Monday, February 12, 2007


Drew Faust just became the first president of Harvard in the 371 years old history of its hallowed corridors. Ironic, and surely gratifying to many, after the last president put a permanent blemish on his tenure by making comments that were widely interpreted as sexist. He said infamously that "innate differences between the sexes" might be responsible for women being underrepresented in academics.

Ah, the old nature versus nurture show them what you can do, Dr. Faust.

I have a different question though; tomorrow, what if science actually proves that yes, innate and irrevocable differences between men and women are responsible for women being relatively weak at academic careers? What, then? If that happens, then at least science should also simultaneously and objectively "prove that men are jerks". Call it even then? Personally, I don't believe for a moment that science could ever provide a definitive answer to any such complex issues. But the question strikes at the heart of the conflict between science, and public and social policy.

The conflict was probably on Jim "Honest" Watson's mind, when he apparently contended that thin women are unhappy.

Hat tip: Chembark

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Blogger Sumedha said...

A few thoughts:

I know several female academics(in maths and engineering) at UoM, and I feel that they are either:
a) Megalomaniacs
b) Cold and harsh because they need 'armour' to defend themselves from their perception of being discriminated against.
c)Manipulative; they use beauty and charm unscrupulously.
d) Intelligent and confident in a nice way; they truly believe in themselves.

I have no intention of entering academia because I may end up as a (b) type person. I am firmly convinced that in academic research (more so than in industry), women have to be on their guard and become inured to masculine condescension.
In Sweden, I believe a recent study showed that grants submitted by female professors have to be 2.5 times as good as those written by male counterparts, in order to get funded.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

I strongly concur with b), obviously not because it's women's fault that they are like that, but because it's a sad truth that they really are forced to become like that in many cases, given the aggressive male dominated environment.
As an article I had linked to before said, science traditionally has been a man's game. But we can be glad that things are changing for women, especially in the biological sciences. There is a lot of weight that women in the sciences unnecessarily have to carry on their shoulders.
And if what the Swedish study says is valid, then it must be traumatic for women; it's hard as boron nitride these days for anyone to get good grants, especially in the US.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Your first sentence is missing the word "female." It confused the hell out of me until I read the rest of the post :)

3:26 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

:)) I can imagine...!! Memorable slip there!

10:32 AM  

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