Saturday, February 7, 2009

Summers' real point - BOTH tails of the bell curve

Here is my summary of what Summers said in his 'working lunch' talk (found in full below).

He was asked about why fewer women than men get tenure at Ivy League universities. He was given some research materials and asked to summarize them. He said a lot about discrimination, need for childcare benefits, timing that would allow women to interrupt their research for childbearing years without falling behind, etc.

Here is something that he mentioned as one possible partial factor concerning tenure at Ivy League schools -- and he begged that it be refuted. Some of the materials provided evidence that the tails of the bell curve were longer at both ends for men than for women. That is,  overall, there are more male dunces and male geniuses; more women were in the middle than at either extreme. But this would become important to men and women at the very very top extreme, eg applying for tenure at Ivy League schools. It says nothing about relative competency for most men and women in academia or business. Overall and for the great majority, both genders average out the same.

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