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    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Transsexual Neuroscientist on the Gender Gap

    I really, really love this guy. You will too.

    "Like many women and minorities ... I am suspicious when those who are at an advantage proclaim that a disadvantaged group of people is innately less able," Barres wrote in his four-page essay for Nature.

    He said he's haunted by memories of sexist bigotry during his female youth: "As an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology," Barres wrote, "I was the only person in a large class of people of nearly all men to solve a hard math problem, only to be told by the professor that my boyfriend must have solved it for me. I was not given any credit."

    In his essay, Barres calls for specific efforts to improve science opportunities for female students and academics, including running fair job searches, improving women's chances of winning research grants, and making it easier for women to cover day care costs for their children.

    It's also helpful to cultivate male supporters, he said. "It has been 30 years since I was a medical student," Barres recalled, "but I still recall with gratitude the young male student who immediately complained to a professor who had shown a slide of a nude pinup in his anatomy lecture."

    Barres also treasures memories of his Harvard doctoral supervisor, David Corey, who encouraged the shy Barres to imitate aggressive male students by approaching distinguished scientific lecturers and asking them questions. Barres said such forthrightness pays off in any career, including science.

    "Life, even in science, is a popularity contest," Barres observed.

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