Summers, Tong And A Rhetoral Chasm

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Women in Science and Engineering: Summers, Tong and a Rhetorical Chasm Lawrence Summers, then the President of Harvard University, gave a speech in 2005 in which he speculated as to some possible reasons why women were underrepresented in tenured faculty positions at both top universities and research institutions. Although he admitted that he was engaging in a provocative exercise, and that his proffered theories might very well be proven incorrect, the subsequent release and publication of the transcript of his remarks generated a substantial amount of controversy. Illustrative of the controversy and its attendant indignation was a formal written response issued by Lillian Tong, a Faculty Associate at the University of Wisconsin, who…show more content…
Harvard’s president suggested that there appeared to him and to many others to be a strong correlation between women in high positions and the fact that they were single and/or childless. He did not offer any research, but this was an informal talk and it is hardly surprising that Summers did not simply cite research studies to this particular audience. He also suggests that married men have historically been more willing to work long hours than married women and that certain social factors may discourage women from pursuing these types of careers. Tong responds by stating that 80 hour work weeks are not necessary to achieve academic excellence and that even if women did work 80 hours per week they would not earn as much. Ironically, she is admitting Summers’ first point by herself implying that even she does not want to work 80 hours and she further argues that women are discouraged from making these time commitments because of discrimination in terms of earnings. This is ironic because Tong states that Summers is wrong and then through her offered proof confirms that women are hesitant to work 80 hours per week because it isn’t necessary or because they will suffer discrimination in terms of earnings. Unintentionally, Tong seems…show more content…
Both would also seem to be in agreement that this disparity should be remedied. Although Tong literally attacks Summers, she seems to slip up at times and she actually confirms some of his speculations. She does this, for example, by stating that women are hesitant to work 80 hours weeks immediately after characterizing this as an ignorant argument. It seems that Tong simply wants the issue to be about discrimination, which is a valid point, but she does so by censoring the opinions of others and by denying even the remotest possibility that Summers might have even one legitimate observation. The contrasts are so evident as to make the similarities pale in comparison and it would seem that the real issues will never be solved unless people can communicate more effectively than Summers and

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