I don’t believe we have commented yet about the flap surrounding the statement by Harvard University president Lawrence Summers in which he questioned whether discrimination is entirely responsible for the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at America’s elite universities. Summers had the audacity to suggest that innate differences in math and science aptitude between men and women might be partly responsible.
My views on the matter are essentially those expressed by Linda Chavez in the Washington Times. As Chavez notes, “Mr. Summers was really just articulating what most researchers in this area believe — that biology plays a bigger role in [differences in ability in mathematical and scientific achievement] than socialization does.” This is also true when it comes to verbal achievement, except that here women out perform men.
Chavez also notes that feminist Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at MIT, is said to have responded to Summers by citing studies indicating that “women score higher on math tests if there are fewer men in the room while they are taking the test.” I know I’m missing something, but doesn’t it seem odd that feminists would be interested in embracing “studies” that portray women as so stereotypically fragile?
For her part, Hopkins reported that, upon hearing Summers’ remarks, “I felt I was going to be sick. . . .My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow.” But why should she project her own fragility onto other women?
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