Dual-career couples at Swiss Universities


Since 2000, the Federal Programme «Equal Opportunity at Swiss Universities » has been pursuing the goal of increasing the number of women in top academic positions at Swiss higher education institutions.

Main programme aims include ensuring that 25% of all full and associate professors and 40% of all assistant professors in Switzerland are women, and increasing the percentage of women in management roles at universities between 2013 and 2016.

The third phase of the Federal Programme (2008-2011/2012) dealt with the issue of «dual-career couples», a term used to describe couples in which both partners hold higher academic degrees, identify strongly with their work, and pursue their own career. How can universities help to ensure that couples who wish to accommodate both academic career and family are able to do so, and that this partnership model does not simply remain a nice idea or an empty statement of intent? This question is relevant to gender equality mainly because more female academics live in dualcareer constellations than do their male colleagues. By establishing gender- sensitive measures for dual-career couples, universities can improve the chances for women to succeed in academia.

When the programme phase «dual-career couples» began, there were no conclusive data on how many such constellations actually exist in Switzerland. Today the picture is different. A comprehensive survey of academic staff at Swiss universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology was conducted in 2011 when the Federal Programme was undergoing evaluation. The results show that female academics are often under greater pressure than their male counterparts to accommodate career, partnership and family – influencing their chances of a successful career.

The following report presents the main results of the survey along with an updated report (2012) on the evaluation of the programme phase 2008-2011. The evaluation and follow-up report were carried out by the Centre for Labour and Social Policy Studies BASS on behalf of the Federal Programme. The programme’s directors read the results with great interest and would like to thank the evaluation team for their excellent work – work that will prove valuable for future discussions on university policy. The Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (CRUS) has already signalled its support for the recommendations in the evaluation report.


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Diversity labels:

Gender, Work-life-balance