Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Of Teacups, Storms and Being Politically Incorrect

This is the most balanced of opinions I have seen over the past few days about the Harvard President's remarks that women may not be as mathematically and scientifically inclined as men.

Honestly, I think the issue got blown way out of proportion. This was a remark by an esteemed academic, no doubt. But it wasn't as if he made sweeping statements with nothing to back him up, or that he said women scientists weren't good enough. He cited real studies where women seemed not to be performing as well as men.

He did give the example of his daughter. That was a bad idea. Anecdotal evidence in such a scenario makes it a generalization, whatever may be his intentions. And if, in his experience, he has found that women he knows are unwilling to put in 80 hour weeks, it's his opinion and he can make it. Did I hear something about it being a free country?

The poor fellow had to apologize. Twice. It would have been funny, if the matter hadn't been so serious and the man so accomplished.

We still have a long way to go before women receive the same respect as men in many fields. Attitudes definitely need to change. But this definitely isn't the way to go about achieving this.

I dug up this article from BusinessWeek that I remember reading about two years back. It talks about how girls are getting better and taking the lead in all spheres of education. From being class president, to debating to dramatics, to being the ones getting into college, "boys are the second sex" now. For some reason, this doesn't seem to manifest itself in engineering and the sciences.

If they are doing so well at everything, what are the reasons keeping women away from engineering then?

Nature? Nurture? Social pressures? The fact that being in a man's world makes it likelier that a woman will be discriminated against?

Everyone has their opinions, and probably the answer is a combination of these. I agree with Dr. Summers and what the quoted NYT article states. We need more studies to get a conclusive answer. Maybe, on an average, guys ARE better at this stuff naturally (that doesn't preclude girls from being good at it. I've met enough girls smarter than me to say otherwise) . Is that such a bad thing? Women are apparently better at "people skills", and it is PC to say this. Again, this doesn't stop guys from being good with people.

If my opinion makes me politically incorrect, so be it. (dodges)

As Paul Graham says " There is something wrong with you if you don't think things that you don't dare say out loud." Touche.


Anonymous said...

The whole funda actually grows out of proportion as a certain lack of maturity exists in each one of us. To accept things as they are, the negativities of life and self; to be audacious enough to say "Hey! these are my shortcomings. I am trying to remove them. You can support me with this if you want to"

A classic case would obviously be you yourself writing in the end:
"If my opinion makes me politically incorrect, so be it. (dodges)"

Anyways, as the concept of Metrosexuality creeps in more and more with time. We will have a well-gelled society and less storms!


Ajay said...

hmm...that part was meant half in jest. I'd like to think I have an open mind on the issue. My opinion is based strictly on my experience and if studies prove otherwise, I'd be most happy to change it. I don't mind flip-flopping over issues as I learn more about them :-)

seven_times_six said...

That Paul Graham quote should be carved on stone. What's worse is that people also do not allow others to think things what they do not dare say out aloud.