Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Title IX and Women in Science, Again

John Tierney has written an op-ed for the New York Times (and cross-posted in his blog, where you can comment) a piece about the possible negative impact of Title IX* on science. It dismisses concerns of many women as “supposed obstacles like ‘unconscious bias’ and a shortage of role models and mentors…”, as if those were just imaginary issues.

He then goes on to raise the specter of a "quota system" and notes that some women scientists were concerned about a "quota system [that] revived the old stereotype that women couldn’t compete on even terms in science." But has that kind of quota system - where mandatory slots are held for women, even if they aren't qualified for the job - actually been seriously proposed? I haven't seen that. Instead, there are lots of indications that many very qualified women, women who often outperform their male colleagues, are leaving the sciences. And that's a problem for anyone who is interested in maintaining America's competitiveness in the sciences.

More discussion around the webs:

  • Women in science - extra addition @ Female Science Professor
    The question of 'female choice' -- as in, do women choose not to be scientists -- is not a relevant question; it is a diversion based on flawed data. Those of us who teach at universities have long had significant numbers of women in our undergraduate and graduate science classes. Many of these women are passionate about science, and they are very smart. It is bizarre to ask a question about whether women decline to pursue scientific careers because they aren't interested or whether they drop out because they don't want to work hard enough. The women are there, they are interested, and they are able.

    The relevant question is: How can we change things to encourage these smart, motivated, hard-working women to stay in science?
  • Habladora at Feministe
  • PhysioProf at Feministe (note that he uses profanity), with an astute comment by tster:
    It’s also playing into the silly idea of scientists as godlike heroes, geniuses who need to work in peace without any kind of interventino from the outside world. Maybe there are a few geniuses out there, but the majority of academic science is workaday, just like the rest of work everywhere. It’s not so much about being brilliant as it is being meticulous, working your ass of, being logical, and playing politics.
  • Pat at Fairer Science
  • Absinthe on Title IX and Fermilab
Some old related posts of mine that discuss the issues in more detail:
* Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

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