The cover of your paper's July 31 magazine carried the headline, "When Harvard's president questioned the scientific aptitude of girls, he said he hoped to be proved wrong. Well. . . . Larry Summers, Meet Abby Fraeman." The headline referred to the article "Aptitude Aplenty" by Kathy Lally.
But the headline misrepresented what Larry Summers said. Summers stated that on aggregate, more men than women perform at the highest level in math and science, not that women cannot perform at the highest level. In regard to the number of women and men in the pool of high achievers in science and math, he said, "If you do that calculation -- and I have no reason to think that it couldn't be refined in a hundred ways -- you get five to one, at the high end."
Lally, in hypothesizing about the reasons for the male-female science gap, paraphrased MIT professor Elizabeth Mann as saying, "This she says, as if speaking directly to Summers, is not biology. It's culture." Summers would agree with that. He said there are three reasons for differences in the number of men and women in high-level science positions, one of which is cultural differences. It is disingenuous for your paper to print a statement implying that Summers does not believe that culture plays a role in the problem.
I'm not saying that I agree with what Summers said, but I am disappointed that your editors would be so irresponsible. To run an article that is factually incorrect, and to imply on a magazine cover that the information inside disputes Summers's statements, when the article provides no such proof, is reprehensible. Obviously, stirring up trouble and trying to get people to read the article are much more important than accuracy.
-- Scott Snowden
As a female educator and social scientist, I was excited to read the article about women in science. Unfortunately, the eight whites and two Asians profiled did not seem to represent the diversity of women in the sciences. Where were the women of color?
The failure to adequately present the faces of women (and girls) engaged in science has the effect of suggesting (however implicitly) that women who aren't white or Asian don't do science.
I read that the two young women were Intel Science Talent Search finalists. Every year, I and several of my colleagues (some African American and Indian) sift through the thousands of entries to the Intel science search. We perform the "first cut" and provide a detailing rating and ranking system of the entries. We know that women of color do science.
-- Kellina M. Craig-Henderson
The writer is an associate professor of psychology at Howard University.