Sun, 13 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

Scientists are made, not born, say economists

The current debate on women and their scientific abilities has missed the central point that scientists are made, not born, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Feb. 28.

The authors, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas chief economist W. Michael Cox and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas economist Richard Alm, wrote that scientific knowledge requires years of education, and what mattered were the choices and opportunities open to young women at universities.

"Clearly, debating whether women are intellectually equipped for sciences makes little sense. Women themselves have already settled the issue, one degree at a time," the authors said.

Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, a well-known economist and former U.S. treasury secretary, drew harsh criticism last month when he suggested women may not have the same natural ability in math and science as men.

The authors say in the editorial that in the early 1970's, women received less than 10 percent of all graduate degrees in law, medicine, and veterinary medicine, and they were below 20 percent in pharmacy.

Today, they said women earn about two-thirds of the degrees in veterinary medicine and pharmacy; they are approaching 50 percent in law, and have topped 40 percent in medicine.

"There are of course still a few hot-button issues concerning gender and employment: equality in pay, maternity leave, flexible time for family commitments. But in terms of education and opportunity, women are getting ever closer to a level playing field," the economists said. -- Reuters