Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sex, Science and Larry

That's got your interest. Here's an example of old sexist ideas living on under the cloak of respectable academic inquiry. Larry Summers, president of Harvard University, made a speech last Friday saying that
the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from “innate" differences between men and women, although two Harvard professors who heard the speech said the remarks have been taken out of context in an ensuing national media frenzy.
Summers referred repeatedly to the work of University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie and his University of California-Davis colleague Kimberlee A. Shauman, who have found that women make up 35 percent of faculty at universities across the country, but only 20 percent of professors in science and engineering.

Their analysis of achievement test results shows a higher degree of variance in scores among men than among women. According to Ascherman Professor of Economics Richard Freeman, an organizer of the conference, the research found that “there are more men who are at the top and more men who are utter failures.”

Summers suggested that behavioral genetics could partially explain this phenomenon.

[Two attendees at the conference] both said that after Summers’ mentioned the “innate differences” hypothesis, he explicitly told the audience: “I’d like to be proven wrong on this one.”
Much of the ensuing media coverage came from someone who left before Summers made this statement. Many women scientists have rightly attacked his position.

No comments: