NYTimes: Harvard Chief Defends His Talk on Women The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, who offended some women at an academic conference last week by suggesting that innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers, stood by his comments yesterday but said he regretted if they were misunderstood. About 50 academics from across the nation, many of them economists, participated in the conference, “Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and their S. & E. Careers.” He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.
Not only are Dr. Summers’ comments short-sided and bigoted, they don’t even make sense in a scientific sense. If you take his comment about working 80-hour weeks, that means that he is judging S&E ability based upon whether or not you become a “top position” in a University. So all the real world working scientists, engineers, etc. apparently don’t count in his assessment at all. Plus, apparently men don’t care as much about their family and children by his statement. Also, does this mean that if there are gender differences for S&E ability, that men without this ability are somehow not as manly? In our family, there are three daughters of a computer science teacher and an English teacher. Two of us are S&E majors – one a computer engineer and the other a chemist. The third is an art teacher. In our small subset of the population, who all had the same elementary and secondary education, we were more likely to go into S&E. Perhaps the reasons are more linked to education and the fact that women are just reaching higher positions in the workforce and universities in order to encourage the younger generations?