Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Harvard President Outlines Mission for Two Committees on Women

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Harvard President Outlines Mission for Two Committees on Women

Article excerpt

BOSTON

Saying he hoped to turn heat into light after the recent controversy over his remarks on women in science, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers recently announced the appointment of two faculty task forces on women and pledged to create a senior administrative position to support gender diversity.

Summers said the committees, one on women faculty and the other on women in science and engineering, would report back this spring and recommendations would be implemented by the fall--lightning speed by academic standards. Some recommendations could even be implemented sooner.

Summers' comments at an academic conference last month--suggesting that innate differences between the sexes may explain why women have difficulty reaching top science jobs--sparked criticism from many academics as well as Harvard faculty and alumni, though some who were present at Summers' talk say he was misunderstood. Summers has issued several public apologies.

"This is not something any of us would have chosen," Summers, speaking of the controversy, said in a telephone interview. But "I think we now have a real opportunity to make great progress on these issues."

Summers said he had committed to creating a new, senior administration post on gender diversity and had asked the committee on women faculty to propose a job description.

The task force on women will be chaired by Dr. Evelynn Hammonds, a professor of history of science and of African and African-American studies. It will focus on improving searches for women faculty, ensuring they get fair consideration for promotion and exploring ways to support them in meeting family demands. It will also consider "targeted searches as a means of enhancing gender diversity on the faculty," according to Harvard's announcement.

The women in science task force will be chaired by Dr. …

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