During Harvard president Larry Summers's now infamous talk, he sparked a firestorm by arguing that biology might be a factor in holding women back in their science and engineering careers. But he also offered a subtler argument: that if many universities were really discriminating against women, some other savvy school would be scooping up those promising female scientists. In the Q&A session that followed, one participant challenged him: "The chemistry department at Rutgers is doing that."

According to the American Chemical Society, 11 of the top 50 universities have no women among their full professors of chemistry, but at Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, six of 30 are female. Overall, 25 percent of Rutgers's chemistry faculty are women, making it tops in the nation; the average university has 12 percent women chemists. Rutgers department chair Roger Jones admits that he urges women who are unhappy elsewhere to send him a resume. His key recruiting pitch isn't about day-care facilities or a relaxed timetable for tenure, it's about the camaraderie that comes with having female peers. "Who wants to be the 'token' woman when you can join a department with numerous women at all ranks?" he asks.

Prof. Kathryn Uhrich, who spurned Ivy League offers for Rutgers, says that every other chem department at which she interviewed had a "binary number" (that's 0 or 1) of female professors. At Rutgers, she says, female scientists know "they're going to be recognized for their science, not anything else."