[Paleopsych] NYT: Harvard Seeks to Advance Opportunities for Women

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The New York Times > National > Harvard Seeks to Advance Opportunities
for Women


    Moving to counter widespread criticism of his comments last month on
    women's science capabilities, the president of Harvard University
    announced initiatives yesterday to improve the status of women on the
    faculty, including a commitment to create a senior administrative
    position to strengthen recruiting.

    The president, Lawrence H. Summers, appointed two task forces, one on
    women in the faculty and one on women in science and engineering, and
    charged them with developing recommendations on how to recruit,
    support and promote women more effectively.

    The committees are to complete their work by May 1 so the university
    can act on their recommendations by the fall term.

    In an interview, Dr. Summers declined to say how many new women the
    university might hire as professors in the short term, or how much the
    initiatives would cost. But in a public statement announcing the
    measures, he said, "It is time for Harvard to step up and affirm in
    strong and concrete terms its commitment to the advancement and
    support of women pursuing academic careers."

    Dr. Summers's actions yesterday echoed his handling of the outcry that
    followed his dispute in 2001 with Cornel West, a prominent member of
    the African-American studies department. At that time, Dr. Summers
    publicly affirmed his commitment to affirmative action, and Harvard
    subsequently created several new positions in that department.

    Barbara Grosz, the dean of science at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute
    for Advanced Study, who has long been active on women's issues at
    Harvard, was named to head the task force on women in science and
    engineering. She said she had accepted the leadership post only after
    receiving assurances "that our recommendations were going to be taken

    "There is now an opportunity that didn't exist before," Professor
    Grosz said, "and I am willing to put effort into grabbing that
    opportunity and doing what I can to see that the changes at Harvard
    get made."

    The chairwoman of the other task force, on faculty women, is Evelynn
    Hammonds, a professor of history of science and of African and
    African-American studies.

    Altogether, Dr. Summers named 27 professors and senior administrators
    - 22 women and 5 men - to participate in the two task forces.

    Dr. Summers's announcement came as his remarks suggesting that innate
    sex differences might explain the scarcity of women in math and
    science careers continued to stir international media coverage and

    Scientists, feminists and hundreds of members of his own faculty have
    criticized Dr. Summers as seeming to ignore years of research showing
    that societal and cultural obstacles, including discrimination at
    universities, are the most significant impairment to women's
    advancement in academic math and science careers.

    A smaller number of people, including some prominent conservatives,
    have praised Dr. Summers for what they call his defiance of political
    correctness. Dr. Summers has apologized repeatedly for his remarks,
    which were made on Jan. 14 at an academic conference in Cambridge and
    were intended to be off the record. He has said his remarks were
    misconstrued, but has declined to release a tape recording of them.

    Harvard's announcement yesterday referred only obliquely to the
    outpouring of criticism. "Recent public discussion about women and
    science has brought renewed attention to longstanding issues
    concerning the representation of women in the faculty," it said.

    Prominent female professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have
    been expressing concerns since June over the decline in offers of
    tenured professorships to women during Dr. Summers's tenure.

    While Dr. Summers said publicly that he would take steps to remedy the
    decline, many of the female professors have said they are skeptical of
    his commitment. At an October meeting, some 50 female professors
    presented Dr. Summers and William Kirby, the dean of the Faculty of
    Arts and Sciences, with proposals to improve the number and status of
    women on the faculty, including the appointment of a dean of faculty
    diversity for Arts and Sciences.

    Dr. Summers and Dean Kirby rejected the proposal for the new dean,
    saying they thought they could help female faculty members better
    through existing associate deans.

    "The task force on women faculty will be charged with making
    recommendations for a series of specific institutional measures -
    including the creation of a new, senior position at the center of the
    university - to strengthen the recruitment, support and advancement of
    outstanding women faculty," yesterday's university statement said.

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