Gender differences in the academic world: a reflection

by Don Aitkin

Our hostess ran a recent thread ‘On being a Radical scholar’, and she built it on article by Dr Kate Clancy, who wrote on the difficult situation of women who are doing their best to climb the academic ladder while also looking after children. I completely sympathised with her, and could identify with the stories that she heard at the Purdue conference that had prompted her essay.

As a former university president I could have added a dozen similar stories from Australian experience. But in my university we had solved some, though by no means all, of the problems Dr Clancy referred to. When I came to the University of Canberra in 1991 it already possessed 50 percent female academic staff. Its Chancellor was a woman, as was the acting president, and two other deans. I was able to build on that base. As its president, I found one of the most engaging aspects of the university to be the equal numerical balance of men and women, which makes our community life the most civilised of any university I have known anywhere in the world.  At the same time I am deeply conscious that when I left twelve years later the proportion of women at the more senior levels was no better than when I arrived, though of course the numbers were larger.

What follows is part of a valedictory address I gave to my staff at the end of my term, and that was eleven years ago. So some of what I wrote then has no doubt been passed by newer research and writing. Nonetheless, I think it bears a good deal on the issues that Drs Clancy and Curry have referred to, and it does bear, as you can infer, on the central issue for us interested in this website: what is it that we actually know about climate? I have done a little editing to remove local material, but ‘current orthodoxy’ in the next paragraph refers to the way I thought things were in 2001.

I have been interested in what used to be called the ‘equality of the sexes’ debate since the 1960s. My mother was a proto-feminist, and I still find that women of spirit and aspiration are likely to be people I would seek as friends. I do have male friends, but I sense, with most of them, an innate competitive spirit that can get in the way of close friendship. I supported, and still support, the efforts of women to obtain proper recognition for their contribution to our society, and for equality of consideration whatever the domain in which that consideration is sought.  But long study, continuous observation and some reasonably wide reading are pushing me to want to depart a little from what I think is current orthodoxy.  In what follows I hope that no one will think that my broad-brush characterisations necessarily apply to themselves or anyone they know well; an ‘80/20 rule’ operates whenever one engages in this sort of general talk, as is unavoidable now.  One more thing: this subject really requires comprehensive treatment.  I think I could do it justice if I had the time, for it fascinates me.  But I have little time, so I recognise that my treatment will be too cursory, and for that I apologise in advance.

It may help if I digress for a moment to talk about intelligence.  I grew up with the notion that only a small proportion of people was really intelligent, and that IQ tests told you where everybody was on the intelligence continuum; fortunately, as I thought at the time, people who went to university were part of that small proportion.  My whole working life has produced one powerful example after another to suggest something much more basic: that all human beings are intelligent, and that there are many forms of intelligence, or, if you like, many intelligences.  If it were not so we could not be educating half the 18-year-old cohort at university (now or later).  We know that opportunity, preparation and motivation are the principal factors preventing the other half from being here as well.

In similar vein, for much of the last thirty years I have assumed that men and women are essentially the same, that culture, habit and ‘patriarchy’ combine to make men dominant, and that a truly civilised and democratic society would ensure that professions and occupations and positions of power were open to all, to women no less than to men.  I am still onside with the moral thrust of that perception, but I no longer start with the same assumption.  It has become plain to me that men and women are different in crucial respects, and some important consequences flow from these differences.

For me, the central differences flow from major variations in brain architecture, which we have come to know about through the application of magnetic resonance imaging.  I should say at once that the research I am referring does not automatically lead to the points I shall be making.  Research findings are always conjectural, at least if you follow the reasoning of Popper, which on the whole I do.  At the moment I find this research persuasive, though I claim no more than that.  I should also say that the outcomes of this research can be dismaying to any men who read the work.  Women turn out to be able to do many things at once, while men are quite limited.  Lyndon Johnson’s famous quip about Gerald Ford, that he was unable to do two fairly common things at the same time, could apply to most men, including of course Lyndon Johnson.  If you will allow the metaphor, the male brain is constructed so that there are a number of rooms over a vat of energy or capacity to act, but the occupant of the brain, so to speak, can only be in any one of the rooms at any time.  This leads to two familiar consequences: one, that men can bring a great deal of power and energy to a single problem and two, that they find it difficult to do anything else while they’re doing that.  Women use many different parts of their brain all the time, and all of the rooms are connected to each other, as well as to the vat of energy or capacity.  In physiological terms, the inter-connections between the hemispheres of the brain are much bigger and better developed.   It puzzles a woman that a man cannot watch television and listen to her at the same time: she can watch television, listen to him, hold the baby, make dinner and if necessary answer the telephone as well.  She is, in a temporal sense, multi-skilled.  He can do all those things, but not at the same time, and if it must be at the same time, not at all well.

Another central difference that cannot yet be explained through brain architecture, though there is undoubtedly something there, is in the mental construction of what life is about.  Conventionally, these obvious differences are explained in two ways, first by observation, in that they seem to apply in virtually all human societies, past and present, and secondly by inference from evolution: they must have arisen through natural selection over the last million years.  I was taught as a young social scientist not to use the same body of data to derive my hypotheses and also to test them, and that makes me a little apprehensive about these explanations.  But they also seem plausible to me, and I therefore put them forward.

Again I will use metaphor.  Men appear to construct their picture of the world in competitive terms, as a Game, if you like.  The Game has rules, the object of the Game is to win, and great and desirable consequences follow from winning — power, status, wealth and women, most obviously.  Once you adopt this perspective, you can see it applying everywhere.  War is the ultimate Game, big business is the current peaceful alternative (read the sub-heads of the business sections of any paper and see how often metaphors about the Game recur), organised sport requires only to be mentioned, and so on.  I still have a community responsibility in the area of road safety: there can be no doubt that men are much less safe on the roads than women, because they have a much greater tendency than women to see the road and the motor vehicle in terms of competition and winning.   I can tell you that this pattern is as obvious in Ho Chi Minh City, as it is in London or Los Angeles.  One of the most depressing things about the recent fuss about the proposed new medical school was how the press always referred to it in Game terms, that is, it had to be a Win for someone and a Loss for someone else.  The proper purpose, context and output of the medical school were hardly mentioned.  Interest lay only in which university should get it.   ‘Loser’ is a current pejorative among males, though why someone who loses should be categorised as someone of no account is not immediately obvious, especially to women.

For women the ruling metaphor is the Relationship, which is much less about winning than about good outcomes and, by extension, about harmony.  Although there is an extensive array of women’s sports, which are taken seriously by those who take part in them, it is hard to see the Game as having any concrete existence for women outside sport.  I am much more tentative in offering this metaphor as an explanatory device, and I am conscious of a colleague’s  warning to me that no matter how good a feminist I became I could never be a woman!  Nonetheless, for forty years or so I have watched men being Competitors and women being Collaborators, and the Relationship metaphor for women seems to me to be an accurate one.

What has all this to do with any university, you might want to ask.  My short answer is that the university, like all institutions in our society, has been largely defined in male terms, and thus as a Game.   I am most conscious of this in an area in which I have spent a very long time: the business of research funding.  Research grants schemes are all about winning, and great virtue comes from gaining a grant: one has a new and important entry on the c.v., promotion is greatly assisted, one can buy pieces of equipment for one’s own use or travel to distant places, one’s general status is enhanced.  To me this is a classic Game.  Since the research is being done with other people’s money you might think that there is an implied contract, and that the outcomes of the research will be scrutinised to see if the contract has been honoured.  Not a bit of it.  Those running such schemes usually have to be pressed into looking at outcomes at all.  For the research community the outcome is tested when the peers in the peer review scheme decide whether or not to give the applicant another grant.  One critic of the system has said mordantly that the only certain outcome of publicly-funded research is a further research grant application.  After half a century in this system I have come to the view that it is fundamentally wasteful of money and ought to be replaced, but I do not have to tell you that it is fiercely defended, overwhelmingly by men, who are its overwhelming beneficiaries.

I have noticed that women are generally more interested in outcomes.  ‘Why are we doing this?’ or ‘What are we trying to achieve’ are questions that are frequently asked by women.  For men success (or winning) is usually a sufficient incentive.  Women are likely to go past that explanation and ask what will happen as a result of the success or win.  That is not a question that men find easy to answer; indeed such a question for us is often a puzzle in itself.

The value system of the modern university is too heavily male, in my view.  Some of that has recently been forced on us by our political masters, who have enshrined ‘competition’ as the way to go.  As I have indicated, I think that ‘competition’ is a very male approach to life.  My own preference is for collaboration, which I see as much more a female value.  Our University works so well as a community because it has many women staff members, academic and general, who at the crunch will make an extra effort to gain a good general outcome even at the sacrifice of their own careers.  Some men will do that, too, but it is less common.  I have chaired the equal opportunity committee since my arrival, and equity of all kinds is a strongly held personal value of mine.  A senior woman in this university has written to me on another matter recently and said in passing that in her view hers was ‘a happy and collegial workplace, where it is a pleasure to come to work’.  She went on to add, ‘There is no “glass ceiling” here, and I think she is right.

But in some respects I think we have gone as far as we can go within the present value system.  I have tried especially hard to secure women as departmental chairs, but I have come across what I see as a very female resistance, in which the general good of family, partners, children and social setting has priority over personal advancement.  Anyone who has served on senior selection committees will know that it is common for us to be interviewing a man (and he will be one of the three or four applicants we are interviewing in this final stage) who may be offered this job and has not yet even discussed with his partner their proposed move to our city!  I know that executive search firms find it especially hard to locate appointable women who even want the highest jobs in industry, because the way the duties are defined puts them off.  In my view, the way these jobs are defined is overwhelmingly male: power, status and wealth are the male incentives.  A woman will ask what she could achieve if she had the job, whereas a man will see the achievement simply as having the job.  A man will apply for promotion because some other man is doing so, or because ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’, or just on the off-chance — just as men will apply for jobs they haven’t the faintest hope of getting.  Generally women will not do so even when they would be strong contenders.  Fortunately, the mentoring system we set up is beginning to deal effectively with that attitude.

If we are to attract more women to senior positions we will have to learn how to redefine the posts and their responsibilities.  In the same way, if we are to attract more women to studies in engineering, we will have to redefine what engineering is about.  It is men who are fascinated with things, how they work and how to make them go faster or better in some particular way.  Women are much more instrumental.  A car is there to get them from point A to point B; it is not an extension of their ego in the same fashion as is the case for men.  As for computers and other machines, women see them as being there for their use; they are not much interested in pulling them apart to see what makes them tick.  This does not mean that women are less capable of using machines.  All the evidence from road safety statistics points to men’s over-estimating their own level of skill, while women have a more accurate sense of their skill level, and stay within it.  Indeed, it is probable that at the margin women generally have higher skills, since they can cope with more variables at the same time than men can.  I am told that the US Navy has found that women pilots are better than their male counterparts in two very tricky activities, refuelling in the air at night, and landing on an aircraft-carrier deck in stormy seas.  The person who told me that, the CEO of a large mining company, also told me that mining companies prefer women to men as drivers of the 150 tonne dump trucks, because on average a truck that has had a women driver lasts 10,000 hours longer than one driven by a man.  I don’t have to tell you why that would be.

These reactions of mine are not an attack on women or on feminism, and I would be disappointed if they were construed in that way.  No more are they a denunciation of men, although there are moments when in disgust at yet another mindless piece of murder or brutality committed by one of my fellow men, I want to confine men to the domain of organised sports of all kinds and hand the running of the world over to women (who in every society are hugely under-represented as well in the lists of those who use guns and violence to gain their ends).  I think that it is overwhelmingly likely that we men are as we are through a million or so years of natural selection, and that the civilisation of mankind in the last 10,000 years has been an attempt, by thoughtful men as well as by apprehensive women, to overcome the aggressive, competitive spirit of men and convert that single-minded energy into peaceful and useful outcomes.  While I will go on searching for and supporting women for the most senior jobs, I do not think that making it easier for women to be more like men will assist the process of converting male single-mindedness into socially useful outcomes, which is essential if humanity is to survive.  Rather, I think we need to work on ways to emphasise and accredit the instinctive values that women hold, which are also in large part the outcome of that very long story of homo sapiens.   I would like to see nursing and early childhood education, for example, given the same extrinsic valuation as finance, advertising or running things.  I think I will be waiting for some time, but I think I can see a shift coming.

No university can by itself change our society, or even the higher education system, but if you agree with what I am saying we can at least begin to move in a challenging direction.  We should think again about what we are trying to do, how we can achieve most effectively good outcomes for our students and for ourselves.  We should think again about what ‘merit’ is in our university context, and find new measures of it.  We should celebrate each other, and recognise that all good outcomes are obtained collaboratively.  We could even start to re-imagine and redesign courses so that they attract women students in greater number.  The great asset we have is that this is a most civilised and thoughtful community, and it is so because men and women here are in about the same proportion that obtains in the wider community, and because our numbers and our environment bring out the best in each other.  This is not a university dominated by competing male egos, at least in my judgment, and one reason is that there are sufficient women present to reduce that ego clash and divert it into useful outcomes.  In this way, too, we are something of a model for the system.  All universities would be better if their gender balance were like ours.

94 responses to “Gender differences in the academic world: a reflection

  1. Prediction: comments on this thread will become an M-F flame war.

    Collaboration, potent though it is, may fall short on finding “new stuff”. It is not black/white, but solo obsession seems to have a lot to do with discovery and invention.

    • Actually, cross-disciplinary collaboration is the most fertile area of discovery and innovation at present across many fields. Even where you find a ‘solo obsessive’ driving something, often he (or she, but more likely he!) will have already taken ideas or techniques learned from another field as the basis of the innovative work.

  2. In the same way, if we are to attract more women to studies in engineering, we will have to redefine what engineering is about.

    Sorry, but engineering is about making stuff, and the stuff doesn’t care what’s between your legs.

    • P.E.

      If the stuff doesn’t, then why, to so many objective tests of results in gender ratios, do so many engineering schools appear to?

      • I don’t understand the question. What I said was the definition of engineering is sexually neutral. That has nothing to do with the ratios in the profession.

      • P.E.

        I agree the definition is, on paper, neutral.

        However, engineering makes more than just ‘stuff’.

        It also creates systems, such as engineering schools.. which perform remarkably below credible metrics for such criteria as ability to draw the most talented minds.

        After all, looking at engineering school entry demographics, one could scarcely make the claim of an unbiased outcome with a straight face, unless one were prepared to make and seek to support such ludicrous assertions as males are biologically predisposed to creativity, forethought and reasoning at a higher level.

        Were the males who founded engineering schools so predisposed, they might have imagined how awkward the discussion would get over time when they tried to rely on such reasoning.

        So you have a requirement on paper — the sexually neutral term ‘engineering’ — and an output of the real system created by engineers of the past — a decidedly non-neutral demographic — that clearly is invalid, and now are being asked what went wrong in the engineering of this system?

      • After all, looking at engineering school entry demographics, one could scarcely make the claim of an unbiased outcome with a straight face, unless one were prepared to make and seek to support such ludicrous assertions as males are biologically predisposed to creativity, forethought and reasoning at a higher level.

        It should be noted that the demographics vary greatly across different countries —

        Engineering is the most strongly and consistently male-typed field of study worldwide, but its gender composition still varies widely across countries. Female representation is generally weaker in advanced industrial societies than in developing ones. In our 2009 article in the American Journal of Sociology, Karen Bradley and I found this pattern using international data from the mid-1990s; it was confirmed by more recent statistics assembled by UNESCO. Between 2005 and 2008, countries with the most male-dominated engineering programs include the world’s leading industrial democracies (Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and the U.S.) along with some of the same oil-rich Middle Eastern countries in which women are so well-represented among science graduates (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates). Although women do not reach the fifty-percent mark in any country, they come very close in Indonesia, where 48 percent of engineering graduates are female (compared to a 49 percent share of all Indonesian college and university graduates). Women comprise about a third of recent engineering graduates in a diverse group of countries including Mongolia, Greece, Serbia, Panama, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Malaysia.

        Relatedly, the following chart is interesting:

      • After all, looking at engineering school entry demographics, one could scarcely make the claim of an unbiased outcome with a straight face, unless one were prepared to make and seek to support such ludicrous assertions as males are biologically predisposed to creativity, forethought and reasoning at a higher level.

        Nonsense. What you’re claiming is begging for a lawsuit. Do you really believe that engineering schools will accept a male and reject a female of equal GPA? Do you have any idea how much scrutiny they face? An aggrieved woman wouldn’t even have to hire an attorney. The DoJ will do it for her.

        That’s just plain ridiculous.

      • P.E. –

        Did it ever occur to you that gender differences in numbers of applications to engineer schools might reflect (at least partially) biases?

        Try re-reading Bart’s post again.

      • Indeed Joshua, this issue is a major topic of research, as well as numerous government and university programs. I have no idea why we are discussing it here, although I think many of the denizens are engineers, including me. Its connection to the climate debate eludes me.

      • I am thinking of submitting a guest post on the link between drug decriminalization and climate change.

        The link might be tenuous – but given the number of libertarians that frequent Climate Etc., my guess is that it would get a lot of hits.

      • Joshua: Now drug decriminalization might at least be fun. As a philosophy grad student in the late 60’s we thought of pot as an important professional tool. One of my more creative engineering inventions was how to quickly turn a 6 inch square of aluminum into a pipe.

  3. Well said, Dr Aitkin.

  4. Didn’t Larry Summers get canned for saying essentially the same thing?

    • Similar in many respects. It’s interesting that Don’s comments were part of a valedictory address. The same was true for Larry Summers, although he didn’t realize it was a valedictory at the time he made them.

      • It is similar in the sense that both Don and Summers tried to summarize the findings in an extremely complicated subject where their expertise is limited – and as a result, do the subject a disservice.

        To try to summarize the findings on gender-based cognitive differences derived from physiological differences in brain structure is incredibly complicated. But to try to then summarize how those differences are manifest in gender-based differences in social interactions – and to then attribute those differences to gender-based differences in brain architecture, in a brief blog post?


        For example – while girls tend to get better grades than boys throughout, gender-based differences in math test scores don’t appear until high school. How does that square with Don’s assumptions about cognition and gender-based differences in brain architecture? In fact, as I recall, research shows that prior to middle school, girls on average test better than boys in math, and after middle school, they test worse. Would that not suggest that the variables that translate to differences in how boys and girls “think” are social and not physiological?

      • Oh – and even the gender-based differences in math scores vary across different nationalities.

      • Joshua – I remember the Summers controversy well because it involved my alma mater. I read his statements carefully and agreed with them almost completely. I would not have agreed if his remarks had drawn definitive conclusions rather than asking questions and suggesting possibilities. It is almost certain that in our current world, innate differences and cultural effects, including but not limited to prejudice, interact in ways that are impossible to quantify exactly, but are real. I would reject any attempt to dogmatize on this subject or to dismiss the role of any of the variables.

        I would add that anecdotal evidence regarding particular men or women is of little help in understanding this topic, because the overlap between groups is so great that whatever phenomenon we discuss could be reflected in the specific behavior of either a man or a woman.

        Finally, it should go without saying, but it probably needs to be said. Group differences are an unacceptable criterion for judging individuals, who must be evaluated on their own merits.

      • Fred –

        I followed the controversy about Summers’ talk pretty closely also. I thought that some negative reaction was overwrought – but that his talk about the issue of gender and academia was not well-considered, even despite his self-acknowledged qualifications about his limited expertise. There were issues in the research that his talk didn’t address particularly well. And in that, I though that at least some of the negative reaction was well-founded.

        Even further, however, given how easy it would have been to predict strongly negative reactions to the content of his talk – his approach to the issue seemed unnecessarily provocative (and ultimately counterproductive at multiple levels). There are valid ways to discuss well-founded but controversial arguments about research findings. And there are valid ways to acknowledge it when – even if you believe your are simply being provocative and stimulating – your statements become unnecessarily divisive. He eventually acknowledged that being “provocative” in the manner he chose was ill-advised, but I thought his approach was not particularly “academic” in nature.

        My January remarks substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination, including implicit attitudes — patterns of thought to which all of us are unconsciously subject…The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments, and my remarks about variability went beyond what the research has established.”

        Summers was asked to speak about the lack of women in leadership positions in science and math in academia. In response, he focused on supposedly “innate” differences between men and women – and suggested conclusions that are largely unsubstantiated. His address was in an academic setting – and as such, his approach was lacking, IMO.

      • The confession by Summers you quote is interesting, Joshua, because I recall it as an attempt to save his job. I agree that his earlier remarks were provocative and destined to create a backlash, but whether that made them ill-advised is a matter of judgment. I didn’t have serious quarrels with their content, given its tentative nature. From my understanding of the situation, Larry Summers had already antagonized many Arts and Sciences faculty and so for some of them, this controversy was a convenient excuse to get rid of him. Someone else might well have survived the episode, with the result that an important topic was brought into the open for fruitful discussion by qualified individuals. That would still be a good idea to the extent it has been neglected.

      • There was clearly an overlay that was related to internal politics at Harvard – one that is very difficult to tease out. Agreed, that whether or not it was ill-advised is a matter of judgement; but I take his subsequent statement at face value (rather than dismissing it political expediency for the purpose of saving his job).

        I don’t think that his talk was necessary for bringing the important topic of innate cognitive gender differences out in the open for fruitful discussion (the area was already being investigated pretty extensively), and I would argue that in effect, the outcome was decidedly not consistent with that goal. Someone else is not the president at Harvard – and so would not likely be subjected to the same political in-fighting, but would also not have been likely to be addressing a conference about research that is largely outside his area of expertise.

      • The brain continues to develop into the 20’s. This continued development could help to explain the change.

      • Sure – it could.

        But to assume that as an explanation, in contrast to abundant evidence of social and cultural variables, I think requires a predisposition to do so.

      • Joshua, I wasn’t making the assumption. I’m actually of the position that the subject is so complex that any statement about the essential (or primary) cause is futile. I stated that it “could help to explain”. It is one of many variables that differ from person to person. People are not clocks.

  5. Don – What do you see as the policy implications of your assessment – for the academic world in general and science in particular?

    • Fred, I’ll use your request to comment on other issues as well, now that the weekend has passed.

      First, to answer your question, I think that the some of the policy implications are clear enough, and something has been done about them in our societies. Over the last fifty years women have been sought in the workforce, and old barriers to their being there have slowly been removed. In medicine, law, the civil service, the professions generally and academia, women are rising in seniority and status. A number of women have become university presidents in Australia; there are significant numbers in the parliaments and in governments; women officers are soldiers can be found in numbers in the armed forces.

      All this is good, at least for me. But it is still true that the proportions of women in engineering departments is small, and this is after really substantial efforts to improve the numbers coming in. For the moment, at least, I deduce that engineering simply doesn’t attract girls, for a variety of reasons. I suggested one of them.

      And we still do not at all value pre-school teaching and nursing as we do making money on the stock exchange, or servicing that activity. A new generation of women has discovered that in fact they ‘can’t have it all’, as was once suggested. As Dr Clancy pointed out, having a baby is a serious business, and most of the care falls to the mother, even when her husband is attentive and responsive (and there are many of them about). Her comments about the difficulty of gaining tenure seem very true to me, but I should add that tenure seems to be a fast disappearing virtue, for everyone, not just for women.

      As some posters have pointed out, women in top jobs can often behave as a man would, and the spirit of my talk was that we should value the differences, not want to turn women into men, or expect that if they want to rise to the top, that is what they have to do.

      In general, I am in incrementalist, someone who thinks that important questions have to be dealt with over time, not rushed at once. That explains part of my own reaction to the AGW issue, though not all of it. I go on wanting to educate all girls as far as possible, not only for equity reasons, but because I think seven billion humans is probably enough, and that educated women are likely to have fewer babies. Yes, I do know that men have something to do with it.

      As for universities, I wrote an article twenty years ago with the title ‘How Research Came to Dominate Higher Education and What Ought to be Done About it’. I can’t send you an email version, but it was published in the Oxford Review of Education, 17:3, 1991. I would have to say that I think rankings of universities are simply rubbish, and the more international they aim to be the worse rubbish they are. To me universities are first and foremost places for teaching and learning. But that is even further from our central question.

      Vaughn Pratt raised the ranking of the University of Canberra, and as others pointed out, in doing so demonstrated the Game at once.

      I had a lot to do with the Australian Mathematics Trust, and know that boy/girl differences in mathematics exist, but are not straightforwardly explicable. One, for example, is that boys seem to like geometry more than girls do, and that could be related to their responding more to engineering. Then again, it mightn’t. The AMT has a database of millions of test scores, and runs the largest event in Australia that is not an election — the Australian Mathematics Competition, that attracts about one student in three across the nation.

      Lastly, collaboration and competition to me are the essential tensions in any society and in any organisation within it, from the family up. Universities dominated by men seemed to me, from my experience in them, to be largely competitive. Maybe the same would be true of one dominated by women, and I did encounter such a one, in Taiwan, but not long enough to find out how it actually worked. The right balance between these two tensions seems important to me in providing an environment in which people are civil to one another, work well together, and want to come to work again then next day. That seemed to be true of the University of canberra, and I was celebrating that, to my staff, as I left.

      And what has any of this to do with AGW? Goodness me. It is dominated by men, and is the biggest Game in town!

      • !!! “…a fast disappearing virtue,…”

        What does this mean?

      • I don’t know how things are now in the US or the UK, but in Australia the proportion of tenured academics has declined in the past twenty years. Many more are now on contracts, some of which give little sense of security at all. I’m not opposed to contracts, but I don’t think they are appropriate for people who design and deliver university courses.

        Why is tenure a virtue? Because it is that security that enables one to say unpopular things and pursue unpopular lines of enquiry.

      • My concern: what do words mean?
        “Security” is a perception. A dog may perceive a proffered hand as a threat: the resultant wound teaches an expensive lesson.
        “Virtues” are traits, proven through acts.
        Tenure may result from acts, may support the perception of security, may even on occasion be the product of a virtue.
        Tenure is not a virtue.

  6. Lyndon Johnson’s famous quip about Gerald Ford, that he was unable to do two fairly common things at the same time, could apply to most men, including of course Lyndon Johnson.

    Walk? Johnson couldn’t even sit and do that, he had to lean a bit to the right.

  7. For women the ruling metaphor is the Relationship

    That was how Repo Man pigeonholed women in 1984. It would be interesting to know which more recent movies Don Aitken has watched. 1984 babies have come a long way, they’re 37 now and should be coming up for full professor shortly.

    Didn’t Larry Summers get canned for saying essentially the same thing?

    Interesting comparison. Harvard ranks fairly well not only in the US but internationally. Among Australian universities the University of Canberra ranked 29th recently. We didn’t have 29 universities when I was a student.

    • 1984 babies have come a long way, they’re 37 now and should be coming up for full professor shortly

      Getting 37 years older in 27 years can certainly be described as coming “a long way”.

  8. …there are moments when in disgust at yet another mindless piece of murder or brutality committed by one of my fellow men, I want to confine men to the domain of organised sports of all kinds and hand the running of the world over to women (who in every society are hugely under-represented as well in the lists of those who use guns and violence to gain their ends).

    Ahem, I can’t help but wonder.

    Margaret Thatcher stared down the IRA hunger strikers while the world watched in fascinated horror their deaths by starvation. All the hunger strikers actually wanted was recognition as political prisoners. Whether you agree or disagree with their cause – I personally considered the IRA a murderous organisation – her response seemed callous by any standard. Then there was that small matter of the Falklands War – many a British lad died or was permanently maimed for the sake of windblown rocky outcrops of marginal value. The same war saw the sinking of the superannuated Argentinian battleship General Belgrano drowning many hundreds of conscripted sailors.At the time in question, the ship just happened to be well outside the declared battlefield theatre and thus not liable to attack.

    Indira Gandhi was also one tough cookie who fought and won a number of wars against Pakistan, brought India into the nuclear club, and at times suppressed opposition ruthlessly.

    Elena Ceaușescu anyone?

    Women can be every bit as ruthless as men but very likely multi-task their way through villainy more effectively and with seemingly greater harmony.

    • Agree. Women who make it to the top have to be ruthless to achieve succes. They compete with ruthless men.

    • Yes indeed, I also agree. There is good reason for the saying “The female of the species is more deadly than the male”, and talk of tigresses defending their cubs. The maternal/familial/community relationship instinct carries a great deal of ruthlessness built in: if anything threatens the offspring or the group, that thing must be defeated, whatever the cost. I can perfectly empathise with Mrs Thatcher’s actions vis a vis the IRA and the Argentinians. They threatened her country and her fellow citizens, therefore they had to be stopped.

    • Stirling English

      No ‘fascinated horror’ from me. Pure rejoicing.

      Since the IRA had recently blown my best friend’s Mum to smithereens – her having the effrontery to have been employed as cleaner in a building they blew up – I was extremely pleased to watch him die. My only regret was that it was just Sands who snuffed it. Pity that another fifty or a hundred of his cowardly brethren didn’t have the balls to follow him.

      And I hope that he suffered as greatly as did my pal when his Mum was murdered.

      Incidentally she was an Irish Catholic. As was my mate. No more.

    • Pearson, P., “When She Was Bad…: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence”

      Well-researched, -written, brief, and useful.

  9. Interesting. Of course as an academic you see the world through that lens. An economist would see it through another. And a CEO from another. As a member of the latter two, first, I agree with your assessment – which is that our ancient sentiments are basically true – our differences are in our preferences not necessarily our abilities. Second, I would counsel, that the entire difference between The West And The Rest, the source of innovation and technology that freed women from household drudgery, was competition and the balance of power: THE SOCIAL MODEL OF ‘THE GAME’.

    The difference between the west and the rest is “THE GAME”.

    So, while I understand your desire to advance women, you might just be cautious enough to think through the very consequences of your ideas if there were in fact brought to fruition.

    Reason, science, logic, government as we understand it, medicine, the rule law, individual property rights, and freedom – even the humanitarian tradition, are the product of a unique social model. A superior social model. the social model that advances not HARMONY but WINNING. Because winning is INVENTION.

    If you look at societies that embraced harmony and/or balance, and ‘face’ – they stagnated in poverty. The west embraced competition, exceptionalism, and individualism, and made it heroic – aspirational. And in doing so almost created the industrial revolution in ancient greece, then created it again in England.

    Be careful what you wish for. The Game Is The Goose That Lays The Golden Egg.

    • “… The west embraced competition, exceptionalism, and individualism, and made it heroic – aspirational….”
      The Non-Latin ‘west,’ most likely.

  10. Another laughable excuse for an academic and female superiority enabler. These type of people are a dime a dozen in Universities and colleges in western society, claiming that all women are either that superior or just love each other so much they are to returned to the pedestal they themselves destroyed in the early 60’s. Maybe he forgot about that feminist female who was just sentenced to life for genocide in Africa (her instructions to the vigilantes were to rape them first and then kill them) or all those mothers that murder and abuse husbands and children, which ofcourse is ignored. As stated above, Maggie, Golda Indira and many other females started wars but ignore that as well.
    Now studies are showing the majority of sexual abuse in families are undertaken by mothers which in turn generates those monsters we witness shooting up schools and shopping malls. But blame any females for that, you must be joking. The whole article is a farce and whenever anyone professes to belonging that hate movement called Feminism then you automatically know what’s coming. Everything wrong on this planet is man’s fault and all women are just victims. It’s laughable..

    • This is a completely unnecessary rant. Reading the article properly shows that is far from what he is saying.
      I have no love for Feminism either. Please consider that it is possible to have a civilised debate about gender differences (relative strengths) without being in anyway feminist.
      I started out with the ‘we are all more or less equally capable’ attitude and expect to progress on my own merits, and I have. I have no time for self-victimisation by any group, and that includes men who feel they are hard done by in an increasingly equal world.

      • Ofcourse it’s an unnecessary rant as it’s always the case where men have to capitulate and loose while women just keep complaining about how life is so difficult for them. It also unnecessary for female students to outnumber males in some cases 70/30% depending where you look. It is also unnecessary that I came here for scientific information and not to be indoctrinated in a hate movement that feminism is..
        But what do you care. .
        Verity – “I have no time for self-victimisation by any group”, maybe you should have a better and longer look at your own sex..

        Verity- ” hard done by in an increasingly equal world”, and what equal world would that be Verity. You mean the one where women have every possible assistance in schools, by governments and even here to present your endless complaints and if any “man” has the temerity to speak up, it’s what again, Verity ?

      • Christian – you are doing exactly what you complain that feminists do to *all* men – you are grouping me (and all women) with outspoken, hardline feminists. They don’t speak for me. I don’t agree with ‘quotas’ or preferential treatment. I would not want any position where my gender was a (positive) bias in the appointment. In fact I cannot think of a single instance in my life where my gender was a consideration in gaining me anything (except perhaps cheaper car insurance).
        I acknowledge that the past actions of feminism have enabled me to forget my gender in many parts of life (the roles of wife and mother being the main exception) and I am grateful that I can do that, but it is time to move on and in the first world most of us have.

      • Verity -“but it is time to move on and in the first world most of us have”.

        Moved onto preferential treatment for woman at the cost of men’s rights..

      • Christian J., according to Alexa, the demographic of participants at Climate Etc. are overwhelming males over the age of 45. I don’t think these participants feel that they have been subjected to feminist ideas or values here (I suspect they would have little tolerance for that in any event). My rationale for posting Don Aitkin’s article is that the gender issues raised by the radical scholar article weren’t being discussed, and both Don and I agreed that they were worth discussing, hence Don’s article, which is serving as a springboard for discussion.

        In trying to understand the dynamics of this blog, an argument can be made that my gender does make a difference. I am not particularly interested in winning arguments or asserting my own authority (I am happy to let the mostly male participants argue among themselves; much heat is generated and occasionally some light). And I am intrigued by the idea that academic females (through socialization or whatever) deal with the academic “keeping score” in a different way than males.

      • And I suspect that Lucia’s Blackboard has similar demographics.

    • Now studies are showing the majority of sexual abuse in families are undertaken by mothers which in turn generates those monsters we witness shooting up schools and shopping malls.

      Christian – do you have a link?

  11. Relating this to climate – Futerra Communications – The Rules of the Game:
    “Futerra and The UK Department for Environment published the Rules of the Game on 7 March 2005. The game is communicating climate change; the Rules will help us win it. The document was created as part of the UK Climate Change Communications Strategy.”

  12. Don,

    Excellent summary.
    We all in some way train our minds to think and focus on what is of interest to the individual.
    Our system has put barriers in many cases that have to be overcome in order to move forward. From prejudices of group thinking and publishing of exclusive groups to being an economics major in order to get government grants.
    Talents are not being harnessed of knowledge and encouraged.
    Any new science or knowledge must be of commercial value or have a government sponsor. This harms any new discovery that does not fit into this criteria and that new knowledge then is lost.

  13. In the UK, the shift towards eternal short term Post-Doc’s and no long term positions being opened is making women leave. Essentially, if you want babies, you are screwed. The Wellcome Trust’s women in science program is very good, but the bottom line is that salaries of researchers just about cover child care costs.
    I know six damned good women scientists in my field who gave up as motherhood and research make no sense.

    • “if you want babies, you are screwed”

      There does seem to be something physiological about that.

      • It is certainly axiomatic (well, at least prior to in vitro fertilization) that if a woman wants babies, she is screwed.

        Other than that, it seems to me that the professional implications of a woman choosing to have babies are mostly social, not physiological.

  14. Vaughan Pratt

    For women the ruling metaphor is the Relationship

    Leila: What about our relationship?
    Otto: What?
    Leila: Our relationship!
    Otto: **** that.
    —-Repo Man, 1984

    Those 1984 babies who are just coming up for full professor now can surely be said to have come a long way since then. But what really has changed?

    The same was true for Larry Summers

    Great comparison, though one difference that may or may not be relevant is the University of Canberra is ranked around 29th among Australian universities. As proof of my senior bus fare eligibility, when I graduated Australia didn’t even have 29 universities!

  15. Don,
    It is not just gender.
    Our experiences define how and why we think a certain way.
    Finding areas that we are talented in generates our interest to what we are good at.
    At times, inward thinking of how to solve a problem from a different perspective can change whole way we were thinking before.
    When real talent is understood, then the person can go into a totally foreign field never considered before and generate solutions to problems that has been in the books for decades.
    How can you tell a person has genuine talent?
    He will be the guy ALWAYS taken advantage of as his only concern is the correct solution and go onto the next problem.

  16. As I recall one of America’s biggest mass murderers was a female nurse employed by a veterans hospital nicknamed the “angel of Death”. She was only convicted on 4 counts, but prosecutors believe, but could not prove that she was linked to at least 40 or more. What does this prove – nothing, except we are all capable of killing. Nevertheless, this obsession with being politically/gender correct is nauseating. Good grief, when there is an old boys club preventing a woman from attaining her just position and reward – shame on them – to those who believe a counter balance is to legislate “reserved” positions – shame on them too. The former hampers our ability to exploit the strengths in our difference, while the latter ironically, reinforces the notion that it is a “conquest”, even a siege, now with a perceived unfair advantage that must be conquered, becoming the “bunkered” old boy mentality. We are all different, not equal, not less equal – different, and therein lies our strength if embraced with honesty and integrity.

  17. For any of this to make sense, somebody in a position of authority or consensus needs to define equality.

    With that in place the next thing to do is to identify why it is important to achieve equality.

    Perhaps while chasing those impossible goals someone can identify what the global temperature should be right now, and what it should have been for the past century, and what it should be for the next century. Show your math and data.

  18. Guess what the Bible says,.. to anyone who will read and believe. All men are to marry & belong, to their own church. We are all made, for each others benefit, to grow in our understanding as we age. How are we all doing using the Masters and Johnson, scientific approach? Science knows, don’t they? Do you?

  19. The article is demonstrates how metaphor and analogy can be used together to accomplish multiple tasks: pretence, superstition, stigmatization, shallowness, ethnological ignorance, hubris …

    …as for example imagine how much more productive surgeons might be if they thought about how best to get sugar beads and toasted tips on their merangue while removing your appendix.

  20. The post is a rather academic assessment of the situation. In a competitive, for-profit business, with objective standards of achievement, I have found over the last 20 years that finding intelligent people who can contribute is the most difficult thing — not finding intelligent “women” or intelligent “men” — just give me intelligent people!

    My profession, architecture, is probably the most patriarchal, white, old man profession on the planet. And yet, when we find an intelligent person, gender and race play no role in bringing them on-board. To be successful in business you must, first and foremost, hire the person who brings the most to the table.

    • In the long run, I think that dynamic will break the glass ceilings. But each industry has its own unique culture and mores. For example, lots of women go into law these days (I think more than 50%), but then they get hired as associates, and the track to partner still demands lots of extra hours and aggression, and preparing briefs won’t get you there; you have to go to court and fight like Rambo. Eventually, this will probably change, but until it does, women will be at a disadvantage in a field increasingly dominated by women.

      And FWIW, in my admittedly limited exposure to architects, a lot of them were gay men. Architecture is somewhat unique in that it combines left brain and right brain like no other profession. My limited anecdotal experience may simply be unrepresentative and wrong, but it makes some sort of intuitive sense that gay men would do well in a field that requires both lobes like that.

  21. Michael Larkin

    Here’s that ultracompetetive chauvinist, Tommy Emmanuel, not multitasking:

    I’m sure the ladies out there could do all this, feed the baby, hang out the washing and work mentally through Russell’s “The Principles of Mathematics” at the same time. After all:

  22. Was Typhoid Mary a multitasker?

  23. Aitkin’s views on gender difference do not interest me as much as his paragraph on Research Grants, which applies directly, in refutation, to Grant Petty’s Letter posted here recently. While the whole paragraph applies (and should be rightly cross posted to the Petty thread), I quote just one bit. –>

    ‘Since the research is being done with other people’s money you might think that there is an implied contract, and that the outcomes of the research will be scrutinized to see if the contract has been honoured. Not a bit of it. Those running such schemes usually have to be pressed into looking at outcomes at all. For the research community the outcome is tested when the peers in the peer review scheme decide whether or not to give the applicant another grant. One critic of the system has said mordantly that the only certain outcome of publicly-funded research is a further research grant application.’

    I have never read a more succinct description of how the flood of climate research money leads directly to reinforcing the consensus view and how peer review is almost certain to to just that.

  24. What I really enjoyed about this post is an ability, at last, to say openly that male intelligence and female intelligence are not the same. Each complements the other and neither should be viewed as subordinate to the other. It may reinforce primitive stereotypes to say it, but I think it’s largely true that male intelligence is rooted in a drive for projection and conquest, while female intelligence is rooted in building up the home front. That is why invention and large techological advances tend to be male-driven, but a world run as a stag club eventually goes wobbly and falls into chaos. I know that this is a generalization that does not apply to each and every individual, but it is something that I have observed at every level of my life.

    • Evolutionary psychology inevitably leads to the conclusion that as Homo Sapiens and earlier Homo species developed sexual roles, the respective sexes developed different foci. You can see this in apes. There’s really not much disputing that sex roles go way back in primate evolution. To think that somehow despite all of this evolution, that there are no inherent cognitive differences is simply dogma.

      The sure fire sign of a dogmatic mind is the denial of what the science overwhelmingly shows.

  25. An excellent article on a subject I also have investigated thoroughly. I agree with the conclusions whole-heartedly. It’s important to make the distinction that while all men and women are equal, they are not the same.

  26. The controversial address by then Harvard President Larry Summers, which helped cost him his job, can be found at the following link:

    Larry Summers address.

    In my discussions above with Joshua, I agree that if Summer had offered his analysis as anything more than tentative, he would have deserved the all the attacks his talk inspired. However, he was clear to point out that his thinking was speculative, might well be wrong, but was designed to stimulate useful discussion. In general, I agreed with the main premises he stated, while thinking that his prioritization may not necessarily have been accurate, as he conceded.

    • Fred –

      I’ve read the address before, and sure, it is offered tentatively. Leaving aside the other issues we discussed above, let’s look at this one aspect from the beginning:

      One is what I would call the-I’ll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described.

      Notice what’s missing? He fails to even mention in his opening remarks, patterns of discrimination, or perhaps even more importantly differing patterns of socialization, with respect to gender differences in attitudes towards and education in, math and science prior to higher levels of academia.

      Now socialization is folded into his categorization of aptitude, and he does speak to questions of socialization in a very general sense later in his talk, but it is largely anecdotal, and he focuses largely on the aspect of deliberate discrimination — when those questions are obviously much more sweeping in context than the treatment he give them. He deals with these questions by discussing the manner in which his little girls play with trucks? Really? Or in saying that people tend to over-attribute autism to socialization? Really?

      Now imagine that you’re someone in the audience who has studied, for years, the ways that socialization and gender interact to affect girls’ attitudes towards math and science (as no doubt were many of the people in the audience). Or imagine for a minute that you were a woman, who faced sociological biases as a girl who excelled in math and science, and prevailed to be one of the relatively few women to a high level of academic expertise in a scientific field. Go back and read his address again. Do you think that his discussion of “aptitude” – with a focus on innate differences as causal and his largely anecdotal treatment and dismissal of socialization as an influence on “aptitude” is sufficiently qualified?

      • Joshua – I realize that you would have given a different talk, but he does discuss all the phenomena you mention and offers his perspective. I have no problem with that. I also think his discussion of aptitude, while provocative, is legitimate as long as it doesn’t attempt to be definitive. If some objected (as they did), I don’t see that as a reason not to raise the subject the way he did, unless his job was to be non-controversial.

        I don’t know whether he is right in the order in which he registers his “guesses”, but he may be – I simply don’t know. If his conjectures made some people uncomfortable, that’s probably a good thing. The bottom line is that after rereading his talk, I continue to find myself judging it a useful contribution to discussion of the issues.

        Finally, you’re right that he’s not an expert on the various phenomena he mentions, but as a university president, he was also someone whose decisions would be affected by an accurate understanding of the biological and cultural factors affecting women in academia. Ultimately, the reality is what it is, and a failure to face possibilities (not certainties but possibilities) that one finds unpalatable won’t make them go away, but will simply inspire bad decisions That’s why it’s important to determine how much of what we observe is explainable in a way we like and how much requires us to confront realities we would prefer didn’t exist – sort of like global warming.

      • Fred –

        Ultimately, the reality is what it is, and a failure to face possibilities (not certainties but possibilities) that one finds unpalatable won’t make them go away, but will simply inspire bad decisions

        While I don’t doubt that some of the reaction to Summers’ talk might be rooted in the attitude you describe, for the most part I think it is a straw man argument. Personally, I am not inclined to want to simply want questions about innate aptitude as caused by physiological differences in brain architecture to just “go away,” I want them to be appropriately examined in context along with other variables. It isn’t simply a matter that a discussion of the role that gender differences in innate aptitude make me “uncomfortable.” My criticism of his talk – and that of other criticism that I’ve seen – is that when you consider the full body of relevant evidence about why there are so few females in high status positions in science- and math-related fields in academia, his talk did not treat all the variables appropriately.

        As I quoted above, I think that his later statement was entirely on-point:

        The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments, and my remarks about variability went beyond what the research has established.

        A failure to address the variables in the appropriate context – given the full range of available scientific evidence, is, indeed, parallel in some ways with how some people address global warming. Saying that the variables should be appropriately addressed in context is not merely hoping that “uncomfortable” evidence should simply go away – as I’m sure that you can understand.

      • Because the perceptions about his talk involve judgment, it might be a good idea for anyone interested to read what he said via the link I supplied, and then go beyond Summers to describe how they think these issues are being addressed and how the should be. The Summers talk might be a good springboard to approach the topic of this post.

        To me, the most daunting questions that arise when groups are underrepresented and we know discrimination plays a role is to determine what the representation would be in the absence of discrimination, how to approach that goal, and then whether we as a society would be satisfied with that, or instead need to focus on addressing cultural issues unrelated to discrimination that lead to under-representation. For example, do we want every group to be represented in science according to the innate capacities of its members, or should the preferences of those individuals, biological and cultural, affect how much they choose to be represented? After all, science and engineering are not the only pursuits the world needs for its welfare, and if some people want to do something different, do we push them toward science and engineering, or simply make sure the doors are open?

      • Joshua – Just a quick comment on another statement you made:

        ” He deals with these questions by discussing the manner in which his little girls play with trucks? Really:

        I’m not sure what you meant by “really”, but if it’s intended to dismiss his observations, I disagree. I believe it’s so common to be the rule rather than the exception that parents who try to socialize their little girls into gender-neutral or non-feminine attitudes will discover that the girls feminize their approach to those attempts. I’ve seen if often in my own family and almost everyone else I discuss it with confirms the same phenomenon. That’s not a controlled study, but a set of observations repeated so often to be unmistakable in my opinion. From an early age, girls and boys see the world differently despite attempts to counteract those tendencies.

      • Fred –

        I believe it’s so common to be the rule rather than the exception that parents who try to socialize their little girls into gender-neutral or non-feminine attitudes will discover that the girls feminize their approach to those attempts.

        Do you really think that Summers makes a statement of significance about the role of socialization by describing what happens when his girls play with trucks? If his point was that the effects of socialization are too complicated to be explained by anecdotal observations, then I’d be inclined to agree. But that obviously wasn’t the case, and I think it’s pretty ludicrous for him to imply that he controls for social influences on gender identity by giving trucks to his daughters. The fact that as a rule, girls and boys play differently says nothing in particular about the degree of impact from socialization. It certainly tells us nothing about the relative impact of socialization versus the potential for gender-related innate physiological differences to manifest as differences in #’s of men and women who achieve high-ranking status in academic science-related fields – and that is the context in which Summers shared his anecdote.,

  27. The smartest woman in the world– as she might have been thought of had she been elected president and then murdered by her husband in a rit of felous jage– Hillary Clinton might have said of the article: even when viewed through the prism of a willing suspension of disbelief, it butters no parsnips.

  28. To try and tie the original post to climate change: Is it possible to construct an objective, scientific model of the differences between men and women? A meaningful mode that can be used for decision-making purposes? Is the issue too complex? to indeterminate? Or is it possible?

    • At the very most only a subset Western women are concerned about global warming…

      • I disagree, I think most Western woman are worried, but from an emotional perspective linked to their strong protective instinct for children and family. Also, I think they are more apt to trust the message from “authority”. Getting them to give up their SUV’’s, jewelry, and a shot at the “good life”, well that another matter, especially if it’s in conflict with the aforesaid protective nature.

      • Ok, I can play the ‘pull it out of my azz game’… the Medium is the Message: the Left’s picketing of Wall Street is code for their solidarity with the goals of Al-Queda.

  29. Johannes Rexx

    Let’s look at this real quick:

    “It puzzles a woman that a man cannot watch television and listen to her at the same time: she can watch television, listen to him, hold the baby, make dinner and if necessary answer the telephone as well. She is, in a temporal sense, multi-skilled. He can do all those things, but not at the same time, and if it must be at the same time, not at all well.”

    This is readily explained using humankind’s deep historical roots living in caves. The women tended the children, foraged for food, and watched over each other. Multitasking. The men banded together and hunted, a very dangerous task requiring total focus and cooperation on this single task at hand. Unitasking.

    • Probably nothing more involved than simple game theory…

      Back in the day it probably seemed that there was very little downside to ignoring jibberish compared to not busting your thumb while making an arrowhead and keeping an eye out to make sure the fire didn’t go out.

  30. Richard Saumarez

    I had the experience of teaching an “advanced” class biomedical engineering. About 25% were women. They were very bright and very able. In discussions I realised that they had a slighly different take to the subject which was in fact more humane than the men. They engaged with the ethical problems of BME more readily.

    My conclusion was that they were very good and, perhaps instinctively, had a wider understanding of the problem.

    I’m completely comfortable with women in engineering.

  31. It is truly enteraining watching those who read the climate tea leaves and predict our future to within tenths of a degree per decade turning their laser like focus on the much simpler task of understanding the workings of the human brain, all while negotiating the deadly mine field that is post modern feminism.

    What happened to feminism is exactly the same thing that happened to climate science. A movement based on the pursuit of a genuine, laudable goal, was captured by those who realized it could be used to accumulate and maintain power.

    We went from seeking equality of opportunity (including the opportunity to vote) to trading those values for membership at the progressive leadership table. I knew real feminism was dead as a genuine movement for women when I saw members of NOW defending Larry Flynt as a legitimate spokesman in defense of Bill Clinton. “Feminists” manning the battlements in defense of two of the biggest misogynists of our time, because progressivism was seen to be under assault.

    “Feminist” organizations, like most organizations, came to be lead by those attracted to power. Equality of opportunity accordingly morphed into permanent victim’s status, reliance on the sate, and embracing of the secular humanist agenda that is central to progressivism. (It is difficult to centralize power in the state until people become dependent on it. Women and children in families don’t generally need transfer payments.)

    It was claimed on the prior thread that women will be harder hit by global warming than by men. But it is indisputable that women have suffered far more than men from the feminists’ trading their principles for a seat at the progressive power table. Divorce liberalization has vastly increased the number of single parent families (and guess who gets to be the parent?), and thus inevitably increased poverty among women. Sexual “liberation” pushed by those proto-feminists Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt, have led to the misogynist hip hop culture, children giving birth to children, the sexualization of girls at ever younger ages, pop culture that teaches girls to be sex toys for the men around them, and on and on.

    Oh and that supposedly central feminist issue, abortion? It was never about liberating women. It was from the start about liberating men from paying child support, and taking responsibility for the children they fathered while enjoying “liberation” of the young women they were “liberating.”

    So all y’all progressives go on debating Larry Summners and the effect of discrimination on graduate school enrollments. At least it keeps you distracted from trying to mess up the energy economy for a day or two.

  32. The problem is: the game is rigged.
    Just sit in a small decision group of 3-6 people and you will observe that the person with the “deepest voice” tends to be the one that is heard.
    Brought to my attention as I was leading the discussion on the agenda for “Frontiers of Engineering” and a lug got his less than useful agenda item….
    Lots of good “reasons” for this (think: tyrannosaurus “thump” in Jurassic Park and how it impacted a person’s emotional tension.

    Shelly Taylor’s work (2000) gives good insight in how the game is rigged as everyone struggles for success (reproductive, organizational,…).

    Everyone needs to “overcome” these obstacles, but some find the hill steeper than others.

    Susan Corwin
    Intel (retired)

  33. Just an anecdote for those who see in only black and white: I loved geometry. I idolized my older brothers, one of whom made a telescope and the other had his own weather station. My older sisters spent a lot of time on makeup and face creams. The choice was clear for me: I loved science and studied Astronomy in college.

    I managed to work as a paid scientist for 10 years at the post doc level. During that time I produced four reports and two children.

    I never set a goal for myself that I should try to aim higher. I just wanted to do research. Thanks to the internet, public availability of data, and open source software, I can do so in my own time, much like Steve McIntyre.

  34. Congratulations on being just yourself Rose. Not all people have Type A compulsions to compete or for other forms of self aggrandising behaviours.

    So, as a well-balanced individual with a solid scientific background, Do you believe that future generations need to be concerned about the prognistacations of mainstream climate science?

    • I really do not know what will happen in 100 years. It just seems that, to get one’s message above all the other noise, one has to exagerate. I feel that is what Hansen has been doing and the sense I got from some of the CRU emails. My confidence in how temperature data is analyzed has indeed been shaken by the results of McIntyre’s work.

      As far as the climate is concerned, I believe it is worth funding research. As an example, the Netherlands built these huge dykes after a bad storm killed hundreds of people in the 50’s. They had to specify a maximum height based on probability of storm surge and strength. That’s where the models come in. This is NOT “back of the envelope” stuff. And…the government is the main funder of this research.

    • It seems that you support the line of thought that humans can realistically mitigate the effects of extremes in climate through civic works and building standard setting and the like?

      This approach to my mind acknowledges that climate change is real and that while prediction would be impossible with the limited models currently in use, the best we can do is to monitor everything as closely as possible.

  35. One woman’s take on the Keynes-Hayek debate.

  36. Frank Lemke

    Thanks so much for an excellent article.

    On the other hand, we have all these observational data; although limited it is priceless information about the system and its behavior.

    Here is what that “priceless information” tells us regarding global warming:

    And its prediction is also correct so far:

  37. So what are you Joshua, the local blog guard, who’s job it is to argue each and every comment, dare they transgress any of the PC or feminist doctrinal policies or mantras. Are you being paid to monitor this site to make sure that everyone here complies with feminist theory and worldview. I find your endless arguing not only grossly interfering but also intrusive. Your bull dogging attitude is straight out of Orwell s 1984, where any one’s opinion was fine as long as it adheres to the current feminist doctrine..

    • lol!

      Are you being paid to monitor this site to make sure that everyone here complies with feminist theory and worldview.

      You’ve found me out, Christian. And I’m paid handsomely, I might add.