I'm Confused by this Diversity Thing

For years, women at Harvard argued there needed to be more women on the faculty to support "diversity".  I have always thought that diversity meant that you had a lot of difference - in this case different kinds of people with different skills.  Now, Larry Summers is getting attacked by the female faculty for implying that women are, uhh, perhaps different from men.  Women are insisting that there is no justification for even studying the question of whether women are different than men.  They maintain that women are the same, no argument allowed.  But if they are the same, how is hiring more women contributing to diversity?

My guess is that the comeback of those involved is that women don't have a genetic difference from men, but they have a difference in perspective (political, philosophical, etc).  There are two obvious problems with this:

  • If what universities are really trying to achieve is a diversity of background, perspective, and political/philosophical viewpoints then why don't they hire for and measure diversity based on background, perspective, and political/philosophical viewpoints, rather than the imperfect proxy of black/white, man/woman, etc.
  • And, If what universities are really trying to achieve is a diversity of
    background, perspective, and political/philosophical viewpoints -- they are doing a really crappy job, because universities are pretty dang homogeneous, at least in political viewpoint as compared to the population.

By the way, I was initially negative to Summer's comments myself here.  I still support my criticism that as a leader of a leading, in fact uniquely influential, educational institution, he has an obligation to his institution to be careful what he says.  A CEO today who speaks his mind on political issues is not only ill-advised, but may actually be violating his/her fiduciary responsibility by bringing public censure on the company's shareholders.

However, that said, the degree of hysteria over Summer's comments is mind-boggling, especially when you read what he actually said in context rather than just accept the media summary (basically, he did not say that men were better at math on average than women, he said that men MAY have a higher standard deviation in their skills, leading to a disproportionate number of men being both dolts and geniuses at math and science).  To some extent, the women driving this hysteria actually seem to be publicly reinforcing stereotypes of women being delicate (some silly woman actually said she almost fainted at Summer's remarks)  overly emotional (given their hysterical reaction) and, ironically enough, non-scientific (given the fact that no one has thought to take on Summers scientific query with facts rather than political intimidation).

In my experience, a confident mature woman can make the average man feel bumbling and childish, and have an ability to rise above the fray to bring sanity to a confused situation.  Why can't the grown-ups among the female gender be heard in such arguments? Never mind, the first sentence answers the second.  Besides, I think most confident intelligent women are giving up on woman's organizations anyway.


  1. Yvonne DiVita:

    Ah...the diversity issue. And the folks ready to go to blows over it-- there are women who, although a bit unhappy with the comment Prof. Summer made, are more than happy to admit the differences between us and-- him. Women and men are different. For heaven's sake, anyone with a brain likes it that way! You make some great points here but, I would like you to know there are women taking Summer on with facts: Kirsten Osolind at reinvention inc. and Michele Miller at Wonderbranding. Both ladies get into the scientific aspects of how women and men are different-- and they show why that's a good thing. Save us from the women you mention, who reacted with such fierce animosity--before considering the facts. Then again, save us from men who speak out of turn.

  2. KurtP:

    I didn't (don't generally) give much weight to what's being said in our institutions of higher propaganda.

    I find it pretty amusing that one of Clintons own- who made a habit of demagouging(?) anyone who didn't toe the PC line; is getting it back in the face so much. I wonder if he can see any parallels with Trent Lott?

  3. Kirsten:

    I don't see any confusing point between two genders on diversity part. :(