I don't get why it's controversial to acknowledge that men and women are different. "Different" implies that some people are better at some things than others, and some types of people are better at some things as well. What's wrong with that? Welcome to reality. Lots of people are better at lots of things than I am, and I don't sweat it.
The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.
Lawrence H. Summers, speaking Friday at an economic conference, also questioned how great a role discrimination plays in keeping female scientists and engineers from advancing at elite universities. ...
"It's possible I made some reference to innate differences," he said. He said people "would prefer to believe" that the differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, "but these are things that need to be studied."
He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them "daddy truck" and "baby truck," as if they were dolls.
Gender and race don't define individuals. There are women who are better at math and engineering than I am, I'm certain of it, but on average men tend to be better at such things. Now, you may disagree and think that's simply not true, but there's no reason to get offended over it... unless, I suppose, you base your sense of self-worth on how good your group is at math. But isn't that a stupid thing to be concerned about? At most be concerned with your own personal ability.
The comments below are really excellent! Meep makes a good point that I'd forgotten:
But back to the stats: what's interesting is that it's not exactly true on average, either, if you consider the samples. When you look at distributions of math test scores (for tests everyone is forced to take), for example, you'll find lots more guys than gals sitting at the high end of the distribution... but that's also true at the low end. There are fatter tails in the male distribution on most things, which I do find interesting. Look at any special education class, and you'll find far more boys than girls there (and it's not totally due to behavior, aka 'boys being boys'.. more boys are autistic, more are dyslexic, etc.) When SAT time comes, you're not going to find the kids in the lower tail taking the test, generally, so that skews averages upward. Likewise, at math competitions, most of the top-scorers are male.
Still, is it right to say that males are more likely to score better than females in math, when it's also true that they're more likely to score worse? Summers, being at Harvard, is going to see only the upper tail, which probably skews his thinking. What makes males both better and worse than females at math?
I made this handy graphic to illustrate the bell curve she's talking about.
(HT: Marie Gryphon for the basic graph.)