Tierney on Larry's Law
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John Tierney writes in "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" in the NYT:

The House of Representatives has passed what I like to think of as Larry’s Law. The official title of this legislation is “Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering,” but nothing did more to empower its advocates than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president of Harvard.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.” At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after “attitudinal surveys” and would take part in “interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias.”

I’m all in favor of women fulfilling their potential in science, but I feel compelled, at the risk of being shipped off to one of these workshops, to ask a couple of questions:

1) Would it be safe during the “interactive discussions” for someone to mention the new evidence supporting Dr. Summers’s controversial hypothesis about differences in the sexes’ aptitude for math and science?

2) How could these workshops reconcile the “existence of gender bias” with careful studies that show that female scientists fare as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts in receiving academic promotions and research grants?

Each of these questions is complicated enough to warrant a column, so I’ll take them one at a time, starting this week with the issue of sex differences.

Read the whole thing.

My suspicion is that the push to get women to be, say, engineers mostly just moves women who have strong quantitative skills and orientations around, out of jobs that they'd naturally prefer and into jobs that they are less likely to find fully engaging.

Currently, we have a lot of women who are first-rate medical researchers. By spending a fortune on scholarships and the like, we could no doubt persuade some young women who are planning on becoming medical researchers to become mechanical engineers instead.

Is spending a lot of money to have fewer medical researchers a great idea?

It's like how you always hear affirmative action recruiting by elite colleges justified as if it increases the supply of elite NAM students, but when you look at it closely, it just moves them around from one elite college to another. For example, UC Berkeley flew smart NAM high school students from LA to visit Berkeley in order to increase their NAM percentages. The main goal turned out to be to propagandize the LA NAMs to attend Cal instead of UCLA! Obviously, we're all a lot better off if smart NAMs attend Cal instead of UCLA. And UCLA should, in turn, fly smart NAMs from the Bay Area down to LA to keep them from attending Cal. What could be a better use of taxpayer dollars?

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