Harvard's Chance to Bridge the Gender Gap

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By appointing a woman as president, Harvard University not only would pull down one of the last remaining Ivy League gender barriers, it would complete the mop-up process induced by former President Lawrence Summers's loose-mouthed mess. Summers managed to unnecessarily alienate many female professors and students in that now infamous incident when he said that women's lack of ascension to top posts in the sciences might be attributable to "innate differences" between men and women.

Does that mean Harvard will appoint a woman?

Not necessarily, but both the Boston Globe and the Harvard Crimson report today that there are two women on the narrowed short list that now numbers fewer than 10. They are not, as reported earlier this week, female presidents of two other Ivy League institutions. They are already on campus in lesser capacities: Law School Dean Elena Kagan and Drew Gilpin Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, according to the Globe.

Of course, Summers's all-too-frequent clashes with respected professors at Harvard led to the university's singular set of payback problems, not only with women but with African-Americans. Yet I cannot help but believe Nancy Pelosi's ascension to House speaker is also a factor in giving female candidates a bit of extra consideration.

Having selected Summers in large part because of his 1 1/2 years' service as treasury secretary at the end of the Clinton administration, the Harvard Corporation board running the selection process showed it is attuned to Washington politics. Pelosi's speakership has trained the media spotlight on women in power with a more laserlike focus than any event during the past two decades.