More on stereotypes & statistics

SLF notmyaddress at
Sun Nov 12 16:22:54 EST 2000

Karen Lee says

> .....
> I used this only to illustrate that the attitude that women are being hired
> because they are women is out there and not just among the "old guard". I
> have had several other conversations with male colleagues about salaries,
> equity raises and promotion in which the success of women was attributed to
> gender rather than performance.
> You are right about the illogic of the arguments. They are illogical but they
> can be easily dressed up to sound legitimate.

I think we all see this--the male postdocs whose enlightment ends when they
claim that a woman only got an interview because of her gender;
a committee member who claims that the only reason a woman was
considered/promoted etc was her gender....

but it doesn't quite work that way.  If women were getting ahead
unjustly then they would be getting ahead.  So many of them are not--
they aren't getting the same raises, or resources, or treatment.
Every little gain is viewed as unfairly won.   Even when (as the MIT
report pointed out) by any objective criteria, they are equally highly

by the way, another argument against the mathematician regards the
distribution of "best-ness" amongst  candidates.  Women make up
50% of grad classes but only 20% of candidates.  If best-ness is equally
distributed amongst men and women to start with (and let us assume that
it is ), then the likelihood
is that those 20   females in the pool of 100 job candidates may plausibly
represent the best amongst women, the cream of the crop.    If so, we can
consider them comparable to about 20 of the men (again, assuming
that "best" is evenly distributed amongst the students, who are half male, half
Therefore the other 60% of job candidates (male) are not as good as the
women who remain in the system.  And how many of THEM do you suppose
will get jobs?

A little Devil's advocacy for a Sunday morning.  You ought to see what I can do
with Florida vote counts.... ;-)

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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
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Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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