Sunday, March 09, 2008

Women lag in the physical sciences

Christina Hoff Sommers writes:
Math 55 is advertised in the Harvard catalog as “prob­ably the most difficult undergraduate math class in the country.” ...

Math 55 does not look like America. Each year as many as 50 students sign up, but at least half drop out within a few weeks. As one former student told The Crimson newspaper in 2006, “We had 51 students the first day, 31 students the second day, 24 for the next four days, 23 for two more weeks, and then 21 for the rest of the first semester.” Said another student, “I guess you can say it’s an episode of ‘Survivor’ with people voting themselves off.” The final class roster, according to The Crimson: “45 percent Jewish, 18 percent Asian, 100 percent male.” ...

Professor was soon everywhere in the press and on April 8, 1999, was invited to attend an Equal Pay Day event at the White House. Referring to Hopkins and her team, President Clinton said, “Together they looked at cold, hard facts about disparity in everything from lab space to annual salary.”

But cold, hard facts had little to do with it. After reviewing the available evidence and interviewing some insiders, University of Alaska psychologist Judith Kleinfeld con­cluded, “The MIT report presents no objective evidence whatsoever to support claims of gen­der discrimination in laboratory space, salary, research funds, and other resources.” Readers are told in the summary report that women fac­ulty “proved to be underpaid.” we also learn that the “salary data are confidential and were not provided to the committee.” So on what basis did they conclude there were salary dis­parities? Hopkins and the other authors explain, “Possible inequities in salary are flagged by the committee from the limited data available to it.” But “possible” soon became “actual,” and by the time it reached President Clinton it had morphed into “cold, hard facts.”
The article describes misguided attempts to use Title IX methods to get more women into the hard sciences.

Today's NY Times has a review today of Susan Pinker's new book on the gender gap.

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