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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Women barred from Harvard presidency by “genetic predisposition,” study finds

CAMBRIDGE, MA (AP)-- Researchers unveiled today a startling new study that suggests women are “extremely unlikely” to become president of Harvard University, and that women’s “distinctive genetic makeup” plays “a decisive role” in preventing them from becoming top-level administrators at the nation’s oldest college.

“Traditionally, presidents of Harvard have been men,” said Harvard geneticist Charles Kinbote, the study’s designer and principal investigator.  “Now, after almost 400 years, we know why.  To coin a phrase, it’s in the genes.”

According to Kinbote, the presidency of Harvard University requires a unique array of talents and dispositions which, statistically, only a small handful of women possess.  “For one thing,” noted Kinbote, “it has long been one of the president’s tasks to deny tenure to promising female scholars-- personally, without stated cause, and after a department, a college, and a battery of external referees has approved her.  My study shows that the X chromosome contains material that, in combination with another X chromosome, inhibits a person’s ability to do this.”

Men are also more adept than women at mentally rotating three-dimensional shapes on aptitude tests, Kinbote added.  “You’d be surprised how often a university president needs to do this, and at Harvard the pressure is especially intense.” Kinbote estimated that the president of Harvard spends roughly one-quarter of the working day mentally rotating complex, hypothetical three-dimensional shapes, “and that’s not even counting all the time he needs to try to figure out why women aren’t as skilled at abstract mathematical thought.”

The X chromosome also seems to play a role in suppressing the ability to make fatuous remarks in public forums.  “If you want to be president of Harvard,” Kinbote said, “you have to be willing to get up there and just let it fly, no matter what the facts are and no matter what the consequences may be.  Not just in off-the-cuff remarks-- anybody can do that-- but in carefully considered, prepared statements.  It appears that once again, the X chromosome works, when paired with another X, as an inhibiting factor in all but a tiny fraction of the female population.” That tiny fraction, Kinbote suggested, would be the subject of a subsequent study into the biochemical basis of Coulter Syndrome.

Posted by Michael on 01/19 at 07:49 AM
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