The Yellow Dog Blog

More meaningless ramblings from another guy you don't know

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Not just experts, academic experts

It seems that the esteemed Donna Shalala, along with the obligatory "committee of experts," has found that women in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering don't do as well as their male counterparts. Women working in these areas in universities "are generally paid less and promoted more slowly, receive fewer honors, and hold fewer leadership positions." And here's the kicker - this august group found "no good explanation for why women are being locked out (emphasis mine)."

So what did they concluded was the reason (good or bad) for this disparity? Why, the old reliable, of course - gender bias (cue ominous music).

Lemme get this straight. American Universities as a whole are far and away the most liberal (some would even say leftist) organizations in the country. No other industry even comes close. That being the case, we're asked by this "committee of experts" to believe that in what should otherwise be the most accepting, inclusive and nurturing of environments possible, bastions of affirmative action, the patriarchy still flexes its muscles of oppression to keep the wimmin folk barefoot and pregnant.

Uh huh.

First, let's say they've absolutely nailed the problem. The poor girls are every bit as smart and accomplished as the men they're working with, but those mean old department heads and deans won't let them fulfill their promise. That means that even in what should be the most ideal of circumstances (again, we're talking about liberal, bend-over-backward-to-be-politically-correct universities), men are still oppressing women to the extent that they're significantly underrepresented on faculties and in leadership. If that's the case, then what hope do they have of changing circumstances in the society at large?

What these experts refuse to countenance, though, is even the possibility that, Larry Summers notwithstanding, there really may be biological or cultural factors at work here that result in few women progressing in these fields.

Here's a thought experiment. Think about chess. That's right, the board game. Like sporting events, it's a meritocracy, pure and simple. If you win, you're better than the person across the board from you, no matter what sex or color you may be burdened with. Unlike sporting events, size and upper body strength aren't factors in women's success at chess. Grey matter is all that matters. OK, so that being the case, how many women grand master champions have you ever heard of. Have you ever read about any woman even playing against Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky or Gary Kasparov, let alone beating one of them?

I'm not saying a woman won't or can't excel in chess or that one won't some day be ranked number one in the world. Good on her if it happens. I'm simply asking why is there a dearth of females in the chess world? Could it be that, like in other more obvious areas, there really are differences between men and women? Naw. I'm sure even a committee of experts wouldn't be able to find anything like that.


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