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.