Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter 3 Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 4 (7 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   4 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Reflections on the Women-in-Science Debate

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 4 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; (more...) , Add Tags  (less...) Add to My Group(s)

Funny 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H4 3/4/11

Become a Fan
  (21 fans)
- Advertisement -

Duluth, MN (OpEdNews) March 1, 2011: Why aren't there equal numbers of men and women among the ranks of top scientists? All other factors being equal, shouldn't we expect that the numbers of men and women would be equal at the top ranks of scientists? But the numbers are not equal. This suggests that certain other factors are not equal, or possibly only one factor. But which factor(s)?

Several years ago, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard University, ventured to suggest some possible answers to this divergence in numbers. But his suggested answers stirred up a firestorm among academics feminists, forcing him eventually to resign as president of Harvard. (He has more recently served as economic adviser to President Obama.)

John Tierney, a science writer for the NEW YORK TIMES, revived this debate in an article in the TIMES on February 7, 2011 ("Social Scientist Sees Bias Within [Social Scientists]").

In response to his article, Alison Gopnik of Berkeley wrote a nuanced and cogent analysis of relevant studies in SLATE MAGAZINE online on February 19, 2011 ("What John Tierney Gets Wrong About Women Scientists").

Shankar Vedantam, author of the book THE HIDDEN BRAIN (2010), was also prompted by Tierney's article to write his own article "Psych-Out Sexism: The innocent, unconscious bias that discourages girls from math and science" that was also published at SLATE MAGAZINE online on March 1, 2011.

I want to discuss both SLATE articles and suggest different ways of understanding and explaining certain findings discussed by each respective author.

Without realizing the enormity of her own observation, Gopnik makes an extraordinary observation in the form of a rhetorical question: "Is it any wonder that many of them [women scientists], keenly aware that their efforts are being downgraded compared to those of men, would withdraw from a competition that is systematically unfair?"

First, let us note that Gopnik's rhetorical question is an understandable conjecture of her part. In short, she is not reporting the findings of a survey in which women scientists stated that they withdrew from a competition that they saw as systematically unfair.

- Advertisement -

Next, let us note that the wording "withdraw from a competition" clearly suggests that women scientists may not be as competitive as they would need to be under the adverse condition of having their efforts being downgraded compared to those of men.

Doesn't withdrawing from a competition that is systematically unfair show a certain lack of courage to endure the outrageous slings and arrows of life?

John F. Kennedy famously quipped that life is unfair. If he's right, should we all withdraw from the competition of life because it is systematically unfair?

But, hey, didn't the Green Bay Packers just win the Super Bowl? Wasn't the road to the Super Bowl a competition that is arguably systematically unfair to the small-market Green Bay Packers?

Isn't the competition with the rich New York Yankees systematically unfair to the less rich major-league baseball teams?

- Advertisement -

Isn't the legendary story of David single-handedly defeating Goliath supposed to teach us to have the courage to fight the good fight in a competition that is systematically unfair?

In his book FIGHTING FOR LIFE: CONTEST, SEXUALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS (Cornell University Press, 1981), the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University, Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), refers to male competitiveness as contesting behavior. He uses the Greek term "agon" to refer to agonistic behavior.

Ong understandably allows that girls and women are competitive in their own ways.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

 

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Tell Psychologists to Work on New Measures

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Was the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello Murdered in the U.S. 25 Years Ago? (BOOK REVIEW)

Who Was Walter Ong, and Why Is His Thought Important Today?

More Americans Should Live Heroic Lives of Virtue (Review Essay)

Martha Nussbaum on Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Book Review)

Hillary Clinton Urges Us to Stand Up to Extremists in the U.S.

Matthew Fox's Critique of the Roman Catholic Church

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
3 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Competitiveness and confidence in one's intellectu... by Thomas Farrell on Friday, Mar 4, 2011 at 8:57:55 PM
Worldwide, an amazingly consistent 10% of children... by Bob Stuart on Saturday, Mar 5, 2011 at 10:45:57 PM
Men and women are composed of layers. Each alterna... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Mar 6, 2011 at 6:43:50 AM
I'm sure, given time, we'll be able to pass enough... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Mar 6, 2011 at 6:30:52 AM