Saturday, June 11, 2011

Implicit Bias and Affirmative Action

A few weeks ago, the MIT Tech ran an opinion piece "It's good to be king" ("Innate ability may explain gender gaps") raising questions about the "deeply suspicious" nature of the "subtle bias" used to justify measures taken to increase participation of women in the sciences at MIT. This well-written piece argued that the gender-dependence of intelligence variability may explain the gaps of women in the sciences. The Tech ran a subsequent counterpoint "Intelligence variability is not gender-dependent" that argues against the intelligence variability claim, pointing out that this is not true across cultures.

I am glad that The Tech is taking on this interesting question and would encourage them to dig a bit deeper into the literature of and issues surrounding gender inequity in the sciences. I wrote a Letter to the Editor that ran yesterday about how in the argument about affirmative action, it is important to consider the (often implicit) biases that the action is intended to counteract.


Reid Kleckner said...

Keith Yost is supposedly a bit of a troll, according to my friend. He intentionally writes (reasonably good, actually) opinion pieces challenging commonly held beliefs at MIT, regardless of which side of the issue he's actually on. I don't actually know if it's true.

Jill Gaulding said...

Jean, I appreciate the points you made in your letter to the Editor. It saddens me to think these discussions are still taking place at MIT -- and without much change from the conversation I remember taking place in Baker House dorm, when I was there as a freshman in 1984. I was shocked and depressed then to learn that my male classmates thought I was at MIT "because of affirmative action." Maybe that's one of the reasons why I eventually turned from Course 9 (cognitive science) to discrimination law? Keep up the good fight - we'll follow you on Twitter!

James said...

Interesting read. I'm glad that you took the time to write.