CAMBRIDGE - The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.
Summers said he was only putting forward hypotheses based on the scholarly work assembled for the conference, not expressing his own judgments in fact, he said, more research needs to be done on these issues. The organizer of the conference at the National Bureau of Economic Research said Summers was asked to be provocative, and that he was invited as a top economist, not as a Harvard official.
The problem of women in academia is one that Summers is confronting in his role as university president. The percentage of tenured job offers made to women by the university's Faculty of Arts and Sciences has dropped dramatically since Summers took office, prompting vigorous complaints from many of Harvard's senior female professors.