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.
My first wife worked in science. Most scientists in my expectation rejoice at anyone, male or female who can keep up.
It is fairly common for women to be able to keep up. It is rare to find women who think they need to. Still more rare are women who can keep up, that are attractive, and still think they should.
To truly be a scientist, you have to be more than a bit obsessive-compulsive. You have to give up so much else. It is a tough life. I am not one of those, but I know and honor one or two of them.
I'd love to know what he/she/it considered to be a complicated math problem.
Thinking that you are Napoleon or a chicken does not make you one even if the whole society shares you craziness.
Nah, they're just not that into it...
This story is a lot of BS.Just go to a major university affiliated hospital and you'll find there are more females becoming doctors then ever before.Where I work the females are out-numbering the males in many specialties.It won't be long before they run the place and that may not be a bad thing.
That she's psychotic, with a serious delusion about her body?
THAT vantage point?
Most science programs today (especially hard science, like physics, math, and CS) fall all over themselves trying to attract and retain women. If you're a woman, and can manage a C or above, you are flooded with job offers and opportunties in those fields. Even in the face of this, many women totally ignore these fields. And then they whine about a wage disparity.
I DEMAND to know why there aren't more Amish in the NBA. Oh--I do have a few anecdotes to show that bias was indeed involved.
Sounds like he wants to apply for a job at Harvard.
This is total B.S.
I researched this concept several years ago using U.S. Census data and found that even in fields that are traditionally dominated by women (no credible anti-woman bias) The ratio of women to men steadily decreases with advancing degrees. For example, if a particular field features 85 pct. women to 15 pct men at an undergraduate level, it would then show something like 55 pct/45 pct at the Masters level, and maybe 30 pct/70 pct at PhD. - And this in fields like health care, education and library science which have *many* more women than men at the entry level. It's not bias, it's biology!
In the hard sciences, advanced degrees are often essential and there are generally fewer women than men even at the entry level. So naturally, there are going to be much fewer women with advanced degrees in the hard sciences.
My dad just had a significant surgery performed upon him yesterday by a woman doctor.
The lady doctor did a great job and I highly commend her skills, confidence, manners and ability. She is a top notch doc.
At the Ivy League university I went to, the majority of neurobiologists were women. My girlfriend there was one of them. In fact, women dominated biology in general.
Men dominated fields like physics and engineering, although women entering those fields received all kinds of institutional assistance, including scholarships and support groups. Not to mention hundreds of male engineers eager to help them with all of their homework. ;)
Maybe this professor needs some more up-to-date research.
You're right...the data back you up. In high school, females consistently are graded higher than males, yet males do better on the SATs year after year in both verbal and math. This is likely due to the bias teachers have against boys and the favoritism shown towards girls. Good call...
So freakin' what? What does it prove?
Did she constantly outshine all the other brainiacs? Or was she an average genius in a school known for attracting geniuses?
I graduated from MU's college of Engineering and yes, there are much fewer girls there than boys, and the number of girls (and guys) over the course of 4 years goes down even further. The girls who make it through generally are the cream of the crop and are, IMO, better than at least half of the guys who make it through.
The fact is I knew women who were there looking for husbands. I knew some women who changed majors into education or journalism because they couldn't handle the coursework. (Many probably could have if they had applied themselves, but it would've meant studying a heck of a lot more than I think they were willing to.)
Bottom line is that people have a choice what they want to major in, and many women don't want to go through what they need to (or maybe didn't prepare enough for advanced courses in high school) to be successful in engineering. The ones who do make it through generally are, pound for pound, better than many of the guys. (And I was lucky enough to marry one of them!)
Don't forget about modeling! Female models make WAY more than men!
In case you're around, there's so much wrong with this picture that it's hard to know where to start.
Yup and most women do not pursue an advanced degree because they have families and are no longer interested in that kind of stress/etc. And I think women just aren't as inclined to "prove themselves" in the working world. Biologically speaking, we aren't meant to be the breadwinners. I say this from my experience as a female in a math/science field dominated by men.
Not in my experience. My professors and advisor were pretty miffed that I didn't go on to get my master's degree and that I chose to stay home and have a family instead. They even recommended me to a local employer looking for help; and that was 18 years ago. People will find bias where they want, whether is exists or not. They become overly sensitive to every slight, are way too easily offended, and read too much into things they shouldn't.
Why does this guy think people care about what he has to say?
Publicity seeking remarks to publicize his/her publicity seeking sex change. What a capital-L loser.
That's so true. My daughter is majoring in computer science and with her SAT score, that very thing was happening when she was looking at colleges. She applied only to the college where she wanted to attend and not only got in easily but is in their honors program.
Or maybe the prof was just trying to be nice. :-)
1) That's horrendously unprofessional.
2) I've never known (or heard secondhand about) a female physics student who's ever had anything remotely like that happen to her during my career. Undoubtedly things like this used to be more common, but I can't believe it's widespread now.
I'll give a counter-anecdote. There was a female physicist who was being considered for a position at a university where I worked. This researcher was very highly regarded; even as a grad student, I knew who she was by reputation alone. I chanced to overhear a discussion about her hiring; there was general agreement that hiring her would be great for the department, because as a woman and a minority, she would count towards two of the department's affirmative-action targets.
Those words hit me like a punch in the gut. Here was someone whose work I admired, someone I looked forward to having as a mentor. But to the department, that counted for nothing: her value was as a token. Her genitals and her yellow skin color had value while her world-class mind did not. And this value was assigned by the attempt to redress the wrongs of racism and sexism!
Can one eat enough, to vomit enough?
Who cares if not enough women are in the scientific field?! Maybe they are home having babies...
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.