So, there’s a bit of a fuss about Dr. Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard University, suggesting women have less “innate ability” at science and maths than men.
To summarise, he has suggested that – shock, horror – there may be a genetic difference between men and women that lead to differing abilities at various tasks.
Now, this causes me to need to make some comments.
First, you’ll notice in the article that Dr. Summers feels the need to say “My remarks have been misconstrued as suggesting that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of math and science. I did not say that, nor do I believe it.” Why does he need to say this? Because there are always going to be some who misrepresent what he’s saying. I would suggest that one of them might be Nancy Hopkins.
Again, I quote from the article;
“Nancy Hopkins, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of the academics who walked out of the conference. She said that, had she not done so, she “would have either blacked out or thrown up”. ”
However, what made me laugh was this article in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald. In it, Hilary Burden argues that men are needed to “get things done”. Don’t tell Nancy.
Now, why does all this cause such a fuss? Plain and simple – because society measures value in direct relation to our ability. If we say someone is not able to do something then, apparently, we are saying that they’re not as valuable. Which is, of course, absolute nonsense. Jacqui and I have different abilities in the home and elsewhere and not once have I considered that this means we are of different value. Don’t tell Nancy – she might black out.
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The pattern certainly holds true in the case of my kids. My daughter is quicker and brighter than my son at language skills, and alomst anything involving memory. But math is a huge stumbling block for her, and he excels in it. Just 2 more data points.
more anecdotal evidence
One only needs look at the male-to-female ratio in the college-level math courses I have taken… And the number of girls in my high school who broke down during Calc I. (Which was taught by a woman who went out of her way to help them!)
Is Nancy married?
Hard to tell. Had a quick google which was interesting.
I found http://cheminfo.chem.ou.edu/faculty/djn/diversity/GAO_Press_Release/Nancy_Hopkins_Statement.html and further research reveals that she’s a bit of an activist in this area. No news either way on whether she’s married.
Do you think it would make a difference, oh anonymous poster from Kansas City using Everest broadband? (i.e. tell us who you are!) 😉