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February 18, 2005

Harvard Releases Transcript of Summers Remarks on Gender Differences

A transcript of remarks by Harvard President Lawrence Summers on women in science was released by the university yesterday. Disgruntled members of the faculty had been calling for the transcript of the January 14 speech to be made public. The university had previously declined to release the transcript, saying they had been given in an off-the-record setting.

The transcript includes his contention that intrinsic differences between the sexes, along with family pressure and employer demands, probably play a bigger role than cultural factors and discrimination in explaining why fewer women than men have top science jobs. (source).

Here’s the salient comment by Summers on why women are generally not in high positions in science and engineering:

"In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”

At the vortex of political correctness, Harvard’s president committed the cardinal sin of surmising that there is an intrinsic difference between men and women, and that this and the desire of women to spend more time with their children—-not only discrimination—-has resulted in variances in the work force.

Here’s a site with links to many of the articles written on Summers remarks.

Two Harvard professors wrote in The Boston Globe:

“Considerable evidence exists on women making different choices than men with regard to the family-career tradeoff. Female medical doctors, for example, reduce their practice hours when they have families, particularly after the birth of their second child. But male doctors do not. Women economists occupy positions that have less intense tenure pressure. Female lawyers shift to smaller firms and the government sector.”

Often, women are making the decision that spending time with their families is more important that reaching the highest positions. Anywhere west of the Hudson River and east of the Sierra Nevada’s this is generally seen as a good thing.

However, now that the comments are on the record, the pressure will mount for Summers to be ousted, and that this cardinal transgression by the Charles River be declared a mortal sin.

Posted by Jim at February 18, 2005 08:41 AM

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I'll try to find the links later today, but I remember that Hugh Hewitt and John Mark Reynolds both took shots at Summers for his comments. I was very confused by their remarks, as Summers didn't really do anything wrong. At worst, it was only bad PR.

Posted by: Matt at February 18, 2005 10:43 AM