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Debating Gender

Following President Lawrence H. Summers’s comments last January on women’s interests and aptitudes as they might affect careers in academic science, two Harvard experts debated the issues on April 22. A video recording of the lively “conversation” on “The Science of Gender and Science,” between Johnstone Family professor of psychology Steven Pinker, Ph.D. ’79, and Berkman professor of psychology Elizabeth Spelke ’80, hosted by the Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative, is available here.

Separately, in the March/April MIT Faculty Newsletter, that institution’s Amgen professor of biology, Nancy Hopkins ’64, Ph.D. ’71, wrote an article on “Academic Responsibility and Gender Bias,” explaining her critical reaction to Summers’s speech. She “had already discussed the poor record in hiring female molecular biologists in the [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] with Summers in the fall of 2004”—around the time Harvard faculty members raised with him and FAS dean William C. Kirby their concerns about limited appointments of women. And in a March 24 address at Columbia, Princeton’s president, geneticist Shirley M. Tilghman, reviewed the issues facing women in science and engineering, and the solutions she advocates, anticipating much of the reasoning and recommendations of Harvard’s WISE task force (see www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S11/21/06G40).