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[Opinion] Science and Women

Posted February. 18, 2005 22:53,   


“Don’t mess with women.” If Harvard president Lawrence Summers resigns from the presidency, he may have learned this lesson by heart. The reason is because of a women-decrying remark that may cost him his job. The controversy began when Summers said, “Women are innately inferior in science” at a private seminar on January 14.

However, the precise contents of his comment, which were eventually released on February 17, cannot be regarded as shocking or deprecating. “I may be wrong, but risking your anger, I believe the reason why there are fewer women in top positions in science is not due to social factors or sexual discrimination, but family pressure, employer demands, and innate differences in men and women.”

Women who work in science and technology fields in the United States make up less than 20 percent of the total working population. Because female scientists do not take on eminent positions in the field, the average wage ratio is 77 cents for women for every dollar men make. The first burden female scientists attribute this to is raising children. In the science field, development speed is extremely fast, and even a brief leave of absence for maternity reasons will leave one’s career in the dust. To survive, scientists often toil over 80 hours a week. To keep plodding on, you must lessen your workload or relinquish your family. If these obstacles are not family pressures, employer demands, and biological differences between males and females, than what is?

The focus should be on the fact that Summers did not speak of the inferiority of women. Although the effect of his personal prejudice on university administration should be criticized, women have ultimately exposed “gender differences” in overreacting emotionally to a comment that was not even reported properly. It is undoubtedly wrong to place the blame for all problems on society, yet there is truth in what feminists contend, that society must wholeheartedly solve child-rearing problems, as well as family pressures and demanding employer problems. That is the only way we can attract and save skilled female scientists and raise the population of advanced nations.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com