Battle of the Sexes, Harvard Style
By Alanna Leigh Feinsod
I don’t know about you, but I have pretty high expectations when I hear faculty from top Ivy League colleges and universities speak. The same can be said for my expectations of Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard. His now infamous speech was given Jan. 14 at the National Bureau of Economic Research Conference of Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce. The question is: Does he think it should be diversified?
Summers’ grievance all started when he said his speech was would include “some attempts at provocation.” And provoke he did. He ventures to say that women lack holding high-powered, tenured science and engineering positions not because of society, not because of socialization, not because the world we live in is still an unfair environment for women in the work force, but because women are biologically ill-equipped to hold those positions. He compares the issue to the lack of white men in the NBA, saying, “White men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association.” I suppose he’s implying “biologically,” white men can’t jump.
This is all fine and dandy, except that Summers soon starts to contradict himself. After talking about how women aren’t alone in the struggle to overcome their biological makeup, he then also blames it on society, saying: “The relatively few women who are in the highest ranking places are disproportionately either unmarried or without children. And it is a fact about our society that that [working long hours] is a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women.”
Wait just a second now…is he saying it’s society that forces women to spend less time at work and more time at home? Or is it biology? Does a woman’s body quit after her 40th hour, or is she simply not given the opportunity to work to her 41st?
Summers goes on to say, “It does appear that on many, many different human attributes - height, weight, propensity of criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability - there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means — which can be debated — there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a make and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined.”
That says it all. Summers believes that biologically, women were just made worse at math and science. Socialization–schmocialization! Apparently women are the one group not affect by what society tells them they can and cannot do.
At the end of Summers’ speech a brief Q&A followed. Needless
to say, his questioners were skeptical of his statements’ truth.
One person pointed out that Rutgers is making it an area of pride to hire
women in their Chemistry department. “They [Rutgers] are now at
twenty-five percent women, which is double the national average among
the top fifty universities.”
In the Science and Engineering Department, we have seven full-time male faculty members and only four women. Still, it sounds like we’re doing better than a lot of “top colleges.” On the other hand, student Rich Pullman notes that his physics class, taught by Daryl Walke, made up of 15 students, has no more than two or three females in it.
Most math and science transfer programs at RVCC are fairly equally populated by males and females. Math and science with both the Biology Option and the Chemistry Option are split down the middle, with eight men and eight women in biology, and five men and five women in chemistry. The only place where men drastically overshadow women is in the Computer Science Option program, with 47 men and only three women.
With the Pre-med Option there are 18 women and only 10 men. In the Engineering
Sciences program, though, there are 32 men and only two women.
Summers would lead you to believe that the biological makeup of women
will later on prevent them from obtaining the jobs they desire. Summers
said he wanted to provoke thought on the issue, and that he did. What
better way to provoke thought than to sound so absolutely absurd that
people are inspired to point at every flaw in your theory?