Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gender Bender

I came across a story in the March 1st issue of Forbes magazine, written by Christina Hoff Sommers, about the National Science Foundation spending $135 million over the past several years on a "gender bias program" called Advance, that aims to improve the numbers and fortunes of women in the sciences.  Turns out that like the hoax of global warming, as perpetuated by environmental activists armed with shoddy and incomplete research, Advance may be doing more harm than good.  Not only does the program misrepresent the research done in this area of study, it may be doing irreparable harm  in the fields of engineering, physics and computer technologies.

The Advance program was funded after another $3.9 million NSF grant was provided to psychologist Virginia Valian, who started the Gender Equity Project.  The Gender Equity Project, housed within Hunter College, part of the City University of New York or CUNY, was designed to transform our nations' laboratories.  Ms. Valian and her colleagues believed that women were at a disadvantage because they did not always share with men, "the single-minded dedication and intense desire for achievement" that epitomized most practices in the laboratory.  She noted that "If we continue to emphasize and reward always being on the job, we will never find out whether leading a balanced life leads to equally good or better scientific work."  How's that for a rationalization.  Who's more at fault here, her for even thinking up such bunk, or the morons who wrote her the check?

Further research in this area, shows that bias against women in the sciences is extremely weak.  Studies point to data that indicate men and women simply have different tastes when it comes to areas of study.  For instance, women may be underrepresented in the fields of engineering, but thrive in the areas of sociology and biology.  As the author of the story points out, "Is this because engineering departments discriminate against women while biology departments do not, or is it because more women choose not to spend their lives with inanimate objects?'  There's a joke about husbands there somewhere, but I digress.  Another study, paid for by the NSF itself, found that "at many critical transition points in their academic careers (e.g., hiring for tenure-track and tenured positions and promotions), women appear to have fared as well or better than men."

For my money, this kind of ridiculousness in academia should not be rewarded and certainly not paid for by the American taxpayer.  That's what university endowments and private foundations are for.   Furthermore, this kind of wasteful spending is a glaring sign that Washington has more of our money than is necessary to operate essential government programs and way too much time on their hands.

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