Larry Summers, women, and jobs in math and science

To judge from the latest it seems that Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, is still getting beaten up for saying that women might not be genetically adapted as well as men for careers in math and science.  None of the news articles go into the question of whether these are good enough careers that anyone should care about the racial or sexual composition of people in them.  More than half of medical students are women.  Every graduating MD will get a job and the average salaries in the career range from $150,000 to $300,000+ depending on specialty.  A new math or science PhD will compete with 700 other applicants for one job, usually paying less than $50,000 per year.  Most of them could have made far more money and had far more job security if they’d gotten a bachelor’s in education at the state teacher’s college and, at age 22, taken a job as a schoolteacher in a public school.

A lot more men than women choose to do seemingly irrational things such as become petty criminals, fly homebuilt helicopters, play video games, and keep tropical fish as pets (98 percent of the attendees at the American Cichlid Association convention that I last attended were male).  Should we be surprised that it is mostly men who spend 10 years banging their heads against an equation-filled blackboard in hopes of landing a $35,000/year post-doc job?

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