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February 15 2011

Women and Science Revisted

Allison Kasic

Christina Hoff Sommers has a great article over at NRO today about the new study on women and science that I mentioned yesterday. To recap: Cornell University's Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams analyzed 20 years of research on the charge of discrimination against women in science and concluded that women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields is "due primarily to factors surrounding family formation and child rearing, gendered expectations, lifestyle choices, and career preferences-some originating before or during adolescence-and secondarily to sex differences at the extreme right tail of mathematics performance on tests used as gateways to graduate school admission." Of course, this hasn't stopped lots of people from crying foul in recent years and pushing for government programs and investigations to stop discrimination against women in science. On this point, Dr. Sommers provides a great description of just what folks like Ceci and Williams are up against:

At the behest of the women's groups, Congress held several hearings throughout the last decade on the "crisis" of sexism in the sciences. Scholars like Ceci and Williams played no role - only true believers were brought in as expert witnesses. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), an early convert to the view that American science is saturated with sexism, was successful in bringing the Title IX equity program into the science lab.

"The most common misconception about Title IX is that it applies only to sports," said Wyden in 2005. "That's just not true. Title IX should be a guiding principle in hiring, tenure, scholarships, and lab space for all scholars." By the late 2000s, Wyden's vision had prevailed: Wide-ranging Title IX investigations were underway.

Members of Congress, from both parties, also gave strong support to a hard-hitting NSF equity program called ADVANCE. ADVANCE has awarded millions of dollars to activist scholars in universities for anti-bias centers, workshops, tutorials, and interactive theater groups. To cite just one example, gender activists at the University of California's Hastings College of Law were awarded a $300,000 grant to develop Gender Bias Bingo, an online game that raises players' consciousness about the "four patterns of gender bias." But if Ceci and Williams are right, the premise behind all of this taxpayer-funded agitation - from games and skits to Title IX investigations - is false.

Congress should hold hearings on the merits of continuing to spend hundreds of millions on Title IX science reviews and the ADVANCE grants. This time skeptics like Ceci and Williams must be included. It is hard to see how the gender-bias empire will stand once reason and truth are given a place at the table.

More here.



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