Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Title IX for academia?

The front article of The American deals with the underrepresentation of women in some fields of academia, specifically sciences, and how current efforts are under way to redress that. The focus seems to be on introducing some quota system, much like Title IX in college sports, efforts that have already reached a House subcommittee. There are many upsetting aspects of these efforts.

  1. As the article demonstrates--note that it is written by a woman--the idea that there is discrimination against women in academia is based on studies that have never been published, that cannot be reproduced because the data is "lost," or that are just not scientific.
  2. There are more women than men currently studying, including at the graduate level. It is just some fields that have a low proportion of women. A quota system would need to be applied to all fields, and women are then going to be hurt more than men. Indeed, the problem to me seems to be: why are so few men going to college?
  3. What is the goal of academia? Advance research and educate students. I do not see how putting constraints in this mission would improve things.
  4. The discussion about the lack of women in science could also apply in Economics, where women are clearly a minority. Everyone is aware of that, and departments are under a lot of pressure to hire women. In fact, it is well known that one needs offer substantially more to a woman than to a man to hire her. A quota system would just make this even worse in terms of mis-allocation of resources
  5. A quota system would actually work against female graduates. A diploma signals that you met the required criteria. If it is known that criteria are lower for women, the diploma of all women is devalued.
  6. Women can take over field without a quota system, see recently biology, veterinary sciences and, to a lesser degree, medicine.

Let women choose what they want to do. There is no evidence of discrimination against them, to the contrary (and let me preempt here: there are always exceptions).

PS: Let's relax making babies.

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