In Response to: Limits, still

The dissatisfaction that led to the report on undergraduate women’s leadership probably is best characterized not as a “quest for equality” in the sense of equal treatment, nondiscrimination, etc., but a problem concerning “leadership.” If we consider the nature, attributes, characteristics, qualifications, and virtues that constitute leadership, it may be that leadership is something that resists being “equalized.” You might say leadership is for the few, not for the many, by definition. Is there any reason to think that men or women are by nature or conditioning better suited to this? Probably not, but the question is controversial.

The report refers to “gender balance” and “gender imbalance”; it also refers to differences between women and men. Gender balance means something different from differences between men and women. Societal norms are elusive and controversial. Tensions arise within the report from the use of disparate analytic concepts.

The report also states: “The degree to which the institutional culture discourages women’s leadership stands in peculiar tension with the current reality of significant women's leadership in the senior administration.” The PAW summary adds: “One alumna told committee members that while female students admire senior University leaders who are women, they become ‘The Man’ and are not seen as women, only as leaders.” Is that a problem to be regretted, or a perception to be validated and appreciated?

If the main thing in making Princeton coeducational was to expand the talent-and-resources pool in the pursuit of excellence, then today’s women leaders in senior administration are doing what they should be doing, and in the process changing the institutional culture consistent with the nature of leadership authority and the pursuit of excellence in the University.

Herman Belz ’59