Harvard President Lawrence Summers has released the full transcript of his controversial remarks about the paucity of women in tenured positions in science and engineering. A quick reading shows that Summers posited three primary causes of the disparity, as follows in decreasing order of importance: the “high-powered job” hypothesis – that the disproportion comes from choices women make; “availability of aptitude at the high end,” which is the controversial point; and “different socialization and patterns of discrimination.”
The question of aptitude ought to be scientifically testable. What I find more interesting, and surprising, is Summers’s low ranking of socialization. Many of the women I know, from many walks of life, strongly believe that as children they were “socialized” out of – in effect, discouraged from – taking an interest in science and math. And not just older women who one could say were raised in a different era; their discouragement may have taken more active forms than occur today, but passive forms seem to have persisted.
Can these women be wrong? Is this anecdotal evidence leading us astray? I’m finding that very, very difficult to believe.
Larry Summers: women may not have the same aptitude as men in certain mental areas. Buffy Summers: The Vampire Slayer. Coincidence?