Government Officials: Should Title IX Apply To Science Departments?

If you're familiar with Title IX, you probably just think of it as the law forbidding gender discrimination in college and high school sports. But in actuality, the law forbids gender discrimination in all forms of education, and there's a growing call to apply Title IX to science departments receiving federal grants. As we've discussed before, women are opting out of "hard science" fields like physics and chemistry, though they are the majority in sciences like psychology and biology. Opponents of applying Title IX to science departments say that male bias is not to blame for the disparity — female choice is. The NY Times' John Tierney quotes columnist cum clinical psychologist Susan Pinker: "Creating equal opportunities for women does not mean that they'll choose what men choose in equal numbers. The freedom to act on one's preferences can create a more exaggerated gender split in some fields."

Pinker adds that perhaps if science departments helped women combine family responsibility with hard science careers, they might be more likely to choose those careers. Other opponents of this application of Title IX think "[female scientists] would be marginalized if a quota system revived the old stereotype that women couldn't compete on even terms in science," Tierney notes.

It's clear that Tierney is against using Title IX to create parity in labs. "Whether or not quotas are ever imposed, some of the most productive science and engineering departments in America are busy filling out new federal paperwork," he said. "The agencies that have been cutting financing for Fermilab and the Spirit rover on Mars are paying for investigations of a problem that may not even exist. How is this good for scientists of either sex?"

On one hand, he has a point — who cares if a man or a woman cures cancer as long as it's being cured? But Tierney's argument also has a smugness about it, since it dismisses gender concerns by belittling them.

A New Frontier for Title IX: Science [NYT]

Male Bias or Female Choice? [NYT]

Earlier: Why Women Are Opting Out Of The Hard Sciences