Transcript is released by Summers

Harvard president stirred debate on women, science

February 18, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Bowing to pressure from his faculty, Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers released a transcript of his controversial, closed-door remarks about the shortage of women in the sciences and engineering.

Summers' remarks, which have only been described by others until now, have fueled a widening crisis on campus.

Among his comments to a conference of economists last month, Summers - a former secretary of the treasury - compared the relatively low number of women in the sciences to the numbers of Catholics in investment banking, whites in the National Basketball Association and Jews in farming.

He theorized that a "much higher fraction of married men" than married women are willing to work 80-hour weeks in order to attain "high powered" jobs.

"My best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon - by far - is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity; that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude; and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination," Summers said.

Over and over in the transcript, he makes clear that he may be wrong in his theories, and challenges the researchers to study his propositions.

In a letter to the faculty released yesterday with the transcript, Summers said he should "have spoken differently on matters so complex" and that he had "substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination."

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