Feminist groups are still unhappy with Lawrence Summers, a top candidate for chairman of the Federal Reserve, over a comment from 2005 that they dubbed sexist.
He was the president of Harvard at the time, addressing an economics conference when he made the controversial comment:
“It does appear that on many, many different human attributes — height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability — there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means — which can be debated — there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population,” Summers said.
He also added that women don’t achieve the highest positions in their careers because their commitment dwindles significantly once they marry. The speech was a factor in ousting him from his presidential post soon after.
Three years later, during President-elect Barack Obama’s deliberations for Treasury secretary, feminist groups like the National Organization for Women attacked Summers. According to Politico, they issued press releases, organized email campaigns “to key Obama transition staff, and communicated their outrage through back-channel connections.”
Their efforts ruined Summers’ chances in 2008, but now Obama is reconsidering him for another prestigious position, re-opening old wounds with NOW. Obama recently defended Summers in a meeting with House Democrats.
NOW issued a statement July 25 endorsing Janet Yellen for Fed chair.
“Not only does the Fed need its first woman leader, we need a chair who isn’t tone-deaf to the needs of women and working families,” NOW president Terry O’Neill said.
“Lawrence Summers can’t be trusted to understand the everyday economic problems women face,” she added.