Public universities are often thought to do more to foster diversity than private institutions. This is because these institutions have more state oversight and may be more transparent. Insofar as this is widely believed, women may be more likely to apply for positions at public than at private research universities.


Marital and family status present competing demands for time on the part of a faculty member and may bring additional actors or considerations into decision making. Female applicants for academic positions may be more constrained in where they can apply. Taking into consideration children and their education and a spouse’s employment preferences and opportunities all mean women may be more likely to take other interests into account, aside from their own preferences.

A special subset of the family-work problem concerns dual-career couples, also known as the two-body problem (Wolf-Wendel et al., 2003). “Nearly 38% of women chemists are married to a chemist or other scientist, according to the 1995 ACS survey. . . . Just shy of 21% of male chemists are married to a scientist” (Slade, 1999:61). “According to figures from the American Institute of Physics, 44% of married women in physics are married to other physicists—and another 25% to some of scientist. A remarkable 80% of female mathematicians are married to other scientists or engineers, along with a third of female chemists” (Gibbons, 1992c). It may be difficult to find two academic openings at the same department. Additionally, trying to find two jobs at a Research I institution is often perceived as more difficult than at other types of institutions.

The question here is: Are women as mobile as men or are there factors con­straining where a woman can work? If so, then men may be able to apply to more jobs than women, who may be clustered in applicant pools for a smaller number of jobs. Research supports this view. The general geographic mobility argument is that changing jobs for many academics is a positive (upward mobility), and the academic labor market is national so academics should be flexible to take advan­tage when opportunity knocks. Women are less able to do this, largely because of marriage. The careers of married women are likely to take a backseat to the careers of their husbands (Marwell et al., 1979; Rosenfeld and Jones, 1987). Rosenfeld and Jones argue that single women might also be geographically constrained. They may prefer large cities, which offer more possibilities for various types of social networks.

As noted in the Appendix 2-1, Kulis and Sicotte (2002:2) suggested careers of women are more likely to be geographically constrained. Their analysis indi­cated female faculty are more likely than male faculty to reside in doctoral pro­duction centers, areas with large clusters of colleges, and large cities. They also found women in these areas had reduced career outcomes compared with men. “Geographic constraints appear to be more disadvantageous for women, and the career advantages associated with certain locations generally seem to help women much less than men. For example, compared to men living in the same areas and women living elsewhere, women located in high doctoral production regions are less likely to have tenure and more likely to work part time. Both men and women in large cities are more likely to be employed off the tenure track, but the women occupy these jobs far more often than the men” (p. 24). For our purposes, the relevant consequence of this argument was that women are more likely to consider geography when deciding where to apply for academic jobs.

Data from more recent surveys continued to note the differential importance of location for women. In its survey on chemists, the American Chemical Society (Ellis, 2001:23) reported, “in searching for work, the inability to relocate is cited much more often by women than by men as a constraint.” Among those chem­ists who were unemployed and actively seeking positions, “close to 37 percent of women in 2000 noted that it was because of an inability to relocate, whereas only 27.4 percent of men listed the same reason. Just over 15 percent of women, and 9.1 percent of men, said it was because of family responsibilities. The per­centage of women who reported that they placed no job restrictions in their job search was 28.3 percent as opposed to 48.8 percent of men (Kreeger, 2001:14). Bleak et al. (2000:14) noted recently hired female faculty placed more emphasis than male faculty on location of the institution and employment opportunities for their spouse or partner. Sears’ (2003:175) study of graduate students in science and math programs at the University of California, Davis found “women were much more likely than men to report that location was an important factor in job selection because of the location of their spouses’ jobs or their desire to be close to family and friends.”[121]

An important consequence is that women may not choose to apply to as many jobs as men, even among the Research I institutions. Women, especially married women, could be less likely to apply to RI institutions in smaller towns, where there are fewer opportunities for spouses. A second important consequence of mobility constraints might be that search committees are less likely to offer women positions if the committee believes the woman will not accept the offer.