P.Z. Myers saves me a great deal of trouble by writing the post I had in mind about Larry Summers’ under-informed views about the gender division of labor. I’m particularly glad he takes the time to deal with Steven Pinker’s much quoted line that “Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is “offensive” even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don’t get the concept of a university or free inquiry.” As Myers says, “If people started walking out on presentations of fact-free, unsupported hypotheses, Pinker wouldn’t have a career.”
In the spirit of adding a bit of empirical data to the discussion, have a read of Erin Leahey and Guang Go’s paper “Gender Differences in Mathematical Trajectories” which reviews a lot of evidence about the gender gap in math and analyzes some big data sets to find that it’s not nearly as large as you might think. (Erin is a colleague of mine at Arizona, by the way.) And to echo one of Myers’ points, the relationship between the distribution of measurable properties like math scores and the phenomenology of attainment within the social structure is (a) a very difficult question, and (b) something you might want to read up on, if you’re inclined to throw hypotheses around innate differences between women and men.