Statement From the Rosalind Franklin Society: Lawrence Summers Not the Right Choice for Cabinet Position in Obama Administration

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 General News
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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., Nov. 11 The Americanelectorate has changed the course of history by demonstrating that an AfricanAmerican can do anything. We hope that the messages of the Obama presidencywill be broader than that -- that any American can do anything. That includeswomen. Lawrence Summers is not an appropriate choice for a cabinet position.The cabinet position is about economics. The contributions of science areimportant to the health of the economy, and women's role in scientificadvances has not been inconsequential, and will continue to be significant,emphasizes the Rosalind Franklin Society.

In 2005, Summers publicly questioned whether women have the innate abilityto be scientists. Although he later apologized for the comments, he neversaid that he was wrong and why.

Many people attempted to explain the nature of bigotry to Summers. Manyshared with him the abundant evidence that contradicts his statement -- ourmost successful and talented scientists include many women, there is noevidence that women have any less innate ability or lower performance in mathor science than men, and the rapid change in representation of women inscience over the past 30 years (1,000-fold in some fields!) indicates that theoverwhelming barriers are ones that can be changed quickly by society, notgenetics.

In 2006, a comprehensive report from the National Academy of Sciences, theNational Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine explored andevaluated the relevant literature and identified the barriers preventing womenfrom further advancement in science. Those barriers are most certainly notinnate ability. Summers has seen this report.

Summers' comments did damage. They deterred girls from aspiring tocareers in science and changed the confidence with which teachers and parentsdelivered the message, "you can do anything" to girls interested in science.Lawrence Summers' comments were most unfortunate and consequential.

Is it appropriate for President-Elect Obama to have a cabinet member whodoes not believe that members of all groups have the potential to succeed atany endeavor? Would President-Elect Obama consider for his cabinet a whiteman who had suggested that African Americans do not have the innate ability tobe president? We think not. Women represent more than half of the Americanworkforce. Let's hope for a cabinet that believes in the abilities of allgroups -- women, African Americans, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians,Republicans, and every other faction of American society -- to contribute tothe United States economy.

Lawrence Summers is not that person, and we urge President-Elect Obama toappoint someone whose qualifications have not been compromised in this manner.

The Rosalind Franklin Society is an honorific society working to advancethe careers and recognition of women in the life sciences and to ensure thatthey are well considered for prestigious awards, tenure-track appointments,and other career positions opportunities in the life sciences and relateddisciplines. Although the goal is to promote women in these sciences, themembership is not gender specific. The 2nd annual board meeting of theRosalind Franklin Society takes place in New York City Tuesday evening,November 11 and all day Wednesday, November 12.

Contact: Mary Ann Liebert, Rosalind Franklin Society (914) 740-2100ext. 2122, mliebert@liebertpub.comRosalind Franklin Society 140 Huguenot Street, 3rd Floor New Rochelle, NY 10801 Phone: 800-M-LIEBERT (toll free) / 914-740-2122 Fax: 914-740-2101 Website:

SOURCE Rosalind Franklin Society

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