January 17, 2005

You're Not Allowed to Say That!

From Bro Judd, you have to love the unintentional self-parody in this Globe article regarding Larry Summers recent speech:
The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.

Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on Summers' talk, saying later that if she hadn't left, ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up."
Can you see a man fainting or throwing up over a speech?

Read the whole article, especially the context of Summers describing recent research, not voicing some hidden prejudice, and you can see how, um, sensitive Ms. Hopkins really is.
Summers said he was only putting forward hypotheses based on the scholarly work assembled for the conference, not expressing his own judgments -- in fact, he said, more research needs to be done on these issues. The organizer of the conference at the National Bureau of Economic Research said Summers was asked to be provocative, and that he was invited as a top economist, not as a Harvard official.
and I hadn't heard of this, but it feels right to me.
Summers' third point was about discrimination. Referencing a well-known concept in economics, he said that if discrimination was the main factor limiting the advancement of women in science and engineering, then a school that does not discriminate would gain an advantage by hiring away the top women who were discriminated against elsewhere.

Because that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon, Summers said, ''the real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination."

''I believe that it's an important part of what I do to encourage frank scientific discussion," he said. ''I would hope and trust that no one could [doubt] that we are absolutely committed to promoting the diversity of the faculty."
Now we just need Corporate America to follow Harvard and embrace honest discussion of diversity instead of guilt-mongering, standards-lowering, and targeted-tokening.