WSU receives NSF grant to evaluate university partner accommodation policies

McCluskey-J-2010-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University professor of economics Jill McCluskey has been awarded a three-year, $449,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will help fund a study of the effects of partner accommodation policies (PAPs), including their implications for increasing the number of female faculty teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

McCluskey, working with WSU economist Ben Cowan and WSU sociologists Julie Kmec and Tori Byington, will provide theoretical and empirical evaluations of PAPs, as well as a description of their presence and scope in major U.S. universities.

PAPs were developed primarily as a means of recruiting and retaining academic couples, a group that comprises approximately 36 percent of the American professoriate. McCluskey believes these policies may have broader implications for increasing the presence of women in academia.

“Increasing the representation of women in STEM faculties is a general societal objective and one central to the NSF,” said McCluskey. “A clear understanding of the implications of PAPs will help universities design policies that result in greater representation of women in STEM fields.”

Research has shown that 59 percent of female faculty in STEM disciplines are partnered with another academic, compared to 17 percent of male faculty in STEM disciplines. The data also show that academic women are more likely than academic men to refuse a job offer if their partners cannot find employment at the same location.

With administrative data pledged from seven institutions and survey data collected from others, the WSU research team will document the relationship between PAPs and the sex composition of STEM fields. They will compare the productivity of STEM faculty who participated in PAPs with faculty who were hired independently. And they will evaluate whether PAPs have a significant influence in improving the representation of women in STEM disciplines.

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Jill McCluskey, WSU School of Economic Sciences, 509-335-2835, Kate Wilhite, WSU CAHNRS Marketing, News and Educational Communication, 509-335-8164,