Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No answers: gender, relocation, and relationships

(Note to self: Before promising to post a follow-up the next day, I should either write the follow-up immediately or make sure that I have budgeted time the next day to write said follow-up.)

What wonderful comments all my readers have. It seems to be an extraordinarily common scenario.

First of all, let me say that you all seem to have "guessed right." In the caseI was thinking of when I wrote my post, StuDent is a woman and PartNer is a man. I think it's interesting that the stereotype of men being more stubborn about their professional goals is more pervasive, at least among my readers, than is the stereotype that the academic science world is male. I also think its interesting that many of you seemed to assume that PartNer had some sort of advanced degree. In this case, he has a BS - so the parameters of the job search are a bit different.

Second, StuDent has decided to accept the t-t job offer. I don't know all the personal details, but I know the post-doc turned out to be not quite as great as she initially thought and that she was able to negotiate for some better terms with the t-t university. She will move away in August (I'll miss her!), so that gives PartNer at least until then to figure out what a great woman he is letting slip away.

Third, in an amazingly parallel coincidence, this weekend my little brother and I talked for quite a while about his relationship. He and his girlfriend, both recent college graduates, have been together since high school. He has moved back to Hometown and started his own tech business; she is taking a 1 year at an outdoor school about an hour away. After next year, her plan is to go to U of Midwest for a MS and PhD in an -ology. But brother is very resistant leaving Hometown because he is making full use of his local network to get his business going strong. He denies that because he is self-employed that he is "portable." I think Brother and Girlfriend are at the critical break-up or get engaged stage of the relationship. But I know that Brother needs to realize that if he wants to stay with Girlfriend, he needs to be willing to move. There simply aren't any career opportunities for someone with a BS in -ology in Hometown. Brother says he wants someone with ambition, but with ambition comes negotiation of the two-body problem. It just comes with the turf. And somehow I think he's got to realize that if Girlfriend is the ambitious woman he wants, he has to be willing to compromise.

I wish more men were willing to move to support their partner's careers; I've certainly been lucky with BusinessMan. My guess is that feel emasculated when they are asked to down-scale or reframe their career plans for a woman. I think it's a hold-over from the days when men brought home the bacon and the woman fried it. On the other hand, women may be more willing to change plans because they are conditioned to acquiese to men, are grateful for a caring, enlightened partner, or simply don't see the benefit to being stubborn. But that analysis also ignores the issue of child-rearing. In an ideal world, of course, men and women would share child raising responsibilities without regard to gender. But many women expect or hope to stay home or work part-time with young children. Thus, they may feel that is important to maximize their partner's career potential even at the expense of their own. Not all women are going to think that way or even think about that issue at all. My guess, though, is that more women are going to consider the child-rearing issue when compromising on location and career than are men.

I don't feel like there are any easy solutions for women like StuDent and Girlfriend or for men like PartNer and Brother, but I suspect that it will become more of an issue as increasing numbers of women penetrate the ranks of graduate students and faculty. Gender issues haven't become any simpler to navigate with women in the workforce, but they have become a lot more interesting. I just wish I had some real answers as to give my friend and my brother.


Propter Doc said...

Yeah, I'm not surprised, about who is female. I'm just glad that StuDent accepted the tt offer.
So, what do you reckon we have to do to change the 'women in science' world? Do we become more like men and be more selfish in the pursuit of our goals, or do we hang on in there?

sheepish said...

Maybe I'm missing something here. I read the previous post and hadn't the slightest clue what the genders were. It could have gone either way. To my thinking, it's just a tough situation that should be resolved within a couple and doesn't have anything to do with gender - just a myriad of issues like family, friends, job satisfaction, salaries, ease of finding jobs, locations in question, etc., etc. Yes, historically men have been the bread-winners and forced women to move for them, but the situation seems to be a lot more equal amongst modern academics. Off the top of my head, I can think of more men who have moved for women than vice versa (under the age of 40, that is).

And no, there is almost never a situation where both people can be satisfied personally and professionally.

Nuthatch said...

When we married (2nd for both in mid-life), my husband moved to my Hometown, as I had an -ology job and he is far more marketable. He found a job here that paid more, expanded his skills, and in which he has rare job security. He left a job that was changing in ways he hated, and in which he was looking to leave anyway. Needless to say, when things heat up, some resentment seeps out, in particular the fact he moved into my house, which after years he still feels is not "his." And believe me, we discussed all this at length beforehand.

I have a feeling that until the way our society changes the way it socializes and defines genders, career women are likely to struggle in these situations.

DRD said...

As a female returning to a PhD program this fall which will require PhD academic Husband to follow me (or do the long distance thing), I can relate to all sides. The kicker in my case is that with my technical MS, I have far more flexability (and earning power) right now than PhD Husband. But, it is what I want to do and I am thankful that Husband is supportive. Not everyone else, however, is. I get a lot of second guessing from friends and family about our plans.

Not to highjack, but it looks like we are going to do a one year lag. I find myself almost embarrassed telling others about our plans. I can't decide if I'm unwilling to come across as the stubborn bitch or don't want to have husband come across as emasculated or what. (Maybe I need to blog this out because its been bugging me for days.) Regardless, eventually, if we want children, the issue will be forced which brings us full cirlce... who's career/needs/wants are priority? If you want to split it down the middle, or trade off, how do you do so without screwing both of your careers up?

ceresina said...

I don't quite understand your comment about "many women expect or hope to stay home or work part-time with young children." I understand how very odd and possibly rude it seems for a new commentor to say this, but if you need a post topic, would you expand on that a little? I'm wondering why my experience is so different from yours.

turtlebella said...

Do we become more like men and be more selfish in the pursuit of our goals, or do we hang on in there?

eek. I don't think we should be more male-like, if we go with the assumption that males are more selfish in their goals and the pursuit of them (which I think is a fair assesement, at least historically speaking). I dislike the feeling that I get that is the status quo in academia. And that women who aren't that way aren't or won't be successful and indeed that men who aren't that way aren't successful either. My PhD advisor's partner followed her to her tenure track appt. and took a 3/4 time administrative position. And is the primary caregiver for thier two kids And I know for a fact that his boss looks down on him about that and considers him somehow less of a scientist.

Without knowing further details, I admit that I'm glad ScienceWoman's friend took the tenure track job. If either is miserable without the other they will make a change or come to some comprimise. But I have my doubts that this particular person (PartNer) is going in that direction and so StuDent is better off finding someone who will be more willing to work with her to find a solution. I think solutions ARE out there, you just have to WORK to find them and lots of people don't think you should have to work in a relationship (whole other story).

Sorry to hijack the comments, ScienceWoman! I obviously think this is interesting stuff...perhaps should blog about it myself...too much to blog about, not enough time!

B said...

Interesting post. I too am lucky as my guy has stayed in my city and taken a less the lovely job so that I can pursue my PhD. He is applying to MBA school though, so soon he will have a degree and hopefully a job he likes much better.
All relationships require compromise. I think at different times one person gives more than the other, and this can flip flop dependind on the circumstances. Best of luck to your brother and girlfriend!

PhD Mom said...

Thanks for the great post SW. I think I might use this as an example in my bias against women in science talks.

At any rate, I'd like to offer one situation to the contrary. My husband will have followed me three times (as of our move next week). He will have collected two MAs at two different universities along the way, and he has done it all without much of a discussion. He is CS so it was so obvious that he could do his job anywhere and I needed a specific advisor or lab. I know I'm lucky, but there are some 'good' guys out there.

Writer Chica said...

Very interesting discussion. One of my professors during my Wisconsin undergrad school had a husband who was a professor in Texas. They flew back and forth to see each other and talked on the phone. I thought she was crazy. I think that their plan was whoever got tenure first got to stay and the other person would move. As it happened, she found a much better job for herself in Texas, so they only did the (very) long distance thing for about 3-4 years instead of 7 or more.
I suppose it all depends on the individuals' knowing themselves and each other well enough to make realistic decisions.