Sometimes, people should really think before they say something. Such is the case of Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard(!). Check out the CBC version of the story here:
Basically, to a workshop of selected scholars on how to diversify math and sciences, he suggested there are “innate differences” (from men, I presume) that prevent women from succeeding in math and science. For a smart man, he made several mistakes.
Mistake #1 - Watch your audience, buddy! He was talking to a group who have been invited to basically talk about how to include societal groups those not already involved in science and math. Let’s not get rid of a rather large group of possibility.
Mistake #2 - Get the message right! Believe it or not, he may be right in saying this should be better studied - I’ve always been curious on the reasons why there are less women in science and math, and who knows if maybe there are typical traits in one sex that makes math and science more interesting (I lump engineering in here too, by the way). But that would only explain why women don’t ENTER these fields, certainly not why those who brave the sometimes cold climate to follw a dream, don’t seem to achieve as much as male counterparts. And most women who go for it DO succeed!
Mistake #3 - Even if the audience was a little different, or the message changed a bit, the president of one of the world’s best universities should not make such statements that relate to half the world’s population, without first doing a little research of his own to back such claims. How his daughter named her trucks doesn’t count (that’s in another story on the same topic, see here ).
MAYBE the reason why some women don’t succeed in non-traditional fields is because the “traditional” folk still see those fields as “their” domain. Maybe it’s such comments that differences exist in academic ability of men and women that turn off women from being successful - if they say this when you fail, what will they say when you do better?