[Paleopsych] The Chronicle: Daily news: 01/19/2005 -- 03 (fwd)
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The Chronicle of Higher Education
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Female Professors Assail Remarks by Harvard's President, Who Says It's All a
By PIPER FOGG
E-mail this article
NIH reportedly is weakening its plan for free access to journal
Senators support nominee for health secretary; stem-cell research
does not come up in initial hearing
Female professors assail remarks by Harvard's president, who says
it's all a misunderstanding
New database of graduation rates could help colleges learn from
Louisiana College picks new president whom most faculty members
Former professor sues Wisconsin college, saying he was fired for
refusing to inflate grades
ACT Inc. starts for-profit subsidiary to enter testing market for
Harvard University's president, Lawrence H. Summers, has come under
fire by some scholars for suggesting that one reason fewer women make
it to the top in mathematics and science may be the result of innate
differences from men.
Some prominent female scholars have called his remarks offensive,
while other academics say his comments synthesized some current
research on gender differences. Mr. Summers said his views, delivered
on Friday at an economics conference in Cambridge, Mass., have been
Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology who led at 1999 panel on the status of women there,
walked out in disgust in the middle of Mr. Summers's speech, she said.
News of the incident was first reported on Monday in The Boston Globe.
About 50 people attended the conference, sponsored by the National
Bureau of Economic Research and titled "Diversifying the Science and
Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and Their
S&E Careers," at which Mr. Summers gave a luncheon talk. While no
transcript of his remarks exists, conference attendees say he
discussed several possible hypotheses for why fewer women than men are
in the top ranks in science and math at elite universities.
He discussed the theory that women with children are reluctant to work
the 80-hour weeks that are required to succeed in those fields.
Conference attendees said Mr. Summers then discussed the possibility
that men and women may have different innate abilities that were
previously attributed to socialization.
When Ms. Hopkins heard that, she said, "I was profoundly upset."
"That kind of discrimination holds people back," she said.
But Mr. Summers, an economist who served as treasury secretary in the
Clinton administration, said in an interview on Tuesday that people
have misinterpreted his remarks as suggesting that women cannot do
"Nothing I said or believe provides any basis for either stereotyping
women or for fatalism about our ability to draw more women into
scientific careers," he said.
He added that he did intend to challenge an audience of social
scientists to understand the many factors that have led to the
underrepresentation of women in science and engineering, and he noted
that more study is needed on the issue.
Not everyone was offended by Mr. Summers's speech. Paula E. Stephen, a
professor of economics at the University of Georgia, said that Mr.
Summers had organized a set of comments on current research findings
on the topic and also put forth potential remedies, including
providing professors with more child-care services.
One reason some reactions to Mr. Summers's comments were so vehement
may have been a suspicion that he is insufficiently committed to women
in academe. Last fall, 26 female professors at Harvard complained that
the number of tenured women there had declined during his presidency.
He has said that he is committed to the advancement of women.
Background articles from The Chronicle:
* Where the Elite Teach, It's Still a Man's World (12/3/2004)
* Female Professors Say Harvard Is Not Granting Tenure to Enough
* How Babies Alter Careers for Academics (12/5/2003)
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