Gender and Science — Again!
Let’s dive right back in, hm?Ã‚Â
Check out this New York Times article about one scientist’s view on the whole “Where are all the female scientists” debate. In the interview, Dr. Ben A. Barres discounts hypotheses that men and women may possess inate differences that give each differing skill sets, calling such ideas “sexist opinions.” Dr. Barres goes on to blame society’s bias against women as the primary problem.
Dr. Barres has an impressive number of degrees and is currently a neuroscientist — however, the main reason why he was profiled in this interview is because he used to be a she. Because he got to experience life from both perspectives, he has a unique viewpoint on how one’sÃ‚Â gender affects the way he or she is treated in the scientific community.
Dr. Barres makes a few good points about bias, such as:
People are still arguing over whether there are cognitive differences between men and women. If they exist, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not clear they are innate, and if they are innate, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not clear they are relevant. They are subtle, and they may even benefit women.
He also highlights the importance of providing women with adequate childcare options in order to encourage more of them to take tenure. However, at no point does he justify calling a very reasonable hypothesis — that women and men have differing innate cognitive abilities — a sexist opinion. In the quote above, one can even assume that he is saying that it is possible they exist, and it’s possible they are innate, and it’s possible they are relevant. He actually puts forth the idea that they “may even benefit women.” How is it notÃ‚Â sexist to guess that perhaps innate cognitive differences may benefit women, yet it is sexist to suggest that those differences may benefit men? Can someone say . . . bias?
Obviously, people like Dr. Barres have a unique perspective on gender and society, but come on. It benefits no one to needlessly label honest scientific inquiry as sexist. I, for one, only hope that no matter what we find out about neurological differences between the sexes, we eventually establish a society that allows people of either sex to pursue their dreams without prejudice.