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Gender and Race Studies

Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics

The Nature of Difference documents how distinctions between people have been generated in and by the life sciences. Through a wide-ranging selection of primary documents and insightful commentaries by the editors, it charts the shifting boundaries of science and race through more than two centuries of American history. The documents, primarily writings by authoritative, eminent scientists intended for their professional peers, show how various sciences of race have changed their object of study over time: from racial groups to types to populations to genomes and beyond. The book's thematic and synthetic approach reveals the profoundly diverse array of practices—countless acts of observation, quantification, and experimentation—that enabled the consequential categorizations we inherit.

The documents—most reproduced in their entirety—range from definitions of race in dictionaries published between 1886 and 2005 to an exchange of letters between Benjamin Baneker and Thomas Jefferson; from Samuel Cartwright's 1851 "Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race" to a 1950 UNESCO declaration that race is a social myth; from a 1928 paper detailing the importance of the glands in shaping human nature to a 2005 report of the discovery of a genetic basis for skin color. Such documents, given context by the editors' introductions to each thematic chapter, provide scholars, journalists, and general readers with the rich historical background necessary for understanding contemporary developments in racial science.

Women in Computing

The information technology revolution is transforming almost every aspect of society, but girls and women are largely out of the loop. Although women surf the Web in equal numbers to men and make a majority of online purchases, few are involved in the design and creation of new technology. It is mostly men whose perspectives and priorities inform the development of computing innovations and who reap the lion's share of the financial rewards. As only a small fraction of high school and college computer science students are female, the field is likely to remain a "male clubhouse," absent major changes.In Unlocking the Clubhouse, social scientist Jane Margolis and computer scientist and educator Allan Fisher examine the many influences contributing to the gender gap in computing. The book is based on interviews with more than 100 computer science students of both sexes from Carnegie Mellon University, a major center of computer science research, over a period of four years, as well as classroom observations and conversations with hundreds of college and high school faculty. The interviews capture the dynamic details of the female computing experience, from the family computer kept in a brother's bedroom to women's feelings of alienation in college computing classes. The authors investigate the familial, educational, and institutional origins of the computing gender gap. They also describe educational reforms that have made a dramatic difference at Carnegie Mellon -- where the percentage of women entering the School of Computer Science rose from 7% in 1995 to 42% in 2000 -- and at high schools around the country.

In seeking to explain his opinions on a timeless subject—the relations between the sexes—John Stuart Mill admits that he has undertaken an arduous task. For "there are so many causes tending to make the feelings connected with this subject the most intense and most deeply-rooted of all those which gather round and protect old institutions and customs, that we need not wonder to find them as yet less undermined and loosened than any of the rest by the progress of the great modern spiritual and social transition."

Yet typically in this essay Mill assails a system of inequality which he feels supports and encourages the subjection of one individual by another and raises questions about the nature and relationship of power and liberty. He proposes to tap the existing climate of opinion that would admit to the great injustice of excluding half the human race from decent occupations and public function on the basis of sex. More than a classical theoretical statement of the case for women's suffrage, the book attacks the full range of social and cultural attitudes and customs that transform physical fact (often compared by Mill to slavery in its most extended form) to social sanction and legal decree. The book treats inequities of the marriage contract and property rights as well as the psychological effects (the "positive evil") that personal servitude and exclusion from public affairs have on women. Are marriage and motherhood socially useful and humane goals? Mill contends that these roles are not "natural" and not always desirable, asserting that their narrow definition prevents women from exercising a truly civilizing influence on family and society.

Publication of The Subjection of Women in 1869 drew attention to the fact that despite the implacable opposition of Queen Victoria, a great many women refused to accept the conditions imposed upon them and had recorded their protests. (Had not Queen Victoria inherited the throne, Mill reasons, she would not have been entrusted with the smallest of political duties.) The liberal and enquiring nature of Mill's thesis on one of the great questions of his time easily spans the century and applies, despite legal modifications, to the same issues today.

The Advancement of Women

Why do so few women occupy positions of power and prestige? Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women. According to Valian, men and women alike have implicit hypotheses about gender differences—gender schemas— that create small sex differences in characteristics, behaviors, perceptions, and evaluations of men and women. Those small imbalances accumulate to advantage men and disadvantage women. The most important consequence of gender schemas for professional life is that men tend to be overrated and women underrated.

Valian's goal is to make the invisible factors that retard women's progress visible, so that fair treatment of men and women will be possible. The book makes its case with experimental and observational data from laboratory and field studies of children and adults, and with statistical documentation on men and women in the professions. The many anecdotal examples throughout provide a lively counterpoint.