Friday, March 18, 2005

Women in Science

Given the recent stir raised by the comments of Harvard University President Summers on the topic of women in science, I thought this movie reference would be interesting.

I was watching television with my cereal this morning and AMC was playing an old Gregory Peck movie called The Chairman. I didn't see the whole film but I caught one bit that was quite shocking in a un-pc sort of way. In the movie Peck is an American, Nobel winning, scientist on a visit to China during the height of the Mao's reign. As he steps off the plane (a jet) he is greeted by a Chinese women who introduces herself. Peck responds something like:

"Ah, yes, I read your paper on enzymes. Very good for a women."

and she replies, nodding in deference.

"Thank you, my father helped me with it."

This movie was made in 1969. It's amazing to think such gender bias was present just thirty five years ago.

As much as I disagree that academics should take any questions off the table, just because they're sensitive, seeing how recently gender bias like this was still common makes me understand the rawness of some of the emotions involved.

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