It’s hard to believe that in the wake of the Larry Summers/women in science disaster at Harvard University, Harvard has actually appointed a woman as the next president, Drew Gilpin Faust. I wish I could report to you that I know her or know her work, but alas I do not. She is a historian of women and has taught and directed women’s studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I surely wish her well, and I’m pleased for her (and us) that she joins three other women presidents of Ivy League universities, bringing the total at the eight Ivy League schools to 50 percent female. She’ll be in a good place to be able to pick up the phone and talk things over with her colleagues, male and female, but I imagine there are some things she’ll want to check out mainly with the women. Ruth Bader Ginsberg has said she’s lonely on the Supreme Court. We definitely need our gal pals.
While I think its wonderful Harvard has taken this step toward equal opportunity for women, I can’t get away from the thought that the situation will not be equalized for women at Harvard until we have had 371 straight years of women presidents. It’s when we think about the years going forward instead of backward, and we try to imagine the Harvard presidency without a male incumbent for 371 years that we get some glimpse of what that exclusion has meant for women.
– Heidi Hartmann