December 18, 2008

Blog Ten

I am quite invested in changing power structures concerning gender, race, class, etc and I've decided to devote my life to working towards this goal. I'm majoring in GWSS studies and hope to be a life long learner of change not only through school and books, but most importantly by meeting other people and helping to build coalitions. I am currently employed by a wonderful non-profit organization and hope to continue in this vein in the future. I feel that community services have the potential to create a valuable space for diverse peoples to gain access to resources and to have their voices heard. They also have the potential to give marginalized people leadership and employment positions and to help them reach above the poverty line. I feel it is important to live a life that is mindful of other people and our environment and that is actively engaged in building and maintaining societal sanity.

December 1, 2008

Blog 10

Lawrence Summers was a well known and highly regarded educational administrator at Harvard University. The things he said and claims he made as the president of Harvard should have been able to measure up to academic scrutiny. Making statements to the effect that women don’t want “80 hour a week? jobs when there are so many women who hold powerful positions in corporations and government is not something such a high ranking official in the field of education should feel comfortable making. With the wealth of academic knowledge at his disposal, one would think that a person in Summers’ position would have taken the time to at least provide facts relevant to an argument as poignant as the “fact? that women lack the necessary brain power and aptitude to succeed in scientific fields of research. One of the more laughable concepts Summers brings to the table is that when a woman drops a college course, it displays an inferiority in that subject. All I really know about dropping courses is what I have learned from dropping courses on a high school level. However, dropping a course usually meant not liking a professor, or needing a teacher was more suited for a different learning style, not an inadequacy in a subject. I think that much of what Summers says is based on misconceptions, opinion, and what he believes to be true from his own experience.

November 24, 2008

Summers vs. Bublick

While reading Lawrence Summers’ essay on women in the sciences, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone with such a high standing could justify writing something so ignorant and so controversial. His point is clearly not taken well by many in society; why, may I ask, would he write this piece at risk of losing credibility and standing? After all, both men and women attend his prestigious University seeking a degree in the hard sciences.

After reading Bublick’s, article, however, the answer to this question became clearer. Bublick writes from an objective standpoint, arguing that Summers does not back up his argument with scientific fact. His evidence is based solely on his experiences. His vision of women’s standing in the hard sciences is skewed by his social hierarchy and access to power. As far as losing credibility and standing, he is unconcerned due to his lack of knowing that his argument is wrong.

On another note, Summers touches on women’s lack of tenures compared to men. He gives several reasons as to why he believes this occurs, one in which he disputes that women are primary caregivers and prefer not to work 80-hour weeks. Bublick responds to said argument by stating, “The problem with viewing women as mothers first and workers second is that it stereotypes them right out of significant jobs.? Because of this stereotype, women have less opportunity in the work force.

Summers does stereotype by referring to all women. While I do not agree with Summers, I also disagree with Bublick. I feel, and would hope, that each individual woman would do as she pleases, not based on stereotypes, but on her own desire. Many women would prefer to be primary caregivers, while others prefer to work. While it is not reasonable to think that all women act according to their own desires, I would hope that one day they will feel free to do so.

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My initial reaction to Summers’ speech was that it’s pretty despicable for a university official, especially the president of such a well-respected university, to say that women aren’t cut out for certain fields. It seems right on par with claims like African-Americans are better at athletics because of the history of slavery, or Irish people are drunks, or Jews are greedy. There is no basis for that kind of reasoning, and it’s using false data to justify biological untruths. Like Fausto-Sterling points out, even studies that have been done to find a genetic link to sex-based knowledge have come back inconclusive. The results can be interpreted however the studier wants to read them, and those conclusions aren’t questioned when presented to the public. All data is moot if anyone bothers to challenge it, but when a prominent person in the research/ educational community makes a statement it seems concrete. I’m glad there was a public backlash and people were smart enough to know his perceptions are unfounded. Summers, in his apology speech, claimed that what he said was taken out of context and fueled by the media, but reading his speech in full proves that the implication was present throughout. Whether certain knowledges and abilities are predestined by genetics or not is up for the scientific community to debate, but I think there are more social influences that should be paid attention to. For instance, growing up I got an Easy Bake Oven and my brother got a Creepy Crawler set. Basically, we were both adding powder to water and cooking it with a light bulb, but I, the girl, was “baking’ and my brother, the boy, was doing “scientific experiments.? Girls and boys are raised to believe they have different inherent skills. I think that should be given equal importance and not studied in tandem with genetic ties to intelligence.

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I find it very easy to see why Mr. Summers would want to find a reason why there are very few women in science. It's a very natural thing to do for humans, and he was really just stating the plain hard facts. I do believe however that he could have gone about doing this in a different way. He could have, for instance, looked further into the so called 'definite' evidence that he thinks is proving why there are fewer women in science-based careers. The whole 'men and women's brains work differently' deal can't be proven for instance, no matter how you look at it, so it would have been nice if before he used any evidence to support a statement like his if he had examined all the evidence thoroughly, made sure it was provable, and then made sure that that evidence related directly to the topic at hand. Fausto-Sterling mentioned about the same thing, saying that summers can't rely on the tests that he was looking at, because there is a lot of subjectivity in those kinds of tests. Furthermore, he should have made sure to look at all aspects of the situation instead of blocking some details out, something he seemed to tend to do. For instance, Bublick mentioned how women have been very influential in science, a fact that summers seemed to ignore. There is not a single fact or statistic that can prove that women are worse at science or solving difficult and complex problems then men. The only real thing that is holding women back is oppression against them and the fact that it is kind of ingrained into our brains that women do no hold science-based jobs. Women are not in engineering, that is a mans job, and so women don't go for being in that kind of job. Therefore, the only way to remedy the situation is to make it okay for women to be in science, and then start possibly looking at why there may or may not be fewer women in science then men, because right now there is absolutely nothing that can prove that women are worse at thinking then men and that, other than a lack of women applying to be in a science-based career, there isn't anything that can specifically say why there are more men than women in scientific careers.


Dear Mr Lawrence Summers,
First of all, I think that we need to address your opinions on the intelligence of women. Men and women are in fact, different, but i think that you adressed this issue in a completely unprofessional way. Because you hold such a high position, you need to understand the way others perceive your opinions. Many may agree, and hopefully more will disagree. Women do have the potential to succeed in the areas of math and science, but you need to understand that women learn in different ways than men. Standardized tests are created by white men, so the questions are best answered by white men. Where are the women?
Next, we need to analyze the evidence you used in your speech. You used evidence of scientific methods such as statistics, but we need to remember the objective. Using evidence like women hate hard work, biological rationale (primary caregiver to children), and that women lack attributes. Each piece of proof you used may be true for some women, but not for many. Using these stereotypes is similar to assuming, and you know what happens when you assume. Even so, this should not in any way be used as evidence.
Fausto-Sterling brings perspective to these issues. She states that it really depends on what kind of evidence you use to back up your argument. Of course, you wouldn't include evidence that contradicts your overall argument, yet you still need to acknowledge each side of the argument.
i hope that you have done a little more research, and are now able to offer a little more intelligent resonse.

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After reading Lawrence Summer’s position on women in the sciences, it is hard to understand why there continues to be a bias against women in jobs that require some actual intelligence to excel in. I agree with Bublick on the idea of the desire to pursue a career in the science or math fields, not me personally, but my best friend from Kindergarten has always had the drive and determination to become a research scientist. She loves science and math, it’s as simple as that. Now is Summer saying that because she is a woman, she can’t have a career that she might strive to have? I would bet that half the men out that pursuing the same career as she don’t have half the drive and determination that she has, yet the men would have a better chance of getting the job.

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Mr Summers,
I am writing in response to your speech, which addressed the issue of the lack of women in science. After reading the speech and your apology, I do believe you realize what you said was wrong and disrespectful towards women. There are several ideas that you brought up in your speech that I would like to discuss in more detail with you.
Although you were speaking “unofficially? when you said the following, I believe your words should be taken seriously. First, when you discuss the idea that women do not want jobs that require 80 work weeks because women are more concerned with being mothers than working full time. The fact that you said this is absolutely appalling to me. Not only do I disagree with this statement, but Ellen Bublick also disagrees. Her argument uses the Supreme Court as evidence that the stereotypical gender roles are “endemic to the discrimination against women.? She also states that “the problem with viewing women as mothers first and workers second is that it sterotypes them right out of significant jobs? such as the ones you speak of in science and engineering.
You also cited intrinsic aptitude as a reason for the lack of women in science and engineering. Bublick also counters your speech by noting that research has shown that women are not merely “little men.? Women have the ability to learn just as well as men. Although our bodies and mindsets are different, the ability to learn is the same for both sexes in my eyes. If the ability is there, success will follow. However, the success for women may be in another field outside of engineering and science. Women choose to work in other fields- they do not choose to because aren’t smart enough to be an engineer.
“Unofficially speaking? as a female engineering student, I do have the aptitude to become an engineer. I do have the ability to succeed in a male dominated field. I am personally insulted by your speech, and I believe you got what you deserved.

Blog Ten

I feel that the opinions expressed by Summers regarding the lack of women holding top positions in the sciences at Harvard were based on dangerous and oversimplified assumptions that are pervasive in our society. When he asserted that women would hold these positions if they were in fact the best candidates, he was ignoring the limitations that women have in the process of getting to be the best candidate. Women aren’t always encouraged to work towards such careers and because of that the path to get there is substantially more treacherous. Also, women are forced to balance their career development with their responsibility towards family, which is not equally demanded of men. When he said that women do not want careers they are forced to think about eighty hours a week, he was indirectly citing this familial responsibility and reinforcing it. By considering the fact that women are often forced to choose between their careers and families to be inevitable and nonnegotiable, he is merely making it harder for women to be able to be committed to both kinds of work. Bublick put it well when she said, “The very fact that a workforce is still male-dominated, at a time when so many fields have integrated, may send women an accurate signal about the climate they should expect? (532). Women are not encouraged or enabled to fill these top positions in the sciences at Harvard, so why should they try to?

Blog Ten

We can rag on Lawrence Summers for claiming that women make inferior engineers all we want, but his acknowledgment of the lack of women engineers is not off-base at all. Indeed, according to the Extraordinary Women Engineers Society website:
* Less than two percent of high school graduates will earn engineering degrees
* Colleges and universities are having difficulty recruiting women engineering students
* Just 20 percent of undergraduate engineering students are women
* The number of women engineers in the professional workforce amounts to less than ten percent

Clearly you cannot blame Lawrence Summers for attempting to hypothesize why women don't become engineers; though his message may be hurtful, it's the simple fact that women aren't choosing to become engineers that's the problem.

This is not to say that women cannot become engineers or scientists; indeed as Bublick states in her commentary on the Summer's conference, women have helped make many strides in expanding our knowledge of science and medical developments and I'm not going to deny that women aren't just as good at solving complex problems as men.

Nevertheless, I feel that both the Bublick and Fausto-Sterling pieces miss the mark in that they focus on the idea that because women are just as capable at engineering as men that it means there should be more efforts to allow women to be engineers because by stating that we should "allow" more women to be engineers undermines the fact that there is a deficit of women actually applying to be engineers according to the EWE Society. Quite simply, I feel that it's not a problem of womens' smarts, but a problem of numbers.

The idea that there is some vast conspiracy is preventing women from becoming scientist and engineers also seems to undermine the fact that schools do not care what your gender is when you choose what you major in; it's the person who makes the actual choice. In other words, it ridiculous to call the lack of women engineers a problem if it can't be back by actual reason which is simply this: until more women apply themselves to be in the scientific field, it will continue to be predominantly male.

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Mr. Summers,

The NBER conference speech that you recited was not only very demeaning and hurtful to women; it was complied on stereotypical and cultural biases with no facts, evidence, or quotes to back up your statements. Just because you “THINK? women do not want to work 80 days does not automatically mean that you are correct. Many women work hard. This is apparent with all of the women design college students who are in their studio for 80 + hours every single week. Women can work just as long and hard as men. After all once women are done working at their 40 hour a week job they come home and “work? with the family, cleaning, and stress.
I also want to reiterate the fact that you are a Harvard President and have no statistics to back up ANY of your sexist claims. Bublick makes a wonderful point that even if you tried to back up your claims that women lack the brain power, you would not logically and firmly be able to prove your point. Bublick explains the fact that “until we have made more progress toward eliminating social barriers to women’s entry into these fields, we can have no idea how much, if any of the gap biology explains?. The gap Bublick refers to is the difference of women vs. men’s brains in science. Also, Fausto-Sterling stresses the ridiculousness and biased factors of standardized tests and statistics that explain that men are smarter and math and science more than women. I find it very difficult to believe that women are not as smart as men solely due to the fact that in most colleges women outnumber men (and not only in creative, communication fields). First, I would appreciate if you do not stereotype women into a category of dumb, lazy, childbearing, unimportant beings. Secondly, I think it is important as well to consider every individual no matter the race, class, gender they belong to.

November 23, 2008

It's a matter of opinion

Bublick agrees that Summers claims to have “made an effort to think in a very serious way? about women’s representation in science, yet even in the way he says he “made an effort? sounds like he has little interest in the area of women’s rights/equality/diversity. He doesn’t present any credible research. Much of what he says is unclear; he agrees that it’s unclear, but I guess that’s his point.

Like we discussed in class, anyone who writes credible articles and whatnot proves their position by picking and choosing sources that will back up their argument. If a person is able to argue something, there is going to be a source or two that can back up either side. So if Summers had provided us with reliable information, it would only have given critics more reason to argue against him. Therefore, I understand why Summers decided to give us his “best guess,? as opposed to a thoroughly-researched stance. “Everybody’s got an opinion; I don’t think anybody actually has a clue as to what the answer is (Summers).? However, if Summers had laid out the facts from a strictly objective, well-informed point-of-view, there would be less to critique.

Although Summers seems to believe he is simply laying out some areas that should be “looked at,? there are some underlying assumptions that he has with regards to men’s and women’s roles. He poses the question, “who wants to do high-powered intense work?? Clearly suggesting that men do and women (or at least mothers) don’t. Bublick responds to Summers by writing that Summers “assumes both that high-powered work requires 80-hour weeks, and that women, especially mothers, lack interest in this schedule.? I completely agree with Bublick on this one. I could argue that high-powered work may well be running a daycare 40 hours/week. Are men up for that?

Wake up, Mr. Summers!

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers:

I have comments in light of your remarks regarding women in science and engineering. I am amazed with the education and the resources afforded you in your position that you can take such a condescending and ill researched attitude towards an important topic as equity and equality for women in the fields science and engineering. You should be at the forefront of opening doors for women, helping to change attitudes by example, not contributing to the limitations of a patriarchal system not only within Harvard but also in society.

Even in your claim that you “made an effort to think in a very serious way? (Bublick) about this ever relevant subject of equal opportunities for women in all aspects of life including education and the workforce, you miss the opportunity to open the doors to fairness for everyone.

I find you fall short of broad thinking just in the fact of the narrow viewpoint you share in your examples for instance of about life on a kibbutz in Israel. You are far off the mark not to take in consideration that both men and women learn their male and female gendered roles as a “whole? person which includes societal, social, familial, and religious pressures, expectations, and limitations. These roles are not performed within a vacuum but are ever present within all aspects of a person’s life.

It is up to universities and the staff within them to broader their own thinking to make fairness and equality available for all students.

Please come down from your ivory tower; open your eyes to your ability to open doors for both women and men.

Blog 10

After reading the informal discussion and the transcript on women and their place in society in the workforce, I have to say that many of the things you said I disagreed with and were very blunt and not well thought of before you said them. It makes me take a step back and think about this when a man like you, who was the president of Harvard, could make such unthoughtful and untrue suggestions. As Bublick claims in her article, men and women are very different. Your theory of "different availability of aptitude" is just a way of saying that women are not cut out for the same positions or are not as intelligent in certain areas as men are. You claim that women are not as cut out for science and math as men are, this is a hurtful and insulting to women in general. One flaw I see is that you really only use your own opinion and views to make your statement and do not use any resources to support your claim. You say women don't want to work 80 hour work weeks, and that will interfere with the other things women have to do. You also say that men do want to commit to that long of work week while women do not. You don't take into mind that there are many brilliant women in those fields and many many women who are good in math and science. The lack of respect that is shown towards women in this country plays a role of how women get jobs and how they are looked at. You cannot make blunt statements without any proof and without any respect.


Larence Summers' speech concerning the relative lack of women in the higher rankings of hard sciences falls short by not employing some of the principles of hard science. Instead of using hard evidence from well set-up experiments, he uses anecdotal evidence and the results of studies manipulated by statistics. One such example is his claim that men have an inherent proclivity and adeptness for the sciences that women don't have. To support this, he uses observations he made with his own daughters and the assumption that this piece of conventional wisdom holds true. naturally, most would agree that the story of his daughters proves nothing for the situation he is addressing, but the conventional notion that women don't have the intrinsic capacity for being adept at the sciences deserves a closer look, something any scientifically minded person would do.

One such person is Anne Fausto-Sterling, who's 'a question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women' looks specifically at studies which attempt to quantify and compare the intellegence of men and women. In it, she adresses ow the method of satistics can cause certain conclusions to be drawn that aren't necessarily true. For example, while in a given case study, assuming it actually consists of a proper sample size and the test itself were objective, if one found that boys scored higher than girls on the math portion, one might quickly conclude that boys are better at math than girls. But looking at the result in a different light, if one was given the result of an individual's test, it would be impossible to tell if one was looking at the result of a boy or girl. It is impossible to differentiate the difference in scores based off of the inherent variablity within both men and women, and whatever difference *might* exist between men and women as a group. not to mention, as Fausto-Sterling does, that that very test cannot be objective anyway. For example, looking at the social conditions of the members of such a test group, Anne found that boys were often encouraged in science and math by their parents, while it was less likely that girls would be. Perhaps Summers' should look at and consider such circumstances, if only for a few minutes, instead of using statistics to validate conventional wisdom.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Blog Ten

Lawrence Summers’ response and justification of diversity (of women) in the science and engineering workforce was, to say the least, flawed. In his speech, Summers argues that women hate hard work and women should be more focused on being the primary caregiver for children rather than their occupation. It is upsetting to me to know that this mindset is still being encouraged, especially by a representative of one of the most respected universities of the United States, in late 2005. He does not specifically come out and say that women belong in the house, but it is somewhat written between the lines of what he says. He also suggests that women lack the attributes, some of which were drive and brain power, to hold such a high powered job in the science field.

A major issue that was very apparent was his use of statistics. As laid out by Fausto-Sterling in “A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter than Women?? the use of statistics to prove the point that men’s brains are much better at understanding math and science than women’s brains is unreliable. As I have learned in statistics classes, the use of statistics can be twisted to support almost anything that one may want to prove. She also talks a lot about the flaws in the experimental set up of many of the famous studies done on this very topic. Sometimes, the subjects being tested do not take the test seriously, giving very flawed results. Fausto-Sterling also brings up the point that many children are taught and treated differently in the classroom depending on their gender. If there is a difference in brain power between genders, one could attribute it to the difference in teaching, not the difference between the brains of different genders. We came to the conclusion in discussion on Friday that test results are very subjective and are a product of one’s socioeconomic class (or the +5 system) more than anything. I am not sure if this is true, but my question is why this issue is really that important. Yes, learning different learning styles could be very beneficial for teachers and students. I believe that the preferred learning style depends more on the specific person rather than the gender identity that they follow. I think it would be more beneficial to test the individual rather than generalize between two different genders.

Week Ten Blog

Mr. Summers,
I must say, I am quite disappointed regarding your statement on the lack of women in the scientific field. I do understand why you believe women would not have time to further their educations in the math and science fields; however, that is not an excuse nor is it the root of the problem. Women do not have the same opportunities men do to learn about math and science. Fausto-Sterling supports this with her claim that, “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom did not receive the same instruction,? (Fausto-Sterling 57-58). Even if a woman was gifted in these areas the older she became, the more discouragement there was. For example, Bublick was very gifted in math but after her second semester in college she dropped it because she felt inferior. Everyone else in the class, aside from one woman and Bublick, were male and majors in math, science, and engineering. Although you make a great argument, you did not support his case well with resources or stating the other sides’ point of view. As a former president of Harvard University, I would like to think you’d recognize that correlation doesn’t imply causation, however, you failed to do so with your use of statistical evidence. You failed to mention the barriers against women today and rather blame it all on their inability to work eighty-hour weeks due to biological clocks. Next time you state an argument, please do us all a favor and research properly, noting every aspect of the issue.

Week Ten Blog

In response to Lawrence Summers, I would like to address his use of math and numbers to quantify difference found between men and women. He notes the "findings" that put men above women in standardized testing. He also references some “quick math? that he does in his head says that men’s IQ’s in these areas are several standard deviations above women when it comes to assessing people fit for tenured positions. Fausto-Sterling critically examines the way that people use statistics as a way to naturalize difference as if it is hard fact and unbiased or objective information. In fact, she argues (as do I) that often these kinds of statistical analyses are far from objective and always have a goal: to prove a hypothesis. If one wants to create data to fit a proposed hypothesis, one can skew information, leaving out certain variables or targeting a certain population that produces the desired results. Because people believe that numbers are uncontested truths, statistical data is often absorbed into our cultural understandings, perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing oppressive ideologies. This is also done when analyzing standardized testing. Most often these tests are created for one kind of person and does not reflect the various learning styles that kids adhere to or the different backgrounds/ personal experiences youth have. These tests then promote a +5 individual over others. Although I don’t necessarily think that Summers was trying to be oppressive (he may have just wanted to cover the university’s ass for a while), his examples only reinscribe patriarchal privilege that can be seen through educational and economic disparity.

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Lawrence Summer’s speech was demeaning and unfounded towards women. But he is a product of his environment as much as anyone else is. The difference is that Summers is the president of Harvard, and, just like uncle Ben says: with great power comes great responsibility.
Summers’ choice to give a speech regarding women in the sciences shows that he understands at least some of the responsibility of holding the post of president at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, if not the world. If he rejected the offer, he would be ridiculed. But it was a conference that was supposed to be off the record, so he didn’t have to actually put a lot of work in to his research and argument. So he talked about what he knew. What his culture and daily life has taught him. Summers’ everyday life is within a patriarchal system that is positively designed for men of his race and class status. While I am not condoning his words or feelings, I am situating them from his standpoint.
Summers’ standpoint as president, though, he thoroughly does operate fully under. He has leading scholars in every field creating data that would, as we have seen in Fausto-Sterling’s articles on gender inequality, counter his ideologies, and make him do his homework before giving a speech on such a hot topic. He quite obviously did not attempt to use the work of Harvard scholars. As president, Summers should understand that his opinion is valued more because of his position, and attempt to have a slightly informed one.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,
As the president of a prestigious institution such as Harvard, I would have expected a much more intellectual and fair approach when discussing the issue of how women are represented in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions around the country. I know you sought to retract your evidently sexist statements but nonetheless, your thoughts still remained and the opinion you possessed is clearly something that needs to be addressed so that others will not also think that women are poorly represented in higher institutions by actions of their own free will. It was unfair that you said that women don’t want time consuming jobs because they are more preoccupied with being mothers.
This statement is much too broad and not true for all women. In fact some one is extremely ambitious in the work force and seeks to have full time jobs. You seem to have overlooked all the other individuals and families who are outside of the norm such as stay at home dads or single women or childless couples. The author Bublick, who counteracted your speech, gave evidence to further support how you made an unfair and narrow minded view of women. She pointed out that the stereotype of women just as stay at home moms rather than a capable working force is actually a detriment to why people think women are not developed for the work force. People need to understand that thinking of women as nothing other than mothers is a concept of the past. She basically said this view of women is at the core of why women are discriminated in the work force and higher institutions.
And another thing Mr. Summers that you stated which seemed completely preposterous is that women do not want to work their way into the workforce enough to be seen. How are you to know how much a women or even a man for that matter desires to be successful in their work or academic community? Bublick also counters your argument by looking to Kimberlee Shauman at UC-Davis, who said that desire to achieve doesn’t ensure their position within the community. Even though you may believe that desire correlates along with success, this is not true because a person can want something more than anything in the world and not be able to achieve it. So maybe next before you take such a sexist approach you will seek to understand modern society better and try to get to know that women are not incapable nor laid back about their work or academic careers.

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First things first, the actual problem. You start out addressing the issue of representation of women in tenured positions in the sciences and engineering as just that, a problem. Recognizing this as a problem is important, and given that you described the topic of your talk as “diversifying?, it seemed natural that the agenda was going to be focused on what can be done to help solve this problem. However, this was not the focus of the discussion. Instead, the talk seemed focused on justifying the current way that things are. The example of the three “hypothesises? (and no, I don't think you were using the word 'hypotheis' correctly) comes to mind, where you presented three different potential causes of underrepresented women in the these fields. It wasn't until very late in your talk that you even addressed issues relating to what can be done to better the situation. Even then the talk digressed into relating to child care, a connection that makes no sense from a gender equality position.

Ignoring the notion that the talk didn't really address the problem, and instead focused heavily on “hypothesises? about why we are in the current situation, there are still countless issues that need to be considered about the logical progression of your arguemnts. Your first hypothesis relies on the assumption that women more proportionally don't want to commit to a workload (for example) of 80 hours weeks, and that men are more likely agree to such a task. Disproportional unmarried women and women without children seems to make sense, but it ignores the general sexists notions that women are primary child givers. It's an underlying problem, and relying on it as an assumption isn't going to help things. The second “hypothesis? relies on the assumption that overall IQ and mathematical/scientific ability can be quantified in the same way the height can. This is a very heavy concern of Fausto-Sterling. The long and the short, those statistics don't support enough of a difference to be scientific, and the ways in which they're tested are not something that we can call objective. There is too much in question to rely on them in this way.

We can't make accurate gains toward equality by making logical mistakes like basing our assumptions inequality in the first place, and we can't take statistics about very complicated matters (such as intelligence that many will attribute simply cannot be quantified) and start basing judgments about the “way things are? with offering serious scrutiny.

Blog 10

Dear President Lawrence Summers,
I wanted to take a few moments to express my concern with the talk you gave a few years back on the lack of women in professional science and engineering positions. First, I wanted to address your usage of statistics and standardized tests. You discuss how there are inherent differences in male and female intelligence and that certain attributes directly “correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley?. However, isn’t it the first rule of statistics that statistical associations do not imply direct correlation or causation? Being an economist, I would have thought that you would have known better than to make such assumptions.
In relation to this, you imply that standardized tests in 12th graders show that men receive higher scores in math and science, and it is these people that possess certain attributes that lead them to afore mentioned positions at MIT or Berkeley. First of all, this assumption requires that all standardized tests are objective and a perfect indicator of academic performance. We know this is not true. All kids do not learn in the same way, nor are they taught in the same way. Socio-economic factors like race and class also may prevent kids from being able to take standardized tests or have the time and encouragement from their families to study properly for them. We are also neglecting that “boys and girls learning together in the same classroom do not receive the same instruction? (Fausto-Sterling 58). Traditionally, women have been pushed into fields such as nursing and teaching to fulfill women’s “primary? role as caretaker. Because of this social implication, many girls now internalize that they are not good at math, and therefore should not pursue further classes or professions in math. They also tend to receive more negative feedback from teachers and other adults than boys do (Fausto-Sterling 56). In order for things like statistics and standardized tests to really be an accurate measure of your question as to why women are lacking in science and engineering fields, the socially implicated gender bias that manipulates the data and the methods to obtain such data needs to be acknowledged and removed. As long as people like you and others in positions of white, male power are relying on statistics and tests to tell you why men and women are “different? and continue to set up gendered hierarchies, you can expect that your arrogant views will discourage more women from wanting to join you in higher positions of academia at places like Harvard. With people like you in power, however, I don’t blame them.
Emily Endert (Student, University of MN)

Week Ten Blog

My problem with this speech began in the first paragraph where summers is speaking about the issue of women's representation in tenured positions and he states, "but because it's the only one of these problems that I've made an effort to think in a very serious way about." He basically discredits himself by saying this is the only area he's taken any measure to research and take seriously. Bublick also questions his credibility based on the fact that he uses his daughters as an example, a trip, and conversations with other men in positions similar to his. He is the president of Harvard and his research should be a little more in depth than just what he has experienced. He should be speaking to women who are qualified for those higher positions but aren't actually in those positions as to why they weren't able or don't want to work in those positions.

Summers makes the arguement that women don't want these positions because they are 80 hour per week jobs. He says they aren't able to because of family issues etc. But he also talks about how the university does not provide child care. No daycare is going to provide 80 hours of child care every week. So yes the woman could probably afford it, but it still wouldn't work. So unless her husband is willing to stay home and take care of the kids she really can't take that job. One person listening to the speech brings up the point that white men aren't the leaders in science and mathematics but immigrants are. Summers responds by saying, "fact is that people want control of their lifestyles, people want flexibility, they don't want to do it." That is true, and if the men don't even want to do it, why would the woman who has more responsibilities at home? We read other articles that stated women work many more hours than men if you include the work done at home. So basically the only way a woman can work these jobs is if she's single or her husband is willing to stay home and watch the children, and that isn't common.

Another aspect of Summers speech was that men are better than women in the math and science fields. I think he's correct in saying that, but not because women aren't able, but because they haven't been taught in the same respect men have. Bublick talks about a music teacher named Shinichi Suzuki who stated, "talent is not inborn but nurtured." A father isn't likely to take his daughter with him to go fix a car, but those types of questions are used on the ACT or SAT. In that situation a man would be more likely to answer correctly. But had the woman been taught from a young age about similar things, she would also know. Bublick also talks about a math class she took in college and there was only one other woman besides herself. Had there been more women she would have been less intimidated and stayed. I believe the more women that are in the field, the more there are likely to follow.

Week Ten Blog

Two problems, out of the many, I saw with Lawrence Summers' position on women in the sciences and also the tenure issue were lack of research and effort and constant contradiction. Even though Summers was "speaking unofficially," he still has to be accountable for the things he says and keep in mind his position in academia and society in general. To many people he is, or at least was, highly respected and thought of as very intelligent, so therefore his opinions and remarks are usually taken into great consideration and treated as important. To me he ruined this respect, at least on the subject, by failing to use all the knowledge at hand, instead using examples that can't be backed up by previous research, and by constantly contradicting his own remarks and refusing to actually take a side or completely support anything he said. It is one thing to try to make your negative comments less harsh, but its another when you go back and forth so much that you aren't actually saying anything or even making a point. It would be like someone asking if you liked the food and instead of giving a yes or a no you responded with, "Well I wasn't the best, but I thought it was good and I'm sure that the cook did his/her best, but better luck next time." People weren’t asking him to speak about this subject so that they could listen to their own thoughts out loud. They wanted a researched analysis, a solution, or at least an educated, researched hypothesis at best.
Aside from Summers' contradictory style, I mentioned his lack of research, which I think Bublick does a great job criticizing. Bublick criticizes Summers' use of the example of his daughters and his truck observation. “Can a woman fail to receive her Ph.D. in physics - because Summers' two-year-old daughters once played with trucks in a way that made them seem like dolls - ?? She even comes back with a great counter-example about her sons making trains into dolls and escorting stuffed dogs around in strollers. How can one even begin to use logic like little girls appearing to use trucks instead as dolls as having any effect or relationship for that matter with having the ability or right to become tenured in fields of math and science, especially when it could only be the case of two little girls out of the many in the world given trucks to play with? To me this just gives Harvard a bad name, thinking about the kinds of things Lawrence Summers was capable or saying and using and then the things he chose to say.
These were just two problems that Summers could have easily avoided, making his arguments and opinions that much more valid, no matter what they actually were. This doesn’t even mention the other claims he makes about women’s intrinsic aptitude, desire to achieve, or their priorities involving the decision between their motherly duties and their work outside the home, not even considering the fact that for a lot of women this decision doesn’t even apply and for others there is a balance that can be made.

Week Ten Blog

Lawrence H. Summers’ “Remarks at NBER conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce? was a reading the struck me as astonishing that a person of such high ranking could be even “allowed? to say any of the statements and comments that he did. His response is flawed in many aspects and is very poorly stated in the first place because he speaks in such an informal way. Although he explains at the beginning of his “speech? (if it can even be counted as a speech) that he will be speaking unofficially that gives him no right to disregard his status and position as a Harvard President nor does it give him the right to take a standpoint and argue it without having any substantial facts, research or examples. I find it very hard to believe that he took the time to think about this issue “in a very serious way? (LHS). Even at the beginning of his speech he already puts down women and the issue as a whole by stating that he will be discussing “the issue of women’s representation in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions, not because that’s necessarily the most important problem or the most interesting problem, but because it’s the only one of these problems that I’ve made an effort to think in a very serious way about? (LWS). This to me gives no point to his speech at all because he basically states that it’s not important but he is too lazy to talk about anything else. This is the biggest flaw to his whole speech because why would anyone want to even continue listening or reading about what he has to say if it’s all going to be worthless.

Summers assumption that women inevitably lack aptitude in science is one of the many problems in his speech. I don’t really even understand how he can be arguing this in the first place when there is no evidence or support of this statement and probably never will be. There is no real way to test men and women and see who is really smarter out of the two or even measure somehow if women do really lack abilities in the sciences. Even Bublick would agree with this flawed argument. She had commented at the beginning of her response that there have been studies that show “that women may not simply be little men? and that we are different. She also has other evidence later on in her response responding to the point Summers makes about how women lack talent in science and math. In her opinion having a gift or ability to do something such as math and science in this case, comes from practice and being educated in that area. She provides an example for her response by stating that “the founder of the most successful method of music education for young children, Shinichi Suzuki, based his educational philosophy on the principle that ‘talent is not inborn but nurtured’? (Bublick).

I feel that because of the way Summers decided to go about his speech and the evidence and points he was trying to get across were so poorly stated, it negatively backfired on him. As Bublick had stated in her response, problems stem from Summers speech in the fact that he reinforces the “women-can’t-do discourse? which will have a negative effect in “deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science? (Bublick).

Week Ten Blog

I believe that Lawrence Summers has an extremely skewed point of view, according to Summers, more males enter math and science fields because they are genetically better in those fields than girls. Summers never takes into account that there are many different kinds of intelligence and that there is no concrete facts that support his theory. Fausto – Sterling also used statistics in her article from many well known scientist, psychologist and doctors. Many of their findings did show that males excel in math and science compared to girls. One of the only things that I took away from my math classes was that correlation does not equal causation. There are so many factors that can contribute to their outcomes; also stats can be influenced in one direction over the other. With these false facts people are starting to believe that males are inherently better than females. According to Fausto- Sterling, girls at young ages are encouraged to go towards the social science areas. Instead of math books and science set they are given crayons by parents. Boys are more supported in the math and science fields compared to girls; girls do not have the chance to excel because of the factors holding them back. Summers bases his argument on absurd stats and leaves out so many factors. I am not great at math, but looking at his comments about standard deviation and norms its mind boggling how wrong they are, and how he came to his conclusions is upsetting. He also had the audacity to say that women require more than men, that women would want flexibility to care for their children or they lack the judgment in comparison to their male colleagues. There is no proof what so ever to support his theories. Summers and Fausto-Sterling also bring up the issue of test scores, males tend to have higher scores than females, according to Fausto-Sterling those who come up with these stats take raw data and shape it into the desired out come. Most people do not realize that correlation does not equal causation and that stats do not tell the whole story.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,

I was extremely disappointed when I read your speech addressing the lack of women in scientific fields. As an Institute of Technology female student, I understand that there are not as many women in science as men, but that is not what upset me about your speech. I feel that your attempt to explain this was flawed and insulting to women. Your argument depended largely on your own opinion and interpretation, and as the President of Harvard, your words carry a heavy weight with them.

Part of the problem with your reasoning, as I said, is that it is based on your own individual interpretation, and you did not use reliable resources to make your case. As one of the criticisms of your speech by Bublick points out, your individual interpretation of your daughters coddling their trucks is not grounds for you to determine why women are not receiving tenured positions. Someone else’s interpretation could have been different, and it was an individual circumstance – unfortunately not enough to form grounds for cold, hard fact.

Fausto-Sterling also addresses the problem with facts and interpretation. Stats and information surrounding genders can be easily manipulated to form the basis for one argument or another, and these arguments, including yours, fail to take into account the social situations of the people these stats surround. For example, Fausto-Sterling reports that girls and boys have the same math levels until about seventh grade. I do not believe that girls suddenly are unable to understand after seventh grade, considering I’m taking calc. four my freshman year in college. Instead, I believe that encouragement and support at home and at school play a large role in this drop off.

You could easily argue that that is also just my opinion, but the fact is that there are considerable barriers against women still existing today, and you missed an opportunity to address them. Instead, you brushed them off and said it was because we didn’t want jobs that we think about for eighty hours a week. Maybe that’s because we’re too busy thinking about your stupid remarks.

I don’t think that you need to apologize for the lack of women in the scientific fields. I simply wish that you could have provided a more enlightening explanation, instead of one that was based off of patriarchy and your own false opinions.

Blog Ten

Dear Mr. Summers,

I am writing to you on behalf of your speech at the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce. While I agree that the biological order of men and women have an impact on how we as individuals think and perceive different material, I disagree with your standpoint that men are "smarter" in the mathematical and scientific fields.

As stated in Ellen M. Bublick's "Summers' Personal As Political: Reasoning Without Effort From Stereotypes," "the problems stem from Summers' unfounded assumption that women inevitably lack aptitude in science, from his failure to see that job structure and interest are a function of a social variables, and from the reinforing effect that Summers' women-can't-do discourse will have toward deepening the already strong rivers of bias against women in science, " you believe that women do not "bring as much to the table" as men do when it comes to science, but yet you need to realize that 'job structure and interest are a function of social variables' dealing with the interaction of men and women (529). To continue with your opinion of women lacking in science and math, do you believe that women choose to not take these courses because men 'overrule' these areas? Bublick also questioned, "if women in their twenties drop out of math and science courses, does it prove that they could not have made it had they further pursued these courses?" (531). Did you ever consider that math and sciences courses may not be needed for women depending on what occupation they choose to pursue? Why should they need to take these courses if they are not needed? Bublick also explains that in school math was her favorite subject, she received AP credit for her achievements in it, and in a semester of college, she filled her only elective with a math course because she enjoyed it so much (531). In my opinion, not as women have the desire to go into course that involve mathematics, engineering and sciences. Men have more of a desire for mechanics and occupations related to it, so they are required to take more math and science courses. This does not mean that women do not enjoy these courses, but they may not apply to their occupation. For the women that want to pursue a job involving sciences and mathematics, they may be part of the few females in their classes, but this does not mean that they do not deserve to be there.

All in all, it comes down to choice. Depending on what the individual wants to pursue as their occupation, this will determine what courses they need to take. Just because men tend to have more of an interest with occupations in sciences and mathematics, does not mean that women are not able to accomplish these courses. As society has proven, for example, many women are pursuing careers in the medical field, so where does that leave women with the sciences and mathematics? It sure seems to me that they are putting in their effort and proving that they can be just as good as men can in the work force.

Thank you for your time.

Week Ten

To begin with the most basic and wide reaching of the problems with Lawrence Summer's speech, one can point out, as does Fausto-Sterling in her book Myths of Gender, that we do not possess a reliable way of quantifying intelligence. Indeed, many have argued that quantifying intelligence at all is not practical, and even that it is not possible. Summers is not actually specific in saying that he is questioning women's intelligence, but his theory of "different availability of aptitude" is specific enough, especially when he cites different methods of testing that show women to lack the ability to perform in high-end careers. We have known for many decades that tests of intelligence overwhelmingly measure socioeconomic status rather than intelligence. In addition to that bit of knowledge, we know that the math gap between boys and girls has been steadily closing for decades as well. Summers completely ignores the fact that scientific knowledge and studies are also political. "Objective" knowledge is an illusion that he gladly falls victim to; his lack of will to examine the way in which knowledge is also a product of culture, history, geographic location, and capitalism (and thus patriarchy) is a particularly repulsive trait to see in an "educated" man.

Going back to Summer's first "hypothesis" (I put the word in quotes because a hypothesis is supposed to be an educated guess, not the ramblings of a man oblivious to his own priviledges) that women do not want "80 hour a week jobs," is highly problematic. On the most basic of levels, why are we asking anyone to work 80 hours a week? In France, it is illegal to work over 30 hours a week. This should say something about the backwardness of our own country's expectations of its workers. If academia were really a place that had a goal of making itself accessable and respectful of everyone's potential to produce knowledge, we wouldn't be making it so inaccessable for most people. Why does Summers have so much trouble realizing that white men have more time, more money, and less responsability typically than other demographics? That stated, it should be fairly obvious why positions of higher worth and status are dripping with an excess of rich white men. He fails to question why the meanings of marriage, children, and work are so dramatically different for men and women. Why have men consistently failed to take responsability for their own children? Or their own house? Going along the lines of women not wanting "80 hour a week jobs," he fails to address the fact that the average woman already works an extra month of 24 hour days a year than an average man does.

Finally, Summer's dismissal of the real discrimination women face every day in every realm of life truly reveals the blind and carefree state of the man at the top of the social food chain. His insistence on finding answers in biological predispositions harkens back to the time of phrenology, 19th century studies of the size people's skulls, and so forth. Personally, I don't care how "nice" a person he seems to be. Lawrence Summers is a dangerous man. The white male president of Harvard is someone people look up to, reference in their own arguments, and take advice from - may even form policies based on his "expert" opinion.


Dear Summers:
I have read both the transcript of your informal talk on women in the workforce, and the resulting apology you entered. I recognize the errors you made, and I believe that you genuinely recognize them, too. Still, as a white, female college student, I would like to point out which of your statements jumped off the page for me, and why.

First of all, you cited variabilities in intrinsic aptitude as a reason for women’s lack of stance in the science and engineering workforce. Interestingly, as Ellen Bublick suggested in her response to your speech, research has shown that women are not simply “little men?; we are very different. However, variabilities in success according to cultural codes (i.e. rank within a university) does not warrant a claim that women’s (lack of) natural aptitude is to blame. In confessing your belief on this subject, you have perpetuated the “women-can’t-do? discourse that I have personally tried very hard throughout my life to diminish. I’m frustrated that someone with your stature made such a damaging claim, seeing as your words represent the body of instruction at Harvard.

Secondly, you cited women’s lack of achievement desire as a reason for our seemingly insignificant presence within the academic community. Bublick counters your argument with the work of Kimberlee Shauman at UC-Davis, saying that desire to achieve doesn’t necessarily inform one’s position within the community. This means that one’s stance in academia is not directly caused by one’s desire to achieve, like you implied. Your statement really drives home the idea that objectivity doesn’t exist, even when it claims to exist.

I’m frustrated by your statements, but also thankful. Your statements galvanized all sorts of passionate discussion in my gender studies class, and I think we’re all the better for it.

Keep it real,

November 22, 2008

Week Ten

In Response to Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers' January of 2005 speech at NBER's conference on diversity was troubling to say the least. He begins by stating that he is "speaking unofficially," but perhaps what Mr. Summers forgot was that "speaking unofficially" does not mean speaking as if you are NOT the president of Harvard. That being said, Mr. Summers' remarks seem far from presidential. Even within his first paragraph, Summers has already made comments that impair his argument and are frankly, unnecessary. He states that the lack of women in tenure positions is neither the "most important problem or the most interesting problem." He goes on to say, but even though it is not an important or interesting problem, he is willing to take it into "serious" consideration, because after all he is just that nice of a guy...looking out for the little guy (or in this case woman.)
Summers also states that there is underrepresentation everywhere. He then uses the examples of Catholics in investment banking, white guys playing in the NBA, or even Jews in farming. It seems that the president of Harvard, lord of all the country's great minds and academics, would have had a colleague or fellow scholar nearby to say, "dude, those are the worst examples you could pick." I guess with all those departments and research at his fingertips, Summers just wanted to do something crazy for once. And this lack of research is a problem that Summers has multiple times in his speech. In Bublick's response, she too criticizes Summers use of his own daughters as examples. (Examples that are backed by no academic research.) She states, "Can a woman fail to receive her Ph.D. in physics...because Summers' two-year-old daughters once played with trucks in a way that made them seem like dolls...?" Bublick picks apart Summers' daughter example by making the point that her sons did this and anecdotes like this can be interpreted many ways, especially with no research or studies behind them.
In the end it is appalling what Summers says, even if what he means is not appalling, what he says sure is. Summers spoke, not as the president of Harvard, not as someone who has been in academia long enough to know that providing evidence to a claim is important, and certainly not someone who has "made an effort to think in a very serious way."

November 21, 2008

Blog Ten Assignment Instructions

Blog Ten

This week, we read former Harvard University President, Lawrence Summer’s, position on women in the sciences. On Monday, you were apt to point out on your own where his logic for justifying the absence of women in the hard sciences was flawed. Since then, you read two very different criticisms of the assumptions present in Summer’s reasoning- one that clearly takes Summers to task on the insubstantiality of his immediate claims and the other that problematizes the reliance we, as a culture, have on supposed “natural? data. Using examples from Bublick or Fausto-Sterling, write your own response to Summers. You have the freedom to countenance his claims or deny them, but either way, you will want to make sure to reference at least one of the two readings.