In 2005 Lawrence Summers resigned from his position as the president of Harvard due to sexist remarks that he had made during a speech the previous year about the intelligence of women in comparison to men. According to Summers, the reason that there is an unequal percentage of men and women as phD candidates and as professors was the fact that men have a higher IQ than women on average, and that men are more adept at working jobs with a higher level of intelligence. Although Summers articulated this point more subtly, it was clear that he believed women to be less intelligent then men on average, and attributed the difference in the pay gap, and in skilled professions, to this difference in intelligence.
As shocking as this may seem, there are others who strongly agree with this notion. Professor Richard Lynn, a British psychologist, wrote an extremely controversial article in 2010 supporting Summers claim whole heartedly that women are less intelligent than men, and that the unequal distribution of women in the field of science and math is justified by this difference.
In the article, Lynn attributes the difference between men and women to the age old Hunter-Gatherer dynamic. When men hunted to gather food they had the difficult task of strategizing before the kill, giving them a series of complex thoughts and ideas to wrestle with daily. Because of the dynamic between Hunters and Gatherers, who were predominantly female, Lynn argues that men, "must have possessed far sharper minds than those of women engaged in the relatively simple tasks of gathering berries and raising children." This early difference in intelligence, according to Lynn, has carried on into the present day, as men on average have bigger brains than women (even after adjusting for difference in size).
When I first read the article I was disgusted at Lynns theory of intelligence and his "100 percent" approval of the idea, but I was unable to figure out a way to dispute his claims. In terms of the data that he has collected on the subject, almost all of it is true - the statistics that he provides are not made up by him but collected throughout the years in studies and experiments (I promise I don't agree with Lynn's claims, merely that the numbers he worked with are hard to refute). I felt as though I couldn't defend the intelligence of women in the face of blatant sexism- had science really justified gender oppression?
On the verge of accepting defeat, I realized that Lynn's assertions themselves were based on an inherent sexism that skewed his ability to understand the data, and the rationalizations that he had recorded.
For starters, "women engaged in the relatively simple task of gathering and raising children", suggests that raising children is a task that requires almost no cognitive ability, and does not require the use of complex ideas. This notion is grounded in Lynn's sexist understanding of child rearing, and his belief that it is an unintelligent practice. Child rearing, while different than hunting, is more complicated than Lynn suggests- understanding children and their growth is a complex and difficult job- gathering as well requires more effort than mindlessly picking berries and herbs. Knowledge about what is acceptable to eat and where to find it was necessary for survival, and required a higher level of cognitive ability than Lynn ascribes to women of the time. Lynn's perception on women stems from his belief that care taking requires minimal effort, and that it does not constitute a legitimate job or positions. His theory of intelligence cannot be ascribed to the prehistoric dynamic of men and women because it inaccurately describes the difficulty required to perform both tasks.
Additionally, I don't believe that the IQ test is a fair assessment of intelligence between men and women. Firstly, a numerical definition of intelligence cannot possibly account for the subjective nature of intelligence, and how we perceive intelligence in society. What is the difference between 1 IQ point? and how can that be measured in the real world? The numbers that Lynn uses represents a rather esoteric understanding of intelligence. A man may on average outscore women by 5 points? but what exactly does that look like? Should that really result in women representing only 9.7% of professors? Although I do not fully understand the nature of intelligence tests, I highly doubt that this stark contrast in employment can be ascribed purely to the difference in IQ.
Secondly, the IQ test was developed by, and mostly for, men. Each IQ test in existence to date was created by men, and during the early stages of use, was used exclusively on male populations. In 1905, when the IQ test was first developed, the student population at the time was primarily comprised of boys. While this may seem farfetched, the IQ test, because of its relationship to men, may give certain advantages to men over women because it was created with an inherent bias towards men. If men were targeted for the test, than the questions involved relate to and test the male experience, and exclude the aspects of intelligence that we may ascribe to women. This would create a bias that would disadvantage women when taking IQ tests, and could explain the lower scores that women receive.
Although I strongly disagree with Lynn, there is room for discussion: Is it sexist to suggest women are less intelligent than men if there is "evidence"? Should we consider Lynn sexist?
To what extent does this matter- should we give up on women's rights because they "may" be "less intelligent"?
This is certainly controversial, and I hope that people understand that I do not agree with Lynn at all. I am merely exposing an uncomfortable topic so as to create healthy dialogue around issues of gender and sex.