Affirmative Action at South African Universities

Monday, December 13 10:12 pm EST

The principles behind affirmative action are pretty basic: Certain people have been kept from enjoying the bounties of society and as a result we need to have policies to provide redress for those inequities. But of course in order to provide that redress certain people are going to feel as if they are going to be denied what they have earned and they are going to cast blame on the affirmative action policy. Even ardent defenders of affirmative action recognize the potential clash of fairness and even its detractors have to recognize that equality of opportunity is meaningless without a way to make that opportunity realistic for people who have been denied it.

(I’ll reveal my own prejudices here as well — affirmative action detractors also have to get over their sense of entitlement — anyone who does not get into the college of their choice did not miss out by one slot given the nature of admissions yields. To fill a class of 100 at even elite colleges requires many, many hundreds more to be given admission — if you did not get in to that pool you were not 1001st in the admissions process, you were hundreds of slots lower, behind plenty of folks who did not get in because of affirmative action.)

Thus in South Africa affirmative action will continue to be a contentious issue. This debate will flare nowhere more prominently than in university admissions. One of the issues in South Africa, as in the United States is that it tends to recognize race but not class so that an elite group of black beneficiaries emerges while masses of poor blacks remain outside the system looking in. There are few easy answers, but it is hard to take seriously arguments about “merit” in a system where those claiming merit were also the chief beneficiaries of the disparities of apartheid. And yes, those entering college today grew up in the post-apartheid era, but their parents and grandparents created, supported, and upheld that system and it is difficult to take seriously arguments that 1994 represented instant equality whereby all South Africans were on equal ground, an argument that just happens to redound to the benefit of a tiny slice of white South Africans.

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Affirmative Action in the US and Abroad

In Africa, the University of Cape Town had a student population of predominately white students and a very low admission rate of black or mixed-race students. For the lucky few who were accepted, they could not attend medical school or live in campus dormitories. Since the apartheid ended, the school's student population has become multiracial due to affirmative action. The question that is being raised by black students is whether or not their admission is based on their race or level of intelligence. One student actually finds affirmative action offensive. This may be due to not understanding that affirmative action is a policy in which the minority is given access to the same opportunities that the privileged have gained from discrimination. Although affirmative action is emplaced the ratio of white students to black students is two to one while the populational ratio of whites to blacks is nine percent to seventy-nine percent. The disadvantage the blacks face in getting an education is apparent since, only over half of the students are able to graduate in five years. In comparison to the white students graduation ratio of four out of five.

As a African American female, I used to share the concern of whether or not I was granted acceptance into a school due to my merit or race. What I've come to realize is that I don't have access to certain privileges. The Affirmative Action policy is my secret door way to gaining the access I deserve. As we can see, regardless of the policy there are more white students than black students. I'm glad the school is aware that blacks need the extra help and aren't ashamed to accept it. I had to put my pride aside and come to terms that I was born with a disadvantage. So, I take full advantage of any help entitled to me to insure I achieve my aspirations.

- Divinda

For more info, check out this article: "Campus That Apartheid Ruled Faces a Policy Rift" by Celia W. Dugger (New York Times)

Campus That Apartheid Ruled Faces a Policy Rift

By CELIA W. DUGGER NYTimes, November 22, 2010

CAPE TOWN — The University of Cape Town was once a citadel of white privilege on the majestic slopes of Devil’s Peak. At the height of apartheid, it admitted few black or mixed-race students, and they were barred from campus dormitories, even forbidden to attend medical school postmortems on white corpses.

South Africa’s finest university is now resplendently multiracial. But it is also engaged in a searching debate about just how far affirmative action should go to heal the wounds of an oppressive history, echoing similar conflicts in the United States, where half a dozen states have banned the use of racial preferences in admissions to public universities.

“Are we here because we’re black or are we here because we’re intelligent?” asked Sam Mgobozi, 19, a middle-class black student who attended a first-rate high school in Durban and finds affirmative action offensive, even as he concedes that poor black applicants may still need it.

The University of Cape Town was supposed to have settled this debate last year when its professors — 70 percent of them white men — supported a policy that gave admissions preferences based on apartheid racial categories to black, mixed-race and Indian students.

Instead, unease with the current approach has spilled out over the past year in fierce exchanges on newspaper editorial pages and formal debating platforms. Sixteen years after the political ascent of the black majority, the university’s dilemma resonates across a society conflicted about how best to achieve racial redress, whether in corporate board rooms or classrooms.

Prof. Neville Alexander, a Marxist sociologist who was classified as mixed race under apartheid, has roused the campus debate with the charge that affirmative action betrays the ideals of nonracialism that so many fought and died for during the long struggle against apartheid. Professor Alexander, who spent a decade imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, insists that the University of Cape Town, which is public, must resist pressure from the government to use racial benchmarks in determining how well the university is performing. “The government under apartheid did the same and we told them to go to hell,” he said in one standing-room-only campus debate.

Affirmative action’s champion on campus is Max Price, the vice chancellor, who was himself detained as an anti-apartheid student activist in the mid-1970s. Dr. Price, who grew up as a child of white privilege, contends that preferences based on apartheid’s racial classifications provide a means to help those harmed by that system to gain critical educational opportunities.

The university has an openly stated policy of admitting blacks who have substantially lower test scores than whites, but whites still outnumber blacks almost two to one — 45 percent versus 25 percent — among the 20,500 South African students at the university. In South Africa, 79 percent of the population is black and only 9 percent is white.

And even with extensive programs of compensatory instruction on campus to help disadvantaged students, just over half of the black students graduated in five years in recent years, while four out of five whites completed their educations in that time, university statistics show. “We’re getting the best here and the best is struggling,” said a deputy vice chancellor, Crain Soudien.

The situation is even bleaker in higher education across the country. In engineering, law, the sciences and business management, only about a third or fewer of black students manage to get a degree in five years, researchers have found. The country’s efforts to produce black professionals remain crippled by failing public high schools in impoverished rural areas and black townships that the post-apartheid government has proved unable to fix.

Social class is another complicating factor. There are wide disparities in income between white and black South Africans, but also among blacks. The job market rewards graduates of top universities — black and white — while punishing the ill-educated, who are overwhelmingly black.

Students and professors here ask whether children of the emerging black middle and upper classes should continue to get the same break on admissions as impoverished black students. The university is developing nonracial measures of disadvantage — for example, whether applicants’ parents went to a university, or the quality of the high schools the students themselves attended.

But the university now only has enough staff to base its admissions decisions for most students on their scores on a national subject-based examination for high school seniors and their apartheid racial classifications.

Even when reliable proxies for socio-economic disadvantage are developed, Dr. Price contends, race should still be considered. He estimated that about half of the most privileged black applicants would not make the cut without racial preferences. In such a situation, he said, whites would dominate the top ranks of the class, while many disadvantaged blacks struggled with failure, reinforcing stereotypes.

Even in the most prosperous black families, he said, parents often attended inferior schools and their children do not perform as well on the national high school exam as white students whose families have been university educated for generations.

But Prof. André du Toit, who taught generations of students here the history of South African political thought, disagreed, saying the central question about what he called the university’s “elitist version of race-based affirmative action” is whether it will reproduce an elitist society.

In “The Next 25 Years,” a new book of essays on affirmative action by South African and American scholars, Professor du Toit writes that as black applicants increasingly come from the best high schools and well-off families, affirmative action will provide “an ideological justification for privileging established black elite groups, at the expense of the African majority.”

On a recent afternoon, students sat in the sun on stairs that spill down Devil’s Peak from Jameson Hall. They seemed to be a multiracial realization of Mr. Mandela’s rainbow nation — and in many ways they were.

But on a campus where township students worry about whether their families have enough to eat while rich students ride around in new sports cars, many also sat in clusters divided not only by race, but by wealth.

“The coolest kids on the U.C.T. campus are divided in two, the black elite and the white elite,” said Mr. Mgobozi, the son of a corporate sales manager and former high school English teacher.

Like other prosperous black students interviewed here, Mr. Mgobozi is deeply ambivalent about affirmative action. He said he would have gotten in without it, and explains, “Black students work extremely hard just to prove we are here on the same merits as our white counterparts.”

The most eloquent advocates for racial preferences are students from profoundly deprived backgrounds. Without affirmative action, Lwando Mpotulo, 23, would never have been admitted to study for a medical degree here. His mother died when he was 15 and his father was unemployed most of his childhood. He went to high school in Khayelitsha, a sprawling black township of half a million people, 15 miles and a world apart from the wealthy heart of Cape Town. Mr. Mpotulo lived there in a tiny, rundown house that often had no electricity.

His scores on the national high school exam — C’s in science, biology and English, a B in math and an A in Xhosa, his mother tongue — were much lower than the A’s white students are generally required to attain, but an extraordinary achievement in a township where very few qualify for university admission.

Mr. Mpotulo was in Cape Town when he got the news of his admission and, overjoyed, ran to the medical school campus. But his first two years were ones of humiliating failure. “I felt much more smaller,” he said sadly. He had never had a white teacher before and even his high school English teacher had often spoken Xhosa in class.

But the university provided him with extensive, specialized instruction tailored for struggling students and weekly counseling sessions. Mr. Mpotulo also dug deep into himself. He recently sketched the family tree of relatives depending on him.

“These are the people I worry about,” he said gravely. “I have to somehow find success. If I give up, there will literally be no one employed at home.”

Mr. Mpotulo is now confident he will graduate from medical school, though it will take eight years instead of the standard six. He is considering a career in public health. He believes his mother’s death, of a stroke in her 30s, could have been prevented if she had gotten decent medical care.

In his own difficult life experience, he said, the legacy of centuries of white domination lives on.

“I sympathize with a white student, doing very well, who can’t become a student here because of affirmative action,” he said, “but I think it’s an absolutely necessary evil.”

Freedom to Create

What is Freedom to Create?

Freedom to Create was founded in 2006 to harness the power of art and culture to build creative and prosperous societies. Freedom to Create plants the seeds for human flourishing by unleashing creativity and fostering harmony for everyone, everywhere. The Prize was established in 2008 and celebrates the courage and creativity of artists who use their talents to promote social justice, inspire the human spirit and transform communities. It is open to artists in all creative fields.

The Freedom to Create Forum is a platform for global dialogue between women, to identify the opportunities and challenges for women in building creative and prosperous lives, families and communities.

How is AAPF involved?

Our co-founder and executive director, Kimberle Crenshaw, was asked to serve as both judge for the awards and on a panelist on the forum panel focusing on Female Empowerment.

Imprisoned Artist Prize

Kimberle was also asked to award the Imprisoned Artist Prize. Kazak author and poet Aron Atabek was awarded the 2010 Imprisoned Artist Prize for his literary works, including ‘Nazarbayev’s Regime and Revolution’, which laments the lack of democracy in Kazakhstan. Atabek, who has been in jail since 2007, received an 18-year sentence after being convicted for his role in a violent riot that resulted in the death of a police officer, a charge he strongly contests.

Receiving the award on behalf of his father, Askar Aidarkhan said, “I am very grateful for this recognition of my father’s talent by Freedom to Create. My family and I would like to continue the campaign to have my father released. It is very difficult to gain recognition for my father’s plight and gain support for our campaign for his freedom.”

Forum on Female Empowerment

The 2010 Freedom to Create Forum is a platform for global discussion to identify creative opportunities for the inclusive empowerment of women.

Women have a special role to play in society. As individuals, they comprise half the world’s creative capital. As mothers, they are uniquely positioned to guide the next generation with an understanding and empathy that is uniquely their own. In many societies, women have fewer opportunities than men to contribute to society through creative self expression, whether in the arts, entrepreneurship or political leadership.

2010 Discussion Topics

Cultural and religious dogmas

The life-long suppression of women based on the misuse of traditional cultural tenements and the central dogmas of religion hinder opportunities for women to contribute and participate as equal members of society. These factors remain an issue across diverse cultures and communities, preventing women from flourishing in religious, cultural, political, social and economic spheres.

Investing in the potential of women

Investing in girls will yield asymmetrical returns. Educating a girl empowers her to enter the labour force, creating prosperity for herself, her family and her country. It improves the family’s health. It is also associated with greater democracy and improved civic participation. The cost of female discrimination to the world is staggering, not only in human terms but also in economic terms: lost human capital and cyclical poverty.

Get Involved!

The next round of prizes for Freedom to Create 2011 will begin accepting applications in May of 2011 here.

The voting may be over...

Susan Burton,  founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, is one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes for 2010. Burton’s life speaks volumes to both the tragedy of punitive approaches to drug addition and to the ability of the human spirit to transcend lifes’ circumstances to become a beacon of hope for others.

Although voting for CNN Hero of the Year Award for 2010 is over, Susan’s story still serves as inspiration for making change to prison policy, as a compelling example of the specific challenges that women of color face during reentry and as a narrative for understanding criminal justice through an intersectional lens.

Check out more interviews, videos and information about Susan, A New Way of Life and challenges for women of color here.

Domestic Series


Due to the generosity of the Dream Fund, Professor Crenshaw and Professor Harris attended a webinar conference on August 7, 2008.  The webinar was titled “Talking About Race in 2008” and the discussion grew out of the realization that Americans are once again eagerly talking about race in light of this year’s presidential race.  The participants of the webinar conference which was co-moderated by Sarah Jackson and Maritza Guzman,  included members from different organizations including Impact 209, the Arcus Foundation, and the Center for Social Inclusion.  Along with AAPF, these organizations engaged in a discussion regarding the latest research and methods on how to inform other members of society of the inequalities and disparities that exist.  In doing so, they hope to craft a better methodology to address the prevalent issues of race that currently clouds the current electoral process. To read more about this Dream Fund webinar conference, please click here.


Professor Kimberle Crenshaw appeared on PBS's NOW television show in an episode entitled Attacking Affirmative Action in order to discuss the role of affirmative action in the wake of the Democratic Convention.  In her interview, Crenshaw discusses the need for Affirmative Action after the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic Presidential candidate in the 2008 election.  Her appearance on the show also highlighted the misperceptions of the widespread discourse of a post-racial era in the United States marked by Obama's nomination.  She argues that the mere fact that people are still questioning whether America is in a post-racial era affirms the reality that America as a country has not yet arrived at this point.  In her interview, Crenshaw recognizes the milestone of progress that comes along with the nomination of  Obama , yet emphasizes that there  is still a lot of work that needs to be done as well as a lot of issues that still need to be solved in order for America to fully overcome racial inequality.  To watch the episode of Attacking Affirmative Action, please click here to visit the NOW website.


On January 29th-31st of 2008, AAPF collaborated with the National ACLU to host a summit addressing the importance of affirmative action.  The summit, entitled “The Affirmative Action Summit:  Networking to Defend a Public Policy Under Siege” was held at the UCLA School of Law and attracted participants from a wide variety of backgrounds including writers, community members, activists, and scholars.   The goal of the summit was to bring these diverse individuals together in hopes of discussing different methods and strategies to talk about affirmative action to those who are opposed to a policy that is imperative to removing the structural barriers that are placed in the lives of women and people of color.  Participants of the summit engaged in not only a wide variety of discussions but also in activities that aimed at strengthening their abilities to speak confidently about affirmative action.  In addition, the summit also included a discussion called “Betwixt and Between or Too Bushwhacked to See the Light? Progressive Ponder Super Tuesday.”  During this discussion, AAPF invited author of The Best of Emerge Magazine, George Curry; television commentator of Air America, Laura Flanders; and editor of Ms. magazine, Kathy Spillar.  To read more about the summit, please click here.


Ward Connerly, a Californian who been instrumental in producing successful ballot attacks on affirmative action in California and Washington, relocated his operations to Michigan to promote the misleadingly named "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" (MCRI), a ballot proposal aimed at ending affirmative action in Michigan. Over the course of 2006, AAPF partnered with the Michigan affiliate of the ACLU in order to deliver training workshops to activists throughout the state of Michigan. Generous funding was provided for different parts of this endeavor by the Deer Creek and Fulfilling the Dream Foundations. Built around a presentation by AAPF Co-founders Kimberlé Crenshaw and Luke Harris entitled "Towards a Proactive Defense of Affirmative Action: Exploding Myths and Reframing the Debate", the workshops served to expand activists’ understanding of the ways the discourse surrounds affirmative action is often loaded in favor of opponents of affirmative action. The presentations also left on-the-ground workers with concrete methods and strategies for addressing the misleading messages that pervade public discussions on affirmative action. Over the course of the year, AAPF produced a number of exciting print, web, radio, and vidoe initatives centered on countering myths about affirmative action in Michigan. To read about these efforts, CLICK HERE.

(Note: Although the MCRI ultimately passed in Michigan, some of the exit poll data is encouraging. While whites voted to end affirmative action in numbers very similar to their percentage in California, Black support for ending affirmative action went down from 26% in California to only 14% in Michigan. While we obviously can't take credit for the disparity in numbers, our efforts to in Michigan, which focused on de-marginalizing communities of color in the affirmative action debate, were absolutely unprecedented. The feedback we received, especially from Black and minority communities, indicated that our work served to address serious gaps in the larger campaign to oppose MCRI and in many people's understandings about affirmative action. Although at the outset of the campaign Black voters expressed a great deal of confusion over the deceptive language of the MCRI , when it came time to cast their votes most Black voters overwhelmingly voted to preserve affirmative action in their state.)



Our Michigan affirmative action presentation was premiered at a full-day, two session March 2006 workshop at the ACLU of Michigan offices. Entitled "Affirmative Action Leadership Training", the workshop was aimed at "grass tops" community and activist leaders, including the Director of the Michigan Democratic Party, the Director of the MDCR Women's Commission, the Director of the MDCR, the Director of the NAACP, and others. ACLU-MI members who were grass tops leaders for their individual communities were invited as well. In all, over 50 organizations were represented in some capacity. The training featured a revamped presentation from Kimberlé and Luke entitled “10 MYTHS ABOUT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION”, and was followed by "Focused interventions" from Chandra, Dror, and Khaled Beydoun, AAPF's fieldwork coordinator and on-the-ground liaison with ACLU-MI. These interventions addressed recent tensions in Detroit between African Americans and Asian Americans, reasons it is incumbent on whites to support affirmative action, and the importance of affirmative action to Detroit's Arab population.

After our presentation, we divided into smaller breakout groups so as to permit workshop participants to achieve a sense of "ownership" of the ideas conveyed in the session, and to provide attendees with an opportunity to refine their capacity to defend affirmative action in diverse settings. Each group was co-facilitated by an AAPF coordinator and a local Michigan activist. Breakout groups were each given a unique theme to address; AAPF facilitators helped the groups work toward their assignment of coming up with 3-5 talking points addressing their respective theme/issue. At the end of the sessions, the breakout groups reformed into a larger group and shared the results of their workshops. The enthusiastic attendance at this event strained the capacity of ACLU Michigan's offices and necessitated that the training be split into two identical sessions in order to accommodate two separate audiences!

Response to the training session was extremely positive, with many attendees enthusing that the AAPF workshops and presentations had greatly expanded their understanding of the issues and helped them with the difficult task of talking about affirmative action in a proactive way. Numerous attendees expressed a desire to undergo further training by AAPF staff, and also asked for summaries of the presentation and talking points they could share with colleagues, friends, neighbors and others. As a result of this expressed demand, AAPF produced an initial document entitled "Talking Points: 10 Myths about Affirmative Action" which was distributed to workshop attendees by ACLU-Michigan.

June 20, 2006: "Mobilizing our Base", Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, MI

In order to engage with those communities usually referred to as the "base" of affirmative action supporters, AAPF and ACLU-Michigan convened a conference for organizations that represent and serve different communities of color in Michigan. The event drew an extremely diverse audience from a broad range of communities. To cite just a few of the organizations and communities represented: attendees included African American groups such as NAACP, Latino groups such as LaSed, Arab American groups including ACCESS and ADC-Michigan, and many others, from the staff of Congressman John Conyer's office to a representative of Hillel, from union leaders to Filipino organizers and Native American activists.

At the event, Kimberlé and Luke gave an updated version of their "10 Myths" presentation that was enthusiastically received. After the presentation, AAPF staff co-facilitated breakout groups focusing on different communities. The African American group was the largest of the breakout groups, and was co-facilitated by Luke. The participants explained that Black organizations across the state badly needed to secure access to experts that would provide their staff members with the information and tools necessary to do public education work on the MCRI. Attendees expressed gratitude and excitement at the information conveyed in the presentation Kimberlé and Luke delivered -- AAPF was delivering messaging about affirmative action that foregrounded the needs and concerns of communities of color.

October 20th: "The Final Stand for Affirmative Action," Greater Grace Temple Church, Detroit, MI.

Three weeks before the onset of the election, AAPF organized a final conference for Michigan community leaders. Co-sponsored by the ACLU, ACCESS, AAI, NAACP-State Conference, and MOSES, the event drew a broad cross-section of Michigan community leaders, with participants ranging from an Arab-American teacher in a community school to the host of local television talk show on race issues. Although the event occurred on a Friday evening on the heels of rallies conducted by the NAACP and others, attendees arrived excited and willing to engage with the difficult work of collaboratively exploring ways of reframing the affirmative action debate. The conference began with a streamlined version of Kimberlé and Luke's presentation on common myths about affirmative action and strategies for addressing them. Afterwards, two of Kimberlé's law students at UCLA, Rafael Yaquian and Priscilla Ocen spoke with those assembled about the realities of life for students of color in a post-affirmative action institution. The second half of the event consisted of a community roundtable moderated by Kimberlé and Luke.

Participants found the conference stimulating and educational, with many staying on past the listed end-time in order to continue the conversation. Additionally, the conference was the first to feature AAPF's new "short-version" primers which were distributed to conference-goers. Most participants found the primer so useful and compelling that they took multiple copies in order to distribute them to their colleagues, friends, and neighbors.

October 21st: Freedom Sunday: A Speaking Tour of Detroit Churches

On Sunday, October 21st, AAPF collaborated with MOSES, a congregation-centered, faith-based community organization reflecting the religious, racial, and ethnic diversity of Metropolitan Detroit to deliver vital information about affirmative action to over a dozen large congregations throughout the Detroit area. Building on well-received talks Kimberlé had given earlier in the year at other churches, Kimberlé and Luke set out to reach churchgoers with an ecumenical message aimed at reconnecting churches with the civil rights movement. MOSES Executive Director Ponsella Hardaway designated October 21st as "Freedom Sunday" and coordinated a massive speaking tour for Kimberlé and Luke. In an effort to hit as many congregations as possible, Kimberlé and Luke split up and were shuttled from church to church so they could take part in a broad range of Sunday services. Both Kimberlé and Luke delivered specially-tailored "informational sermons" which exposed many of those in attendance to information on affirmative action that they had never heard before. Members of targeted congregations received a happy surprise from the speaking tour, and left their services both informed and excited to spread knowledge about the issue within their community.


David N. Dinkins’ Forum at Columbia University

AAPF co-founders Luke Harris and Kimberle Crenshaw spoke as expert scholar-activists at the former New York City Mayor’s affirmative action forum in May. Prof. Harris and Prof. Crenshaw spoke about the misrepresentation of affirmative action as “reverse discrimination,” and the need to reconceive so-called “diversity programs” as tools for counteracting preferences built into institutions that benefit some Americans at the expense of others. Among the other participants at the forum were Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University and former President of the University of Michigan and Ted Shaw, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

(To watch the David Dinkins forum at Columbia University, click here.)


July 12th-15th:  A Multiracial and Multicultural Curriculum Conference at the Aspen Institute

AAPF co-founder Kimberle Crenshaw facilitated a national conference at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado in mid-July. Using the conceptual tools that came out of our March conference, Professor Crenshaw led a series of discussions on the right-wing assault on diversity and social justice programs. Moreover, she structured several discussions around the affirmative action video produced by the AAPF for our March conference, which she screened as part of a broader effort to disseminate the ideas generated during the March conference discussions.

March 2003: Affirmative Action Teach-In/Workshop Conference

Defenders of affirmative action have been facing their most critical challenge in over two decades. A great deal was at stake in the recent Supreme Court decision on the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, yet media coverage of this very important civil rights issue has been superficial, skewed, and under-informed by the facts about how affirmative action policies function, what their strongest justifications are, and what the consequences of retracting them are likely to be. Extensive media research conducted by the African American Policy Forum and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has revealed highly consequential distortion in the public debate on affirmative action. We have found, moreover, that this distortion lies not only in the misleading and patently false arguments made by affirmative action’s opponents, but in the reductive and decontextualized arguments put forth by prominent defenders of affirmative action as well. We have consolidated our research into several sets of multimedia materials, including a mainstream media newsclip video, highlighting distortions in the public debate on affirmative action; a collection of relevant articles, including several by AAPF’s Luke Harris, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Janine Jackson; and a packet of social science research on the importance of affirmative action. We intend to continue to distribute these materials widely, both at future AAPF events and by mail and email.

Nearly 180 people attended the conference in March. Among them were students, scholars, activists, lawyers, and journalists. Nearly 100 people attended the Thursday teach-in, which featured renowned progressive thinkers from around the country, and which demystified and contextualized the University of Michigan affirmative action cases. The smaller Friday workshop was a “closed door” strategy session designed to generate ideas for how best to counter the well-funded conservative assault on affirmative action policies. Our goal was to bring together a select group of influential scholars, activists, lawyers, and journalists - each with expertise in specific aspects of affirmative action advocacy and litigation – and to disseminate, through a variety of media, the suggestions for strategic intervention that would emerge out of a series of discussions. We are now in the dissemination phase of this project, and we are looking for funding sources that will help us take advantage of the increase in attention to affirmative action policies that has followed the recent Supreme Court decision. Several panelists have already informed us that they have found the insights and information generated at the workshop extremely useful in their efforts to combat new attacks on affirmative action in the media, the courts, and the classroom. To reach an even larger audience, we would like to post segments of the workshop on the web, and make transcripts available to the general public. In addition to spreading the word, this will also enhance our publicity for future workshops and teach-ins.

March 27, 2003: Teach-in

    The opening panel of the conference, “Understanding Grutter v. Bollinger,” broadened the terms of the discourse on the University of Michigan cases, challenging narrow and erroneous assumptions about affirmative action policies in higher education. Gerald Torres, who contributed to the drafting of the Texas “10-percent plan” - lauded by the Bush administration as a race-neutral alternative to affirmative action - spoke about the limitations of that plan (which guarantees admission to the University of Texas to the top ten-percent of every graduating high-school class) and the continuing need for race-conscious admissions policies in institutions of higher education.

Stanford University Professor of Psychology and distinguished social scientist, Claude Steele, who participated from California via video-teleconferencing, problematized universities’ over-reliance on what has been shown to be racially and culturally biased and otherwise predictively inaccurate measures of assessment, such as the SAT, LSAT and GRE. Steele, an expert witness in the university of Michigan cases, presented his groundbreaking research on “stereotype threat”: an empirically verifiable phenomenon characterized by a test-takers’ ability-inhibiting impression that he or she may be judged on the basis of a negative stereotype. In his presentation, Steele compellingly demonstrated several ways in which an over-reliance on standardized test scores can function as a “preference” for white men, one that is offset, albeit inadequately, by affirmative action programs.

Distinguished scholar and NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney, Ted Shaw, spoke about his role in court cases involving affirmative action dating back to the 1976 Bakke case. The watershed Bakke decision prohibited racial and gender “quotas” in institutions of higher education, but did not rule out race-conscious admissions policies, so long as such policies promoted legitimate “state interests,” including maintaining diverse student bodies. Regarded by many defenders of affirmative action as a great victory, Shaw brought what was “lost” in the Bakke case to the fore, namely, the argument that the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing “equal protection” to U.S. citizens, was designed in part to bring African Americans and women, along with other systematically marginalized and excluded social groups, into full citizenship.

Renowned historian, Eric Foner, provided a detailed account of the origins and history of affirmative action, and of the failure of the Supreme Court to place current affirmative action cases into an historical context. Challenging color-blind interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment, Foner showed how affirmative-action-related legislation in the U.S. had been both group-based and linked to the abolition of slavery at the time when this amendment was debated in congress – insofar as it was designed to help African Americans in particular overcome the systemic inequalities and forms of discrimination that constituted an important legacy of the institution of slavery.

Erika Woods and Anthony Solana, law students at UCLA, and Jory Steele, a recent graduate of Columbia University Law School and current legal activist, each presented synopses of the friend-of-the-court (Amicus) briefs to which they contributed. Woods and Solana illustrated the ways in which the precipitous decline in minority enrollment in California universities, caused by legislation (including Proposition 209) prohibiting race-conscious admissions procedures, has had deeply troubling adverse effects on the few minority students remaining in California colleges and graduate and professional schools.

Moderated by the AAPF’s Kimberle Crenshaw, our second panel, “Reconstructing the Rhetoric of Affirmative Action,” explored ways of bringing these and other ideas, which have been largely restricted to discussions in academic circles, further into the public arena. Janine Jackson began the discussion with a presentation of her research, for the AAPF and FAIR, on the media’s coverage of affirmative action. This research demonstrates definitively that the purportedly objective news reporting on affirmative action policies conducted by the major networks and newspapers in the U.S. have provided narrow, discussion-inhibiting accounts of these policies.

A representative for the Institute of Democracy Studies, Lee Cokorinos, provided a fascinating summary of his research on the right wing’s anti-affirmative action campaign over the past several decades. Of particular interest for our purposes was Cokorinos’ account of the Right Wing’s relatively recent shift from a strategy of attacking civil rights legislation on overtly racist and sexist grounds to a strategy of using “color-blind” civil rights rhetoric to undermine the moral force of contemporary civil rights initiatives aimed at correcting systemic inequality.

The AAPF’s Luke Harris articulated a powerful critique of the belief, widely held among both opponents and proponents of affirmative action, that affirmative action policies amount to “preferences” for minorities and women. Harris argued compellingly that affirmative action policies function as a prophylactic, protecting the victims of institutional discrimination, past and present, from further exclusion and injury, rather than as a preference. As Harris argued, arguments that take affirmative action to be a system of “preferenctial treatment” are founded on the notion that American society is fundamentally meritocratic. Thus, they undervalue or ignore entirely the myriad of ways in which the history of discrimination and exclusion in this country has resulted in a situation where minorities and women are situated differently than white men. This difference must be taken into account if substantive equality and equal opportunity are to be achieved in the U.S.


Affirmative Action Strategic Intervention Workshop: March 28, 2003

On the second day of the conference, Friday, March 28th, the AAPF held a series of panel discussions and small workgroups that together comprised our “Affirmative Action Strategic-Intervention Media Workshop.” Drawing on themes from the previous day’s “teach-in,” this workshop addressed the question of how most effectively to counter anti-affirmative action rhetoric in the mainstream and alternative media. We began with a morning roundtable discussion on media research conducted by Janine Jackson, who provided a critical overview of the various ways in which the affirmative action debate has been framed in the media. A video presentation of excerpts from recent public discourse on affirmative action was then screened as a focal point for a round-table discussion among a panel of experts. In the afternoon, participants broke into thematic workgroup sessions designed to integrate existing knowledge about affirmative action into discreet and responsive defenses of these important social policies. The workshop concluded with a series of mock interviews and talk shows in which participants used the insights gained from the day’s discussions to challenge the distorting rhetoric deployed by opponents of affirmative action.

(To read the conference transcripts, click here.)


March 1999: Claude Steele and Susan Sturm on the Myths of Standardized Testing

Recognizing that myths about testing are key in the affirmative action debate, the Initiative sponsored a lecture/discussion by Claude M. Steele, Ph.D., Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, and Chair of the Psychology Department at Stanford University. Steele is a leading authority on testing, race and gender who has conducted groundbreaking research undermining the assumption that standardized college entrance tests objectively measure the merit and future promise of women and minority students. Steele was joined by Professor Susan Sturm, then of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, whose work also illustrates how gender and racial stereotypes distort perceptions about the intellectual and professional capacities of many applicants to institutions of higher education.

January 1999: A Policy Forum Cosponsored Affirmative Action Symposium

As part of our ongoing work on affirmative action, the Policy Forum and the Columbia Law School Center for Public Interest Law co-sponsored this well-attended day-long Conference. The Conference was hosted by the Center for Constitutional Rights in honor of Professor Arthur Kinoy of the Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. The event brought together media professionals, activists, legal scholars and the general public for a forward-looking discussion about affirmative action. Kimberle Crenshaw, Luke Harris and Janine Jackson each made presentations on varying aspects of the public understanding of race-based remedies and their history, and the influence of right-wing efforts to roll back affirmative action policies in part by misrepresenting their goals and impact.

May 1998: Policy Forum Affirmative Action Discussion & Book Party

    The recent book by authors Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence, We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action, served as the launching point for a free-ranging discussion moderated by Kimberle Crenshaw. Crenshaw introduced authors Matsuda and Lawrence. After Matsuda and Lawrence’s presentation, Professor Luke Harris provided an analysis of their book that called for a re-envisioning of affirmative action away from the idea of ‘preferential treatment.’ Harris argued that equal opportunity must be promoted via the eradication of the patterns of institutional discrimination still extant in all spheres of American life. An open discussion of these points filled out the session.



Spring 1998: Americans For A Fair Chance (AFC)

    FAIR was commissioned to do research on media coverage of affirmative action by AFC, a coalition of civil rights groups engaged in a public education campaign around threats to affirmative action. Conducted by Janine Jackson, the research focused specifically on the virtual absence of women in the mainstream media’s treatment of affirmative action, and on the press’ inattention to the persistence of sexist and racist practices. AFC released a final report in October 1998 (See Supplemental Book I-D). Coalition leaders used the findings to obtain constructive editorial meetings with media outlets including Ms., Glamour, Parade and Latina Magazine. This report has provided useful documentation for the Initiative’s work on affirmative action; and it has also served to establish fruitful contacts between the Initiative and a number of civil rights research and policy organizations.

On July 6, 1997 on CNBC, Kimberle Crenshaw served as a guest co-host on “Equal Time.”

During that week, she was able to bring several new voices into the public debate (See Attached Video, “Equal Time”). One particularly successful contribution was made by former Legal Defense Fund attorney Connie Rice who was invited to the show to challenge the standard portrayal of affirmative action as ‘preferential treatment.’ The show has been rebroadcast and is now being circulated as one of the more successful attempts at reframing the debate on affirmative action. Rice has since left the Legal Defense Fund to head up a new organization that focuses on reframing the public debate on affirmative action.

Susan Burton - Letter to friends!

Use the following letter to ask your friends, family and colleagues to support Susan Burton as CNN Hero of the Year nominee!

Dear Friend:

I'm excited.

There's not a lot of good news for those of us concerned about the staggering social consequences of mass incarceration. For so long, there seemed to be no traction in the popular media to get out the message that mass incarceration destroys families, lives and entire communities.

But now we all have a unique opportunity to draw attention to courageous women and men who are dedicating their lives toward reversing the devastating consequences of mass incarceration.

Susan Burton, founder of a New Way of Life, is one of ten finalists for the CNN Hero of the Year Award. Burton's life speaks volumes to both the tragedy of punitive approaches to drug addition and to the ability of the human spirit to transcend lifes' circumstances to become a beacon of hope for others. Having cycled in and out of prison for an addiction she developed in the aftermath of the accidental death of her 5 year old son, Burton not only recovered but committed her life to providing the support that so many women lack upon their release: a safe place to live, a loving support system, and guidance through the maze of re-entry challenges. Susan's story is about more than the 500 women she has helped. When Susan wins the Hero of the Year Award, attention will be turned to the needs of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children who struggle under the weight of incarceration long after prison terms have ended. Voices like Susan's can bring sanity to this headlong rush into inhumane and counterproductive social policies.

But Susan's voice can't be heard unless we all take a few minutes to lift up our own voices in support of Susan Burton.

Please take this moment to do to things. Vote for Susan Burton ten times right here: Please do it today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next, until voting ends November 18th at 6am ET.

Second, please reach out to ten friends who will commit to doing the same. Use the 10 Reasons Fact sheet below to introduce your friends to Susan Burton and to let everyone know why this is such an important opportunity not only for Susan and the women she serves, but for all of us.

Susan Burton and Kimberle Crenshaw on GRITtv

Susan Burton and Kimberle Crenshaw talk about the issues around reentry for women of color on GRITtv. Vote for Susan as a CNN Hero at

Hope is in short supply these days, particularly for those in America's packed prison system. California incarcerates more women than any other state, and when those women get out of jail they often have nothing more than $200 in their pockets and hope to go on. Susan Burton was one of those women once, and now she's founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, a nonprofit organization that helps formerly incarcerated women get their lives back together.

Susan has been named one of CNN's ten Heroes this year, and is in the running for the top spot, and she joins us via Skype, along with Kimberle Crenshaw, who explains just why Susan's nomination gives her hope in a bleak time.

Race in 2028

By ROSS DOUTHATPublished: July 19, 2009

During last week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Republican senators kept bringing the conversation back to 2001 — the year when Sonia Sotomayor delivered the most famous version of her line about how a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences” might outshine a white male judge.

It was left to a Democratic senator, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, to ask about the much more interesting year of 2028.

By then, according to recent Supreme Court jurisprudence, some kinds of affirmative action may no longer be permissible. In 2003, writing for the majority in Grutter v. Bollinger, Sandra Day O’Connor upheld race-based discrimination in college admissions ... but only for the current generation. Such policies “must be limited in time,” she wrote, adding that “the Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

It was a characteristic O’Connor move: unmoored from any high constitutional principle but not without a certain political shrewdness. In a nation that aspires to colorblindness, her opinion acknowledged, affirmative action can only be justified if it comes with a statute of limitations. Allowing reverse discrimination in the wake of segregation is one thing. Discriminating in the name of diversity indefinitely is quite another.

It’s doubtful, though, that Sonia Sotomayor shares this view.

“It is firmly my hope, as it was expressed by Justice O’Connor,” she told Senator Kohl, “that in 25 years, race in our society won’t be needed to be considered in any situation.”

But O’Connor didn’t hope; she expected. And Sotomayor’s record suggests that there’s a considerable difference between these postures — that for the nominee, as for most liberal jurists, as long as racial disparities persist, so too must racial preferences.

This is the big question underlying both the “wise Latina” contretemps and the controversy surrounding Sotomayor’s role in Ricci v. DeStefano. Whither affirmative action in an age of America’s first black president? Will it be gradually phased out, as the Supreme Court’s conservatives seem to prefer? Or will it endure well into this century and beyond?

To affirmative action’s defenders, Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings have been an advertisement for the latter course. Here you have a Hispanic woman being grilled by a collection of senators who embody, quite literally, the white male power structure. Her chief Republican interlocutor, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, even has a history of racially charged remarks.

But the senators are yesterday’s men. The America of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is swiftly giving way to the America of Sonia Maria Sotomayor and Barack Hussein Obama.

The nation’s largest states, Texas and California, already have “minority” majorities. By 2023, if current demographic trends continue, nonwhites — black, Hispanic and Asian — will constitute a majority of Americans under 18. By 2042, they’ll constitute a national majority. As Hua Hsu noted earlier this year in The Atlantic, “every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.”

As this generation rises, race-based discrimination needs to go. The explicit scale-tipping in college admissions should give way to class-based affirmative action; the de facto racial preferences required of employers by anti-discrimination law should disappear.

A system designed to ensure the advancement of minorities will tend toward corruption if it persists for generations, even after the minorities have become a majority. If affirmative action exists in the America of 2028, it will be as a spoils system for the already-successful, a patronage machine for politicians — and a source of permanent grievance among America’s shrinking white population.

You can see this landscape taking shape in academia, where the quest for diversity is already as likely to benefit the children of high-achieving recent immigrants as the descendants of slaves. You can see it in the backroom dealing revealed by Ricci v. DeStefano, where the original decision to deny promotions to white firefighters was heavily influenced by a local African-American “kingmaker” with a direct line to New Haven’s mayor. You can hear it in the resentments gathering on the rightward reaches of the talk-radio dial.

And you can see the outlines of a different, better future in the closing passages of Barack Obama’s recent address to the N.A.A.C.P., in which the president presented an insistent vision of black America as the master of its own fate.

Affirmative action has always been understandable, but never ideal. It congratulates its practitioners on their virtue, condescends to its beneficiaries, and corrodes the racial attitudes of its victims.

All of this could be defended as a temporary experiment. But if affirmative action persists far into the American future, that experiment will have failed — and we will all have been corrupted by it.

*Posted in NY Times

NATIONAL BRIEFING | WEST; California: New Effort Against Race-Blind Admissions

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSPublished: February 17, 2010

By Any Means Necessary, an affirmative action group, is renewing efforts to overturn the state law that prohibits public universities from considering race in admissions. The group filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court in Oakland, challenging the constitutionality of a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996. Both a federal appeals court and the California Supreme Court have rebuffed earlier challenges to the law, Proposition 209. The complaint says two United States Supreme Court rulings in affirmative action cases since those earlier decisions warrant another effort to invalidate the part of Proposition 209 that deals with university admissions.

Arizona Bans Affirmative Action, Oklahoma Makes English The ‘Official’ Language

In an interview with NPR on Election Day, Pamela Prah of expressed surprise that there were no immigration ballot measures this election season. Given the tenor of the debate, I too would’ve expected a series of anti-immigrant initiatives on several state ballots. However, there were at least two ballot initiatives that are still very much a manifestation of nativist sentiment. One, a proposal in Arizona banning affirmative action and another ballot initiative in Oklahoma which makes English the “official” language of the state. Though neither has a direct effect on immigration policy itself, the passage of both initiatives presents serious implications for the immigrant and Latino communities. On Tuesday, Arizona approved Proposition 107 “banning the consideration of race, ethnicity or gender by units of state government, including public colleges and universities.” Prop. 107 was spearheaded by the American Civil Rights Committee (ACRC), a Sacramento, California political action committee connected to Ward Connerly that funneled thousands of dollars into Arizona this year. ACRC is described by one Asian political blogger as a group “whose members have spent the last two decades traveling from state to state trying to enact harmful, discriminatory laws under the guise of equality.” Unsurprisingly, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ), the lawmaker who introduced SB-1070 and was “chief promoter” of a separate bill banning ethnic studies, was one of the main figures pushing the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative. He was even featured in radio ads endorsing the measure.

Opponents included Jeffrey F. Milem, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Arizona, who argued that Prop. 107 arguments “are purposefully misleading” and that the initiative itself is “in direct conflict” with previous Supreme Court decisions. Joe Thomas, vice president of the Arizona Education Association, wrote that Prop. 107 “is an anti-equal-opportunity measure.”

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, voters approved a ballot initiative — Question 751 — which declares English the “official language” of the state. Several states have passed similar legislation, though they tend to vary in their severity. For example, Virginia’s “official language” law stipulates that no state agency or local government shall be required nor prohibited from providing “official” documents in a language other than English. However, Question 751 goes a step further and “requires that official State actions be in English.” “Official state actions” are not defined. Rep. Randy Terrill (R) is one of the legislative members who authored the question’s language — the same lawmaker who told the Associated Press that he “may even take Arizona’s example further and include assets seizure provisions and harsher penalties” for undocumented immigrants. On Question 751, Terrill explains, “What was really the straw that broke the camel’s back was essentially a lawsuit that was prompted against the State of Oklahoma by an Iranian couple in Bartlesville who complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of our refusal to give them a drivers license test in Farsi.”

Proponents of Question 751 claim that it promotes immigrant integration, however, most experts note that if that were really their goal they’d dedicate more resources to ESL programs. Pat Fennell with the Latino Comm. Development Agency argued, “Instead of passing that kind of legislation, we need to create windows of opportunity while people are learning English.” University of Tulsa professor and attorney, James C. Thomas believes it’s unconstitutional. “It violated the free speech clause. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma in 2002 has already ruled that English only is unconstitutional. Why does the legislature now come back in 2010 and resurrect this issue?” said Thomas.

The language of both ballot initiatives was very carefully crafted. Whether they pass legal muster remains to be seen. What is clear that they were pushed by many of the same actors who have been aggressively pursuing harsh immigration measures throughout the years. Ultimately, it seems likely that these ballot measures are part of a multi-pronged strategy to promote a broader pro-white, anti-minority, anti-multiculturalist right-wing agenda.

*Posted in Think Progress: The Wonk Room

Paying the Price for Apartheid

By PRINCETON N. LYMANPublished: January 5, 2010

Early this year, an appeals court in the United States will decide whether a suit against three companies — two of them American — can go forward charging them with contributing to the crimes of apartheid in South Africa. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status that would allow them, depending on the exact definition accepted, to represent tens of thousands, or even tens of millions, of black South Africans who suffered under the apartheid regime.

There are complex legal questions raised by this suit, brought under the Alien Torts Statute. But perhaps the most fundamental moral and practical question is how the victims of the deep wrongs of apartheid should be compensated. Unfortunately, for these victims, this is not the way.

The issue of reparations has a long and often bitter history. Shortly after the liberation of South Africa and the election of Nelson Mandela as president, South Africa initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission had a mandate to expose the truth of the apartheid crimes, offer amnesty to those who confessed their crimes, and to recommend reparations for the victims. The commission recommended specific cash reparations for those who had suffered most directly, a number that ranged from 20,000 upwards, depending on family members and survivors.

The commission recommended approximately $3,000 per year for six years for each such family. However, the government under Mr. Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, citing budget difficulties, proposed reparations of approximately $400 per victim. Private and foreign donations to a special fund created for this purpose brought the total to no more than $3,000 each, paid to just over 3,500 victims.

Because of the suit in the United States and a broader predecessor one, companies have been wary of contributing to this fund lest it demonstrate liability. The issue has never been fully resolved and has stoked bitterness not only because some perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes won amnesty, but because many others chose not to testify and were never prosecuted.

Now the question has turned to whether foreign businesses should take on the responsibility of compensation. The truth commission did determine that business in general — both South African and foreign — contributed to the capabilities of the apartheid regime. But no specific taxes on businesses for reparations were ever instituted.

The South African government urged businesses to set up a trust fund for training those disadvantaged by apartheid and for other social programs, and this was done. Meanwhile, the government sought to encourage both domestic and foreign private investment through lower taxes, sound fiscal policy, and reduced debt and inflation, a set of policies resulting in average growth rates of around 5 percent over the past 15 years.

To address the legacies of apartheid more directly, the South African government dedicated major expenditures for education, housing, water and health, and instituted a wide-ranging affirmative action program. The results are impressive. Millions of houses have been built, clean water and electricity have been provided to millions of people, health services for children and pregnant women were made free, and a combination of pensions, grants and other benefits constitutes a social safety net of $10 billion a year that reaches nearly one quarter of the population.

Nevertheless, 15 years after the end of apartheid, the majority of black South Africans remain poor. Unemployment is officially near 26 percent but is probably much higher among the black population. Foreign investment, once eagerly anticipated, has been limited. Of the more than 200 American companies that divested from South Africa in the 1980s, few returned, seeing the South African market as small and poor at a time when the emerging markets of Asia were beckoning.

Ironically, two of the firms being sued, Ford and Daimler-Benz, are among the few that did return and are now among South Africa’s chief manufacturing exporters.

There is no question that apartheid victims deserve more. The crimes were horrific and leave deep scars.

But whether three non-South African companies can be used to help right this wrong is questionable. It would take billions to make South Africa whole, more than can be obtained under this suit or any other aimed solely at foreign businesses. The only way to make South Africa whole is for the country to break through the barriers of poverty. Multinational corporations can play an important role in this fight.

This suit may have helped publicize the country’s unmet needs and delayed justice, and it may spur the outside world to do more. But it cannot address South Africa’s real needs, and if it results in yet another token payment to a few thousand people, it will make the aftertaste of apartheid even more bitter.

*Posted in NY Times

A Pioneer for South Africa Cricket Retires

By HUW RICHARDSPublished: November 3, 2010

If Makhaya Ntini had done nothing but take wickets for South Africa, he would have been a memorable cricketer.

Ntini, though, will go down in history for far more than that. He was the first member of South Africa’s majority black community to play test cricket, perhaps making him post-apartheid South Africa’s most important athlete.

“What Nelson Mandela meant for South Africa, Makhaya meant for cricket,” said a clearly emotional Gerald Majola, chief executive of Cricket South Africa, at the news conference Tuesday in Johannesburg to announce Ntini’s retirement from international play.

“Nobody thought that we as black people would be able to compete, but I’ve done that,” Ntini said.

As historians Bruce Murray and Christopher Merrett have pointed out, cricket in South Africa “is the one major sport that has been widely played by each of the country’s major population groups.”

Ntini was compelling evidence in favor of affirmative-action policies that were implemented on the belief that serious cricketing talent had been lost to South Africa under apartheid. He retired with 390 victims in five-day tests, 11th on the all-time list, and another 266 in one-day internationals.

Ntini, born in 1977, spent his youth under apartheid, herding cows in the Eastern Cape village of Mdingi. He has said that he intends to call his memoirs “Ubulongwe,” which translates as cow patty from his native language.

Spotted as a 14-year-old bowling in torn shoes, he was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious, sport-focused Dale College in nearby King William’s Town, making him one of its first black pupils. Graduating to major-league standard cricket, he was fast-tracked into the South Africa team, making his debut at age 20.

Like many young players chosen on potential, he was a slow starter. His career was nearly derailed for good when he was convicted of rape in 1999, but the charge was dismissed on appeal.

He endured, and ultimately conquered, as one of the outstanding players of the new century. His 380 test wickets between 2000 and 2009 place him second only to Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan as the decade’s top wicket-taker.

He formed a superb partnership of contrasts with his fellow paceman, Shaun Pollock, the only man to have taken more wickets for South Africa. While Pollock probed and pressurized with his formidable control, Ntini prospered through pace — although he was never ultra-quick — and aggression, conceding more runs, but taking wickets more rapidly.

At his peak, between 2005 and 2007, he was the best fast bowler in the world. It was this three-year period that saw him take five wickets in an innings 11 times and 10 in a match — a particularly impressive feat for a fast bowler because of the endurance it requires — three times.

It saw such feats as his 13 wickets for 132, the best test figures ever by a South Africa, against West Indies at Port-of-Spain and dismissing Australia’s intimidatingly powerful Matthew Hayden in all six innings of a three-test series.

He was rated South Africa’s most popular sportsman, ahead of famed soccer players and a World Cup-winning rugby squad, in 2005 and 2007.

“When my body can take no more and my arms are broken, then I’ll go,” he said in the video that introduced his retirement statement.

It did not quite come to that, but he was clearly in decline by the time England visited South Africa last year. He was dropped after the second test, his test career ending on Dec. 30, 2009.

He will not disappear, though. There will be one more ceremonial international appearance, with South Africa’s selectors under orders to choose him for the Twenty20 match against India at Durban on Jan. 9. He also plans to continue playing professionally in South Africa for the Warriors.

And the energy, endurance, ebullience and optimism that have fueled a hugely successful international career will go into giving others the opportunity he has had. Openly worried that, as he puts it, young players from his home district often “disappear after six months,” Ntini is planning his own cricket academy in Mdantsane at a cost of about 15 million rand, or about $2.18 million.

Record rally for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka staged an extraordinary comeback Wednesday, breaking the oldest record in one-day international cricket to beat Australia by one wicket in Melbourne. Chasing 240, Sri Lanka looked doomed at 107 for 8 when specialist bowler Lasith Malinga joined Angelo Mathews. They added 132, beating the all-time ninth wicket record set in 1983 before Malinga (54) was run out with the scores even. Muttiah Muralitharan struck the winning runs for Sri Lanka.

*Posted in NY Times

Awareness Rises, but Women Still Lag in Pay

Published: March 8, 2010By NICOLA CLARK

PARIS — Companies in the United States, Spain, Canada and Finland lead the world in employing the largest numbers of women from entry level to senior management, according to a report published Monday by the World Economic Forum. Yet the report also found that, despite increasing awareness of gender disparities in the workplace, women at many of the world’s top companies continued to lag behind their male peers in many areas, including pay and opportunities for professional advancement.

Moreover, many of these companies have yet to implement policies to address these gaps, despite pressure from many of their governments to do so.

The forum, based in Switzerland, surveyed 600 heads of human resources offices at the largest employers in 20 countries representing 16 different industries.

The poll assessed companies according to a range of criteria, including rates of female representation, whether the companies measured or set targets for gender balance in pay or promotion, and whether they offered benefits, like paid family leave, to promote work-life balance for their employees.

The findings, which were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, follow the announcement Friday by the European Union of an initiative aimed at significantly narrowing the union’s average 18 percent gender wage gap, which has changed little in the past 15 years.

A study by the 27-member union last year estimated that closing the wage gap could lead to a potential increase of 15 percent to 45 percent in gross domestic product.

A 2009 report by the International Labor Organization found an average 20 percent difference in pay for men and women employed full time in the Group of 20 largest developed and developing economies. Yet the World Economic Forum’s report found that 72 percent of the companies in its survey had no systems to track salary differences by gender.

In addition, 60 percent of the companies said they had no affirmative action policies to promote women within their hierarchies and did not measure women’s participation in their work forces.

Companies in India had the lowest percentage of female employees, 23 percent, just below Japan, with 24 percent, the forum’s report found.

Turkey, Austria and Italy rounded out the bottom five, with women representing just 26 percent, 29 percent and 30 percent of their staffs, respectively.

As its focus was on companies, the forum’s survey did not assess the status of women working in the public sector or in education, areas where female representation is traditionally high and where policies to promote gender balance are often institutionalized by law.

Women remained in the minority of senior corporate managers, representing just 5 percent of the chief executives of the 600 companies surveyed. Finnish companies in the sample had the largest proportion of female chief executives, with 13 percent, followed closely by Norway and Turkey with 12 percent and Italy and Brazil with 11 percent.

The high percentage of female chief executives at Turkish companies, despite having relatively low levels of female employment, was due to the fact that many of the biggest companies were controlled by families where women were at the helm, said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the report and head of the forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program. In Italy, which reported similarly large numbers of women at the top, the companies surveyed were mainly large, multinational corporations.

In both countries, Ms. Zahidi said, “there is a real dearth of women elsewhere in the corporate hierarchy.”

The forum’s findings also follow a global study of 4,500 business school graduates published last month by Catalyst, a U.S.-based organization that advocates for women in the workplace.

The Catalyst study found that, even in this high-potential group, women consistently lagged behind men in advancement and compensation from their very first professional job. The differences held even in comparing men and women of equal levels of work experience and professional aspiration and in discounting for whether or not they had children.

Herminia Ibarra, a professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Insead, an international business school, and a co-author of the forum’s report, said of the findings, “Study after study shows that, in most countries and industries, women enter the workplace pipeline in representative numbers. Then, something fails to happen.”

Posted in NY Times

Women and Democracy in India

December 21, 2009, 6:11 amBy NANCY FOLBRE

Democracy is, everywhere, a work in progress.

Like many other countries, India has imposed electoral quotas to improve the political empowerment of women and racial-ethnic minorities – that is, it has a political system that requires women to be elected to certain leadership positions.

These rules represent a form of affirmative action, but they also resemble a feature of our own Constitution that reserves space in the Senate for two representatives from each state, violating the principle of one-person, one-vote in order to ensure equitable group representation.

Political scientists and economists have eagerly analyzed the Indian case, and I learned more about their findings regarding women’s participation at a conference I attended last week on “The Challenge of Gendering Economics” organized by Professor Bina Agarwal, director of the Institute of Economic Growth at the University of Delhi.

Over the past 15 years, India has extended a series of measures designed to ensure democratic decision-making on the local level through the election of village or town councils (panchayats) and council heads (sarpanchs).

While far less influential than state-level governments or the national parliament, these village councils exercise control over local decisions regarding utilities such as water and roads. They also administer the relatively new job creation program, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, that ensures that every Indian household can obtain 100 days of employment per year for one of its members at the minimum wage.

The specific rules governing “reservation” of positions for women have been adopted at different dates and implemented in slightly different ways across states. In general, about one-third of village council seats are reserved for women, and, every third election, all candidates for head of council must be women.

As a result, at any point in time, about one-third of council heads are women. This random variation provides a unique opportunity to compare results across local councils with and without gender reservations in a given year.

Gender inequality in many Indian states is enforced by a set of especially strong norms against women’s participation in public life. One might worry, therefore, that powerful men exploit the reservation rules to their own ends, giving women only token power.

One detailed qualitative and quantitative study of South India finds some evidence to this effect. For instance, in one public meeting, a man was exhorted to make the council leader — his wife — behave.

But most elected women don’t seem to be tokens. They tend to be better educated and more knowledgeable than the average woman in their districts. Measures of the efficacy of council efforts suggest that women leaders seldom perform worse than men, and sometimes perform better.

Do village councils with women leaders implement different policies than those with men?

One study suggests they do, responding more to the preferences of women constituents, who, it seems, prefer public investments in water supply (for which they are largely responsible in their households) to those in roads (which they are less likely than men to use).

But other studies challenge this result, questioning the extent to which leaders can influence council outcomes and offering evidence that women leaders respond to the expressed needs of all their constituents.

How does reservation affect women’s probability of success in a subsequent election when no restriction is in force?

Here, the evidence from a study of councils in urban Mumbai points to a positive effect. Women who have gained political office are more likely to run and to win in elections where there are no quotas.

Both men and women report a higher assessment of women’s performance as leaders once they have experienced it. A study of the state of West Bengal suggests that bias against women leaders remains, but is less likely to be based on the assumption they will prove incompetent.

Backlash against restriction is softened by the practice of imposing it only every third election.

In the long run, women might move up through village council leadership to run for state or national office, where no gender quotas are in effect.

In the Indian context, this local council gender reservation system makes sense. I’m not sure I would agree with one conference attendee who termed it “tremendously magnificent.”

But it provides heartening evidence of the ways institutional design can foster the slow progress of small things.

*Posted in NY Times

Business Class Rises in Ashes of Caste System

By LYDIA POLGREENPublished: September 10, 2010

CHENNAI, India — Chezi K. Ganesan looks every inch the high-tech entrepreneur, dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of denim shirt and khaki trousers, slick smartphone close at hand. He splits his time between San Jose and this booming coastal metropolis, running his $6 million a year computer chip-making company.

His family has come a long way. His grandfather was not allowed to enter Hindu temples, or even to stand too close to upper-caste people, and women of his Nadar caste, who stood one notch above untouchables in India’s ancient caste hierarchy, were once forced to bare their breasts before upper caste men as a reminder of their low station.

“Caste has no impact on life today,” Mr. Ganesan said in an interview at one of Chennai’s exclusive social clubs, the kind of place where a generation ago someone of his caste would not have been welcome. “It is no longer a barrier.”

The Nadars’ spectacular rise from despised manual laborers who made a mildly alcoholic palm wine to business leaders in one of India’s most prosperous states offers significant clues to India’s caste conundrum and how it has impeded economic progress in many parts of the country.

India is enjoying an extended economic boom, with near double-digit growth. But the benefits have not been equally shared, and southern India has rocketed far ahead of much of the rest of the country on virtually every score — people here earn more money, are better educated, live longer lives and have fewer children.

A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

India’s Constitution abolished discrimination on the basis of caste, the social hierarchy that has ordered Indian life for millenniums, and instituted a system of quotas to help those at the bottom rise up. But caste divisions persist nonetheless, with upper castes dominating many spheres of life despite their relatively small numbers.

While in the south lower caste members concentrated on economic development and education as a route to prosperity, in the north the chief aim of caste-based groups has been political power and its spoils. As a result India’s northern lower castes tend to be less educated and less prosperous than their southern counterparts. Charismatic leaders in the north from lower castes have used caste identity as a way to mobilize voters, winning control over several large north Indian states. Caste so thoroughly permeates politics in the northern half of the world’s largest democracy that it is often said that people don’t cast their vote; they vote their caste.

Caste is so crucial to northern politics that caste-based parties have demanded that caste be included in India’s census, and the government, bowing to pressure, agreed to collect data on caste for the first time since independence. They hope that by showing their large numbers, caste-based parties can force government to set aside more jobs for their communities.

Tamil Nadu’s Nadars belong to a community in the middle of India’s caste system, occupying a place barely above the untouchables, now called Dalits. Academics and analysts have closely watched the rise of the Nadar caste for clues about the role caste barriers play in holding back India’s economic progress.

Unlike northern India, where caste-based political movements are a fairly recent phenomenon, lower castes in southern India began agitating against upper-caste domination at the beginning of the 20th century. Because these movements arose before independence and the possibility of elected political power, they focused on issues like dignity, education, and self-reliance, Mr. Varshney said.

Nadars created business associations to provide entrepreneurs with credit they could not get from banks. They started charities to pay for education for poor children. They built their own temples and marriage halls to avoid upper caste discrimination.

“Our community focused on education, not politics,” said R. Chandramogan, a Nadar entrepreneur who built India’s largest privately owned dairy company from scratch. “We knew that with education, we could accomplish anything.”

As a result, when independence came the southern lower castes, who had already broken the upper caste monopoly on economic power, enjoyed political power almost right from the start. Tamil Nadu set aside 69 percent of government jobs and seats in higher education for downtrodden castes, which helped rapidly move lower caste people into the mainstream. The north put in place affirmative action policies, but because education was widely embraced, southern people from lower castes were better able to take advantage of these opportunities than northerners.

When India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, the south was far more prepared to take advantage of globalization, said Samuel Paul of the Public Affairs Center, a research institution that has looked closely at the growing divide between north and south India. “The south was ready,” Mr. Paul said.

Nadar businessmen like C. Manickavel have skillfully ridden the waves of prosperity that have crashed over India since liberalization, making small fortunes. Mr. Manickavel’s father had started a small printing business in Chennai, which at its peak made $40,000 a year. But he sent his son to one of the best engineering schools in India, and Mr. Manickavel has turned that modest business into a $1 million-a-year operation that designs e-books for big American publishers.

“We are supposed to be a backward community but we don’t think of ourselves that way,” he said in an interview in his state-of-the-art paperless e-publishing facility here. “I make sure my daughter studies at the best school in Chennai. We are as good as anybody else.”

It remains to be seen if the political agitation around caste in northern India will produce prosperity for lower caste people there, experts say. In India’s liberalizing economy these communities must prepare themselves to compete, not simply demand a bigger slice of the shrinking government cake, said Rajeev Ranjan, the chief bureaucrat in charge of industrial development in Tamil Nadu.

He is originally from Bihar, a northern state thoroughly in the grip of caste politics, but he has been stationed in the south for 25 years. He said northern states must heed the southern example. “Without that kind of social change it is very hard to do economic development,” he said. “One depends on the other.”

*Posted in NY Times

Risk and Opportunity for Women in 21st Century

By KATRIN BENNHOLDPublished: March 5, 2010

PARIS — Daniel Louvard does not believe in affirmative action. Time and again, the scientists in his Left Bank cancer laboratory have urged him to recruit with gender diversity in mind. But Mr. Louvard, research director at the Institut Curie and one of France’s top biochemists, just keeps hiring more women.

“I take the best candidates, period,” Mr. Louvard said. There are 21 women and 4 men on his team.

The quiet revolution that has seen women across the developed world catch up with men in the work force and in education has also touched science, that most stubbornly male bastion.

Last year, three women received Nobel prizes in the sciences, a record for any year. Women now earn 42 percent of the science degrees in the 30 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; in the life sciences, such as biology and medicine, more than 6 out of 10 graduates are women.

Younger women, too, are sticking more with science after graduating: In the European Union, the number of women researchers is growing at a rate nearly twice that of their male counterparts, giving rise to what some have dubbed a fledgling “old girls network.”

Even Barbie, the iconic doll who in 1992 was infamously made to say, “Math class is tough,” has had a makeover as a computer engineer for her 2010 edition, complete with pink glasses and pink laptop.

But if progress has been dramatic since the two-time Nobel physicist Marie Curie was barred from France’s science academy a century ago, it has been slower than in other parts of society — and much less uniform.

In computer science, for example, the percentage of female graduates from American universities peaked in the mid-1980s at more than 40 percent and has since dropped to half that, said Sue Rosser, a scholar who has written extensively on women in science. In electrical and mechanical engineering, enrollment percentages remain in the single digits. The number of women who are full science professors at elite universities in the United States has been stuck at 10 percent for the past half century. Throughout the world, only a handful of women preside over a national science academy. Women have been awarded only 16 of the 540 Nobels in science.

The tug-of-war between encouraging numbers and depressing details is in many ways the story of the advancement of women overall. Women get more degrees and score higher grades than men in industrialized countries. But they are still paid less and are more likely to work part time. Only 18 percent of tenured professors in the 27 countries of the European Union are women.

And the big money in science these days is in computers and engineering — the two fields with the fewest women.

In the 21st century, perhaps more than ever before, there will be a premium on scientific and technological knowledge. Science, in effect, will be the last frontier for the women’s movement. With humanity poised to tackle pressing challenges — from climate change to complex illness to the fallout from the digital revolution — shortages of people with the right skill sets loom in many countries.

Therein lie both opportunity and risk for women: In the years to come, the people who master the sciences will change the world — and most likely command the big paychecks.

“Women need science and science needs women,” said Béatrice Dautresme, chief executive of L’Oréal Foundation and architect of the L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science awards, honoring five scientists each year from across the world. “If women can make it in science, they can make it anywhere.”

Many obstacles women face in general are starkly crystallized in scientific and technological professions. Balancing a career with family is particularly tricky when the tenure clock competes with the biological clock or an engineering post requires long stints on an offshore oil rig.

For couples, coordinating two careers is especially tough when both are in science. And 83 percent of women scientists in the United States have scientist partners, compared to 54 percent of male scientists.

Battling subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices is that much harder when they are transmitted by educators, from preschool teachers to Lawrence H. Summers, the former president of Harvard University. Ms. Rosser was one of the speakers at a conference in January 2005, where Mr. Summers said that differences in “intrinsic aptitude” between men and women were more important than cultural factors and discrimination in explaining why fewer women succeeded in the sciences.

At least one woman in the audience left in protest, Ms. Rosser recalled. Others, like herself, challenged Mr. Summers after his comments.

The notion that intellectual ability in men has a greater variability — that the most brilliant and the most deficient brains are found in men — first arose in 1894 to explain why there were more men in mental hospitals and fewer women geniuses. It has been discredited by empirical studies, most recently in June, by Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz of the University of Wisconsin, who showed that in some countries there is no difference between men and women at the highest level. Where a difference remains, it is shrinking and correlated with gender inequality, suggesting that cultural, rather than intrinsic, factors are at play.

But stereotypes run deep. At a presentation to high school girls a few years ago, Gigliola Staffilani, a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was asked whether for a woman being smart “makes it hard to date.” Mathematics departments in several universities lament a drop in the number of female applicants. At M.I.T., for example, the share of women applicants to the mathematics graduate program has declined to 13 percent this year from about 17 percent in previous years, Ms. Staffilani said. (But the quality of their applications was so strong, she added, that they will make up 22 percent of the student intake.)

The lack of women role models worries her. It reinforces a view that for girls, well, math class is tough.

Often, conditioning starts early. Blanca Treviño, a Mexican computer scientist and chief executive officer of Softtek, the largest private information-technology service provider in Latin America, recalls that the kindergarten teacher would call her to complain about her daughter, who was playing with a calculator instead of with dolls.

“The lady told me that my daughter was making up stories, saying that her mother had an office and an assistant,” Ms. Treviño said. “The idea that this could be true did not occur to her.”

In India, women scientists have complained that even in science textbooks women are depicted in traditional roles. And in the United States, some psychologists say that the surge in computer games marketed to boys is one explanation for the widening gap in computer sciences since the 1980s.

“There should be a concerted effort to undo these continuing stereotyped expectations,” said Lotte Bailyn, a professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, who studied the phenomenon. “We need more TV shows with women forensic and other scientists. We need female doctor and scientist dolls.”

History shows that good science alone rarely has helped women get the credit they deserved.

Take Lise Meitner, an Austrian-born physicist who was instrumental in discovering nuclear fission with Otto Hahn but who did not share his 1944 Nobel Prize for it. Or Hedy Lamarr, another Austrian, who is remembered for the nude scenes in the notorious 1933 feature film “Ecstasy” and her Hollywood career rather than for developing a technology, with George Antheil, that became the basis for mobile telephony.

It was not until 1967 that the street outside Mr. Louvard’s office window in the Latin Quarter, named Rue Pierre Curie after Marie Curie’s physicist husband, was renamed Rue Pierre et Marie Curie. And it was not until 1995 that Marie Curie’s body was moved to the Panthéon, the monument to the French Republic’s greatest minds. The inscription above the entrance still reads: “To the Great Men.”

It is a detail, but details matter. In dozens of conversations with women scientists and technology executives from the United States, Europe and Asia, a pattern emerged: Many attended single-sex schools and a significant number had scientist parents.

Although somewhat shielded from stereotyping, they still had to balance work and private life. Many do not have children (or have only one), and they are still more likely than the average educated woman to be single or divorced, Ms. Bailyn said.

In the Philippines, Lourdes Cruz, a biochemist and L’Oréal-Unesco laureate for the Asia-Pacific region this year, is a case in point. Educated in a girls’ school and encouraged by a chemist father, she had a successful research career between the University of Utah and the Marine Science Institute in Quezon City. There was never time for marriage, let alone children, she said.

“I spent a lot of time in the laboratory and that was my priority,” said Ms. Cruz, who studies the medical applications of a nerve poison in cone snails.

She often slept on a foam mattress in her office and set her timer to take night-time measurements during long-running experiments.

Women who managed to combine a career in science with family almost invariably say they got lucky in some way. Elizabeth Blackburn, 61, an Australian molecular biologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine last year with Carol Greider, found out in the same week — when she was 37 — that she was pregnant with her son and that she had been offered tenure at the University of California at Berkeley.

Ms. Staffilani, 44, was offered tenure early, at 34, an age when many scientists in American academia have barely embarked on assistant professorships that give them about six years to strive for a permanent post. She was 36 when she had twins. By having two children at once, she had to spend only half the time away from teaching and publishing.

Edith Heard, 44, a British geneticist who runs the developmental biology and genetics department at the Institut Curie, said her good fortune had been moving to Paris with her French partner early on in her career.

“It was a turning point,” said Ms. Heard, a mother of two. “I couldn’t have done it in the U.K. and I couldn’t have done it in the U.S.”

Several of the women with whom she went to university in Britain abandoned scientific careers when they had children, she said.

Ms. Heard benefited from a permanent contract with the French government when she was 28, allowing her to undertake risky experiments often not funded by short-term contracts more common elsewhere. She took 10 weeks’ maternity leave after the birth of each child and relied on France’s state-subsidized child-care system. Perhaps most important, her husband, also a geneticist, shares family duties.

In this, too, Pierre and Marie Curie were trailblazers. If she is still an inspiration for women scientists, it is not only because she received two Nobel prizes, one in physics and one in chemistry. She also had a longtime marriage and two successful daughters.

Pierre, with whom she discovered radioactivity, refused to accept the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics that was offered to him and Henri Becquerel unless his wife shared it.

Their daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won her own Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with her husband, Frédéric Joliot, in 1935. The other daughter, Eve, made the cover of Paris Match, became one of the first women war reporters in World War II and wrote her mother’s biography.Ms. Blackburn read that biography when she was in her teens. “I was impressed by her ability to find great satisfaction in doing science, the message that passionate involvement in science was something an admirable person could do, and her family life as described by her daughter,” she recalled.

Helpful husbands are becoming less rare. Mr. Louvard, whose wife also has a doctorate but gave up her science career to care for their three children, noted: “I see scientists turn up at conferences with their husbands and children now. That was unthinkable until pretty recently.”

But good will alone will not suffice. “The institutions have to change,” Ms. Blackburn said.

Ms. Rosser noted that at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she served as dean until a year ago, women had to take sick leave to give birth, like all state employees.

Both women suggested that stopping the tenure clock for periods during which scientists — women and men — care for young children or elderly parents might motivate more women to pursue a scientific career. Some private universities, like Princeton and M.I.T., already do this. Ensuring that grant money does not dry up during parental leaves and including money for child care in research grants may be another suggestion. The key to any measure, they said, is to make it the default mode rather than optional in order to avoid stigmatizing women.

Recently, two shifts have begun to focus the thinking of politicians and companies: shortages of engineers and other highly qualified labor in the West, and rising numbers of science and technology graduates in countries like China and India, just as the economic balance of power is shifting eastward.

By 2017, a shortfall of 200,000 engineers is expected in Germany, and in Britain more than half a million skilled workers will be needed to satisfy the demands of the green energy, aerospace and transport industries. The United States, meanwhile, finds itself in the bottom third of the O.E.C.D. international rankings of mathematical and scientific aptitude at high school level.

At the same time, developing countries — most notably in Asia — have increased their share of the global researcher pool, from 30 percent in 2002 to 38 percent in 2007, according to Unesco.

The Obama administration has made it a priority to get more women into science. Across the developed world, academia and industry are trying, together or individually, to lure women into technical professions with mentoring programs, science camps and child care.

“This talent pool is extremely important to us,” said Kerstin Wagner, head of talent recruiting for the German electronics giant Siemens. Despite the economic slump, Siemens is having trouble filling some 600 engineering jobs in the United States and more than 1,200 engineering jobs in Germany.

“Everything is in place for more women to succeed in science; now the different pieces just have to come together,” said Ms. Dautresme at the L’Oréal Foundation. “I believe this century will see a lot more women become leaders in science.”

*Posted on NY Times World News

Top French Schools, Asked to Diversify, Fear for Standards

France is embarking on a grand experiment — how to diversify the overwhelmingly white “grandes écoles,” the elite universities that have produced French leaders in every walk of life — and Rizane el-Yazidi is one of the pioneers.Related

France is prodding schools like Sciences Po in Paris to set a goal of increasing the percentage of scholarship students to 30 percent.

The daughter of protective North African parents in the tough northeastern suburb of Bondy, Ms. Yazidi is enrolled in a trial program aimed at helping smart children of the poor overcome the huge cultural disadvantages that have often spelled failure in the crucial school entrance exams.

“For now we’re still a small group, but when there will be more of us, it’ll become real progress,” said Ms. Yazidi, 20. But she is nervous, too. “We’re lucky, but it’s a great risk for us,” she said. “We might never make it” to a top school.

Because entrance to the best grandes écoles effectively guarantees top jobs for life, the government is prodding the schools to set a goal of increasing the percentage of scholarship students to 30 percent — more than three times the current ratio at the most selective schools. But the effort is being met with concerns from the grandes écoles, who fear it could dilute standards, and is stirring anger among the French at large, who fear it runs counter to a French ideal of a meritocracy blind to race, religion and ethnicity.

France imagines itself a country of “republican virtue,” a meritocracy run by a well-trained elite that emerges from a fiercely competitive educational system. At its apex are the grandes écoles, about 220 schools of varying specialties. And at the very top of this pyramid are a handful of famous institutions that accept a few thousand students a year among them, all of whom pass extremely competitive examinations to enter.

“In France, families celebrate acceptance at a grande école more than graduation itself,” said Richard Descoings, who runs the most liberal of them, the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, known as Sciences Po. “Once you pass the exam at 18 or 19, for the rest of your life, you belong.”

The result, critics say, is a self-perpetuating elite of the wealthy and white, who provide their own children the social skills, financial support and cultural knowledge to pass the entrance exams, known as the concours, which are normally taken after an extra two years of intensive study in expensive preparatory schools after high school.

The problem is not simply the narrow base of the elite, but its self-satisfaction. “France has so many problems with innovation,” Mr. Descoings said. Those who pass the tests “are extremely smart and clever, but the question is: Are you creative? Are you willing to put yourself at risk? Lead a battle?” These are qualities rarely tested in exams.

But the schools fear that the government will undermine excellence in the name of social engineering and say the process has to begin further down the educational ladder. The state, they say, should seek out poor students with potential and help them to enter preparatory schools. Of the 2.3 million students in French higher education, about 15 percent attend grandes écoles or preparatory schools. But half of those in preparatory schools will fall short and go to standard universities.

In 2001, Mr. Descoings, 52, who cheerfully admits that he failed the concours twice before passing, began his own outreach program to better prepare less-advantaged students for Sciences Po. Last year, the school accepted 126 scholarship students out of a class of 1,300, and two-thirds of them have at least one non-French parent, he said. But that is a far cry from 30 percent.

One of them, Houria Khemiss, 22, is about to graduate from Sciences Po in law. The daughter of Algerian parents growing up in impoverished St.-Denis in the Paris suburbs, she was pushed by a high school teacher to the special preparatory program. She wants to become a judge, “because then you have a direct impact on people’s lives.” Many at Sciences Po will become the leaders of France, she said, “and because we are there it gives them another point of view.”

Oualid Fakkir, 23, who is graduating with a master’s in finance, said, “It’s very dangerous for France to close its eyes and say, ‘Equality. We have the best values in the world.’ It’s not enough. There has to also be equality of chances.”

But other elite grandes écoles are more specialized than Sciences Po, concentrating on engineering, business management, public administration and science, and they are more concerned about the government’s program.

Last year, Sciences Po accepted 126 scholarship students in a class of 1,300. Two-thirds have at least one non-French parent. Related

Pierre Tapie, 52, is the head of the business school ESSEC and chairman of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, which represents 222 schools.

While he shares the government’s objective of diversity, he said, there is a long educational track before the concours. “We cannot be the scapegoat of any demagogic decision because we are the finest and most famous part of the whole system,” he said. Gen. Xavier Michel, 56, runs École Polytechnique, one of the world’s finest engineering schools and still overseen by the Ministry of Defense. Known as X, the school is extraordinarily competitive, and its students do basic training and parade wearing the bicorne, a cocked hat dating from Napoleon, who put the school under the military in 1804.

“The fundamental principle for us is that students have the capability to do the work here, which is very difficult,” with a lot of math, physics and science, very little of it based on cultural knowledge, General Michel said. Even now, he said, the school takes only 500 students a year, barely 10 percent of its specially educated applicants. “We don’t want to bring students into school who risk failing,” he said. “You can get lost very quickly.”

Despite the misgivings, in February the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, under considerable pressure, signed on to a “Charter of Equal Opportunity” with the government committing the schools to try to reach the 30 percent goal before 2012 or risk losing some financing.

But how to get there remains a point of contention. There is a serious question about how to measure diversity in a country where every citizen is presumed equal and there are no official statistics based on race, religion or ethnicity. A goal cannot be called a “quota,” which has an odor of the United States and affirmative action. Instead, there is the presumption here that poorer citizens will be more diverse, containing a much larger percentage of Muslims, blacks and second-generation immigrants.

The minister of higher education, Valérie Pécresse, argued that French who grow up in a poor neighborhood have the same difficulties regardless of ethnicity.

But the government is examining whether the current test depends too much on familiarity with French history and culture. “We’re thinking about the socially discriminatory character, or not, of these tests,” Ms. Pécresse said. “I want the same concours for everyone, but I don’t exclude that the tests of the concours evolve, with the objective of a great social opening and a better measure of young people’s intelligence.”

The government, with Mr. Tapie’s group, has moved to unify and expand scattered outreach programs from different schools. Copied to some degree from Sciences Po, the program Ms. Yazidi attends tries to reach out to smart children, give them higher goals and help them get into preparatory schools. About 7,000 high school students are currently enrolled, but it is too early to tell whether it will produce a large number of successful applicants.

At one recent session, 10 students, all children of immigrants, were working to pass a special concours for a top business school instead of going right into the job market. Their teacher, Philippe Destelle, pushed them to “look more self-confident” in oral exams and “don’t be afraid to have an opinion.” He told one, “You have the answers, but you don’t trust yourself.”

Salloumou Keita, 22, is vocal and social, but worryingly behind on his math. “We have to prove something,” he said. “There is a look we always get, a questioning — ‘Can he adapt?’ ”

Awa Dramé, is 22, French-born of African parents, confident and talkative. “I don’t mind being a guinea pig, so long as the experiment works,” she said. “Reaching this level was unthinkable before, and I can see myself going higher,” she said. “I’m full of dreams.”

*Found in NY Times World news

Politics Have Always Mattered

Paul Butler is associate dean and the Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University. He is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”

For people who believe that the law is "frozen politics," this is a teachable moment. The justices' politics seem more exposed now than usual, but it was always ever so.

We have a Supreme Court with five justices nominated by Republicans and four justices by Democrats, and it’s a safe bet that they will usually vote along party lines. President Obama took a swipe at the conservatives on the court, no doubt expecting them to sit back and take it with their usual poker faces. But two got right back at him: one shaking his head and muttering to himself, and the other complaining that Obama made the poor justices feel uncomfortable.

And now, Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, has made the news by taking time off from making friends with the Tea Party to call up Anita Hill, who referred the phone message to the police. If this is a reality show, I can’t wait for the next episode.

The Supreme Court looks political because it is political. Sometimes. Many of the cases the court decides are easy, which is why about half of its decisions last term were unanimous. But for difficult cases, of course politics matters.

Most people realize this in obvious cases, like Bush v. Gore, where the conservative justices awarded the presidential election to the conservative candidate.

But otherwise, we pretend the Supreme Court is "objective" because we’d like to believe that there are right and wrong answers to our most pressing social issues. It's an illusion that the answers for questions like whether we can be safe from terrorists and still preserve civil liberties, whether states can bar gay people from getting married, whether affirmative action is discrimination, whether abortion is a woman’s right are all written down in the Constitution, and we just need some really smart people to read it carefully and tell us what it says.

Judicial decisions are called "opinions" for a reason. They are inevitably informed by the justices’ life experiences, their morals, and, yes, their politics. Now, with some of the justices letting it all hang out -- in their own judicial way -- the politics seem more exposed than usual, but it was always ever so.

*found in NY Times Opinion section

Does Race (Still Matter)

The U.S. and Brazil appear to be approaching a temporal crossroad on race and affirmative action. While the myth of racial democracy has loosened its grip in Brazil and opened up unprecedented opportunities for Afro-Brazilians, post-racialism is becoming a powerful force in the US, undermining the future of social inclusion programs. What can advocates for racial equality in the two countries learn from each other? How can transnational cooperation between governments and civil society advance racial justice in the two Americas? Come hear leading voices in the Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (“JAPER”) in the US and Brazil.

A panel discussion with:

Daniel Teixeria Staff Lawyer and Projects Coordinator at the Research Center on Labor Relations and Inequality; former Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Demystifying Racial Democracy in Brazil”

Maria Aparecida Silva Bento Executive Director of the Research Center on Labor Relations and Inequality; Associate Researcher at the University of Sao Paulo; “Quantifying Employment Discrimination in Brazilian Banks”

Clarence Lusane Professor of Political Science in the School of International Service at American University; Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Afro-Brazilians and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Equality”

Kimberlé Crenshaw Professor of Law at Columbia & UCLA Law School; former Fulbright Chair for Latin America; Co-Chair for the Civil Society (JAPER) “Framing Joint Action in the Matrix of Colorblindness and Racial Democracy”

Monday, September 27th, 2010 ∙ 6pm Columbia Law School ∙ Greene Hall, Room 103 Reception to Follow: Columbia Law School ∙ Case Lounge ∙ 7:30pm