The Two Body Problem for Women in Academia
Research shows that academic women are more likely to be on short-term contracts ("soft money" funded by grants). This creates problems for women in managing their romantic relationships, especially for women who are single and childfree. +Katie Mack
shares her experience:As a single woman with a short-term contract and no idea which hemisphere I’ll be in two years from now, children are not exactly at the forefront of my mind. At the moment, I spend a lot more time thinking about the two-body problem.In this context, the “two-body problem” is the problem of maintaining a committed relationship between two individuals who are trying to have careers in academia. When the two-body problem proves unsolvable, it’s sometimes called “academic scattering”. It is by no means unique to academia, but the international nature of the field, the frequency of short-term (1-3 year) contracts, and the low wages compared to other similarly intense career paths make it especially bad for academics. In the sciences, the gender disparity adds a further complication for female academics: when women make up a small percentage of the discipline, they are much more likely to be partnered with other academics.
This is an example of how the academic system structures women's choices. While men also face this dilemma, as Dr Mack notes, the fact that (heterosexual) women are more likely to be partnered with academic men makes these choices tougher on women. Research also shows that heterosexual academic women are more likely to change jobs for their partners, but the reverse is not true for academic men.
How have you managed the two body problem?Credits
Katie Mack on SAS: http://goo.gl/BbDP8i
Study on academic women's partnering choices and inequality: https://goo.gl/cfmlwI
Image: Marie Curie with her husband Pierre, who solved the two body problem by marrying and working at the same lab. Credit: http://goo.gl/W3LmpA