Skip to comments.Woman shortage in science blamed on bias
Posted on 07/15/2006 8:09:25 PM PDT by Coleus
SAN FRANCISCO -- As an Ivy League-trained neurobiologist who oversees a research lab at Stanford, Ben Barres feels qualified to comment on whether nature or nurture explains the persistent gender gap in the scientific community. But it wasn't just his medical degree from Dartmouth, his Ph.D from Harvard and his studies on brain development and regeneration that inspired him to write an article blaming the shortage of female scientists on institutional bias.
Rather, it was that for most of his academic life, the 51-year-old professor who now wears a beard was once known as Dr. Barbara Barres, a woman who excelled in math and science.
"I have this perspective," said Barres, who switched sexes when he started taking hormones in 1997. "I've lived in the shoes of a woman and I've lived in the shoes of a man. It's caused me to reflect on the barriers women face." Barres' opinion piece, published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, was a response to the debate former Harvard president Lawrence Summers reignited last year when he said innate sexual differences might explain why comparatively few women excelled in scientific careers.
Summers' clashes with faculty -- including over women in science -- led to his resignation, though not before he committed $50 million to child-care and other initiatives to help advance the careers of women and minority employees. Barres thinks a meaningful discussion of what he calls the "Larry Summers Hypothesis" ended too soon, leaving missed opportunities and a bad message for young female scientists.
"I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out," he said.
In his article, Barres offers several personal anecdotes from both sides of the gender divide to prove his own hypothesis that prejudice plays a much bigger role than genes in preventing women from reaching their potential on university campuses and in government laboratories. The one that rankles him most dates from his undergraduate days at MIT, where as a young woman in a class dominated by men he was the only student to solve a complicated math problem. The professor said a boyfriend must have done the work for her, according to Barres.
Aside from his unique vantage point, the thrust of Barres' article is that neither Summers nor the prominent scientists who defended his position used hard data to back up the claim that biology makes women less inclined toward math and science. He cites several studies -- including one showing little difference in the math scores of boys and girls ages 4 to 18 and another that indicated girls are groomed to be less competitive in sports -- to support his discrimination argument.
And men shortage in nursing and education is blamed on what?
Is this professor going to get yet a second sex change?
It would be 'wrong' for me to idly point out that, as a transexual, he would claim to have always had the mind of a man, although it was in the body of a woman, so I won't.. ;^)
And the reason why women porno stars get paid higher salaries than men is also due to bias.
So, sould we lower their salary? Should we requre all videos be packages with even ratios of each performers?
And fat people! Should we require fat people to be represented in porno videos, in direct proportion to their ratio of the general population.
That is about the level of logic of the desire that we should add more stupid people in science, to meet a fixed ratio of women.
This may or may not be true. (S)he might have had a biggotted professor. Moreover, this happened in the 1970's and much has changed since then. I would be shocked, very shocked if something like this would happen now.
First off Barbara, no amount of surgery or hormones will ever make you a man.
Second, good for you to solve that math problem.
Third, now get your head out of where the sun doesn't shine you freak.
I'm going to refrain from some really good jokes/comments here and keep my account in good standing.
As a transsexual, he is representative of .001 percent of the population. Of course he is the perfect person to use as the definition of normal, and his experiences must be for ever in the future used as the norm.
I feel like I have a responsibility to laugh at the living spectacle that you make of yourself. "Ma'am."
What about chess competitions?
Professors and high school teachers do treat women and men differently. I seen this for years. It takes thick skin to work around the bias. Like Ginger Rogers we have to dance as well backwards and in heels.
I loved the part about his personal anecdotes PROVING that this was representative and the norm. Scientist my tushie.
""I've lived in the shoes of a woman and I've lived in the shoes of a man."
So, his closet is half Florsheim's and half Manolo Blaniks?
Oi vey, decisions, decisions, decisions.
I wonder what his underwear drawer looks like. On second thought, I don't wanna know.
Not everywhere; I didn't encounter any bias while getting my bachelor's in physics.
And tomorrow she will be Napoleon.
there is no shortage of anyone in the sciences.
because India and China have lots of people, and that's where the job growth in tech is.
I have no doubt that 30 or so years ago an MIT professor could easily have made the reported remark. But after decades of NSF funding for women only projects since, and especially in the face of testimony to the contrary cited above, I think the assertion that the paucity of women in science is due to bias has gotten a bit thin. Try due to not being willing to do the series of postdocs needed for a top-flight career right when you want to have children.