The “two-body problem”

Back in 2010 I published a column on spousal hiring and how it is an equity issue. Years later, I still agree with myself (imagine that!) and think that universities still have a long way to go to address what has been called the “two-body problem.” It is not unusual for a job candidate to be in a relationship with another academic. What do universities do to be welcoming and pro-active in ensuring that both the candidate and their spouse get a job matching their competences? Still very little it seems. In fact, according to a study conducted by Lauren A. Rivera, there is still much bias against candidates with spouses, and especially against women candidates who have an academic spouse. The study shows that hiring committees are still biased against women candidates who are perceived as imposing a “two-body problem.” Would it not be a gain for everyone though if, instead of perceiving this as a problem, we thought of it as a gain? It can be a gain for the institution, ensuring the retention of the job candidate and adding their spouse, as much as it can be a gain for the whole community in cases where the job candidate’s spouse is not an academic but the institution ensures they find a meaningful job in the community. This is definitely a set of questions to think about.

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