Harvard University president Lawrence Summers has suffered acrimonious condemnation, and may have jeopardized his job, for suggesting that the underrepresentation of women in engineering and some scientific fields may be due in part to inherent differences in the intellectual abilities of the sexes. But Summers could be right.
(MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer)
I think that it is obvious that there are differences in general between men and women. One is not superior to the other, and both can be taught to do all kinds of tasks. One of the greatest physicists in history was a woman, Marie Curie. Albert Schweitzer M.D. was known more for his nurturance than for his technical skill as a physician. I personally think that the disparity in the number of women vs men in the so-called hard sciences has more to do with a 'one size fits all' theory of education than with any innate differences in intelligence. I learned math and science in a very different way than my brothers did. I actually know and use more of these than either of my brothers do, also. But I flunked chemistry in High School because the way it was taught was so alien to my way of thinking and learning. My brothers have excellent language skills and use them regularly - but they both struggled in High School because the ways in which language was taught were oriented to a feminine way of learning. To quote Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young, "Summers also touched feminism's third rail: biological differences between the sexes."
Another factor is that women, by and large, are simply unwilling to sacrifice their legitimate desires for family on the altar of scientific ambition. The last page of Sunday's Boston Globe magazine (alas, not available on-line) pointed out that the tragedy isn't that most women are unwilling to put in the 80 hour workweek routinely, but that most men are. I used to get lots of folks saying to me, "you're so smart, why don't you just become a doctor?" to which my reply is pretty much, "I don't want to give up 11 years of my life". My family came first. We wanted a large family and I knew that would mean that there would be other things that wouldn't happen. I have few regrets, and none at all about having six children.
I watch the struggles that our OB residents go through, and it makes me sad to see what choices these young women are forced to make. The work week for residents was recently decreased from the triple digits to the double digits, and there is still wailing from the older docs that the new residents aren't paying their dues, and that they aren't going to be as well qualified when they graduate.