Raise Your Hand If You're A Woman in Science..." (Washington Post, Jan 29, 2005) by Virginia Valian, a professor of psychology and linguistics at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York and the author of the well-known book "Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women". The second was entitled "Diminished By Discrimination We Scarcely See" (Washington Post, Feb 5, 2005) by Meg Urry, a professor of physics at Yale University and the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Twenty-two women graduate students and postdoctoral scholars attended the forum. A lively discussion followed the introduction of the panel members. Excellent questions were raised and we include some of them below. After the event, Dean Ron Stern encouraged the panel members to write down their responses and post them on the ADVANCE web site in order to create a lasting record for the benefit of future graduate students and postdoctoral scholars both at UCI and in the wider community.
Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are invited to submit additional questions for posting on this web site. Simply email them to the ADVANCE Equity Adviser for Physical Sciences, which currently is Dr. Tammy Smecker-Hane (email@example.com).
Questions Raised at the Forum:
The "Two-Body Problem" refers to the fact that it is difficult to find two academic or research positions in any given year at any given university that would be suitable for a couple who are both looking for jobs in academia. As you can imagine, it is even worse if the two people are in the same field of research, because two openings in the same field are even more rare. However the problem is getting easier to solve because universities have begun to recognize that to compete in hiring the most talented people they need to find creative ways of solving the "Two-Body Problem".
The innovative Career Partners Program at UCI helps solve the Two-Body Problem. Each year the Executive Vice Chancellor sets aside a number of faculty positions for the Career Partners Program. Lets illustrate how it works with an example. Say that Department A wishes to hire Dr. X, but Dr. X won't come to UCI unless his/her partner, named Dr. Y, receives a position in Department B. Dr. Y submits a dossier to apply for a position in Department B and it undergoes the same rigorous review by Department B and the Committee on Academic Personnel that any other faculty appointment would go through. If the faculty approve of hiring Dr.Y then 33% of Dr. Y's salary is allocated to Department B, 33% to Department A, and 33% to the Career Partners Program. This creative way of cost sharing makes it easier to offer a position to a partner and, because each interested party shares the cost, it ensures that only exceptionally good faculty who are very much wanted by the respective department will be hired.
The Career Partners Program has been very helpful in recruiting and retaining women faculty. From 2001-2004, the Career Partners Program provided 18 partners with faculty positions. Of the partners, 11 have been women and 7 have been men.
Other colleges and universities are increasingly using such programs to help solve the Two-Body Problem. Inquire at the school or search their website to find out about such programs.
However it is common for couples to choose to take positions in two different cities in the beginning of their careers with the immediate goal of expanding their skills and furthering their research in the best possible environments and with the eventual goal of finding two positions together later. Obviously, the higher your skill level, the more job offers you will have and the higher the likelihoods that you and your partner eventually will end up with two jobs in the same city. If you find yourself in this situation, our advice to you is not to automatically discard this option, but to critically weight the pros and cons.
We know many couples who have lived apart or commuted long distances initially and have found jobs together later. Obviously, the big drawback is that you sometimes will be lonely. But even this has a positive side, because it can force you to grow more as an individual and allow you to make more friends that you might have made otherwise. One way to mitigate a physical separation is to negotiate with your employer to get a flexible work schedule. With the wide availability of fast internet connections at home, many people can work very effectively from a distance for extended periods of time. Also, if you and your partner can work intensely for a certain period of time, for example, coming in to work over evenings and weekends, then with good reason you can ask to have an extended period of time off to visit each other. This can work to your benefit, because when you can devote your full attention to a research problem for an extended, continuous period of time you often can make quicker progress than if you tackled the problem in smaller, non-continuous intervals. If you plan accordingly you can combine your visits with a 3-day holiday weekend to extend the time you and your spouse are together. We are speaking from experience when we say that there's a surprising benefit to doing this - the times you are together seem more like extra special vacations and you're often more likely to have exciting adventures together than if you had spent every weekend together.
In the end, each couple has to decide on their own what's best for them. Talking with colleagues who have chosen to live apart and those who have chosen to make a sacrifice to remain in the same town will help you identify more pros and cons.
Its not easier. Its just different. At a 4-year or community college there is more emphasis on teaching, but many of these schools also expect faculty to compete successfully for research grants and incorporate undergraduates in research projects. Thus faculty are expected to excel at both teaching and research in order to get tenure, but greater emphasis is placed on teaching and less on research volume than at a research University. However a 4-year or community college will not have Ph. D. graduate students and it is difficult to attract postdoctoral researchers, and thus faculty members must tailor their research projects accordingly, but still within the framework of generating publications in peer-reviewed journals and competing successfully for external funding.
First, how do you know if a problem you are experiencing is sexual harassment? Check the website of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD). The documents there give some very helpful examples and list the policies & guidelines regarding sexual harassment. The director, Ms. Kirsten Quanbeck and her staff do an excellent job of addressing sexual harassment experienced by undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty. You can go to them for helpful advice and, if necessary, they will mediate to solve the problem.
Some women are very uncomfortable addressing unacceptable behavior. But our advice, if you are comfortable with it, is to tackle it head on by talking with the person or persons. In a non-threatening way, explain why this behavior is inappropriate and why it offends you and ask the person to stop. Sometimes people simply do not realize how offensive what they do or say is. They may think they're being funny and not realize that they are, in fact, offending you. They may not realize how negatively their behavior effects the workplace. In the long run, you'll feel better about yourself if you do. If you do nothing, it will only make you feel powerless.
If the person continues the unacceptable behavior after you speak to them about it, or if you feel uncomfortable tackling this head on, then you should discuss it with your laboratory supervisor. This could be a postdoctoral researcher running the lab or a faculty member. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and discuss a sensitive topic with your supervisor. It is their responsibility to see that their lab is run in a way that promotes a harassment-free workplace for both men and women. After all, the best research will be done if both men and women can work to their highest potential.
If you are intimidated about discussing this with your supervisor then you should contact the OEOD office and ask for their help. The ADVANCE Equity Adviser in Physical Sciences (Tammy Smecker-Hane, firstname.lastname@example.org) also will be glad to help in any way he/she can, but the staff at the office of OEOD has much more experience in dealing with sexual harassment issues.
Again, the answer depends greatly on your personal situation -- the resources at your disposal for child care, your financial situation and the priorities you and your partner place on work and family.
You have to be realistic. Having a baby during graduate school or postdoctoral research will decrease your productivity, in some cases only for a few weeks, and in some cases for a few years, depending on your particular situation. Remember that we are often far from our families and friends when we move off to graduate school, postdoctoral positions and research jobs, and so child caring and rearing often falls squarely on you and your partner's shoulders alone.
Universities are beginning to realize that they need to provide childcare options for their students. Here at UCI we have the Infant & Toddler Center, which gives the children of students priority in admission. Fees are heavily subsidized in order to make it affordable for students. Thus if childcare is available and affordable for you, it may be possible for you to have children while you are in graduate school. This overcomes the potential problem of your biological clock expiring, but you have to deal with the issue of slowing your progress early in your career.
As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb 12, 2002) in an article entitled "Women Who Have Children Early in Careers Hurt Their Changes to Achieve Tenure, Report Finds" by Thomas Bartlett (a copy of this article appears in the Readings section of the UCI ADVANCE web page), women faculty in the sciences who have their first child before completing their 5th year of post-graduate work are 24% less likely to achieve tenure than men who did the same. Women who waited to become mothers until later in their careers, or did not have children at all, were more likely to get tenure. Interestingly, the same figure for women in humanities is only slightly less, 20%, and this discrepancy is found at research universities as well as smaller, liberal arts colleges.
Those are the statistics. But your personal situation might make it easier for you and embolden you to have children at an early stage in your career. Just remember that your graduate career and postdoctoral career are the stages when you are expected to devote the majority of your life to research. It is when you learn the most and must assemble your tool-kit of experience that will land you a competitive faculty or research position. In the end, you'll always be competing with others who have made the sacrifice in not having children. That is why many women wait until after just before or after getting tenure to have their first child.
Again, however, you need to be realistic because of your biological clock. Female fertility declines dramatically after 35 years of age, which is about the time most women faculty achieve tenure. Older women can't assume that their bodies will be ready and willing when they decide the time is right. Because of decreased fertility, women in their 30s and 40s often find they need a year or more of attempts before successfully becoming pregnant. It may be difficult, but all of the women faculty that we know who are mothers will tell you it is was well worth it.
Of course, due to the miracles of modern fertility science, more women are becoming mothers at older ages. But it is important to remember that fertility treatments are not physically easy, success is not guarrenteed, and the treatments are expensive because they typically are not covered by health insurance.
Thus there is no easy answer to this question! Everyone must weigh the pros and cons for themselves and determine what works best for them.
This depends entirely on whether you will be respected and well mentored by your supervisor even if you are a woman and whether or not your priorities for research and family are acceptable to him or her. If this supervisor has offered you a postdoctoral job then, obviously, he or she respects your research skills. Next consider whether or not your plans for research and family over the next few years mesh well with the supervisor's expectations.
Remember that your ability to get the next job after this postdoctoral stint will depend greatly on the research accomplishments you have made during this time, and your supervisor plays a major role in that by providing the scientific support and mentoring. In addition, the letters of recommendation that your supervisor will write for many of your subsequent job applications and/or award nominations will be very influential for much of your career. Thus it is important that you and he/she be able to work well together in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Our advice is to do a little research on your potential supervisor. Contact former students and postdoctoral researchers and ask them if he/she is supportive of women. Don't let rumor guide your decision, get the facts.
It shouldn't matter whether or not your adviser is a man or a woman. People's individual mentoring skills vary widely, and there is a much greater difference between individuals than between the average man and average woman. As in the answer to the above question, do your research and find out from past students and postdoctoral researchers what the adviser is like.
The answer depends on your personal taste, but you should keep a few things in mind.
If you've published journal articles under your maiden name, be aware that you may encounter some problems if you switch last names. You can help mitigate the problems in a few ways. For example, you should clearly state your maiden and married names in your vitae. When listing your publications in your vitae, you can clearly denote yourself in the author list by putting your names in bold-face font. But remember that when someone searches a database to find your list of publications, they'll have to know both your married and maiden names to get the full list.
That problem is lessened if you hyphenate your name, because search engines are very smart and usually return matches to Name 1 if you search for Name1-Name2. One drawback to hyphenating your name is that you and your spouse will not share the same name. If you have children; which name should they get? Some couples solve this by combining their names and both changing to the new hyphenated name. That simplifies the issue of what name the children will have. But don't feel that your children need to have exactly the same name as you do. Today most schools and other organizations deal very well with parents who have different names, because there are many divorced parents and "blended" families.
One reason not to change your maiden name is that the divorce rate for first time marriages is very high, of order 50%. What happens if you hyphenate your name but get divorced? Do you drop Name2? What if you remarry? Do you switch to Name1-Name3? It may be simpler in the long run to keep your maiden name.
Some women keep their maiden name as their professional name, but use their married name for personal things. This can get a little crazy. Especially when ID cards need to match plane reservations, etc.
In short, there are a number of answers to this question so choose the one that fits you best!