John Tierney has an interesting piece in today's New York Times about the ongoing controversy over what an "equitable" proportion of female faculty in scientific fields such as physics, aeronautics or engineering might be. His title - "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" - indicates how politically radioactive that subject continues to be, although perhaps we can take heart from the fact that it's appearing in the Times. Given the ubiquitous presumption that male/female statistical disparities are attributable to entrenched "bias," Tierney asks whether the "gender equity" legislation just passed by the House of Representatives would be amenable to at least considering some pretty solid evidence that other factors may be at work as well. Echoing the seminal work of Christina Sommers which we noted here last week, he observes that in any case, we're talking about a relatively small number of people, since most of us, male or female, aren't especially talented in the hard sciences, and tend to fall in the middle of most statistical measurements. A small number of men, however, score both much lower AND much higher than the comparable number of women in mathematically oriented scientific fields such as those noted above. If this is true, then perhaps we cannot continue to assume that social factors alone account for differences in the ratios between men and women. In any case, it's striking that male/female disparities are much more pronounced in a number of other fields, such as English Literature, psychology, veterinary science and special education, but aren't attracting the solicitude of Congress or "gender equity" activists on campus. Go figure. Be that as it may, it's fine with us if you want to discuss "women in science" at this page, so feel free to let us know what you think. We won't try to prevent you from getting tenure or seek to have you sacked from your job as a college president.
- June 08, 2010