On Monday, June 8, both Sir Tim Hunt (recipient of a Nobel Prize in Biology) and I (winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting) were invited to give opening lectures at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea. We were also both invited to a lunch that day hosted by the Korean Federation of Women's Science and Technology Associations and asked to each make a brief statement. I talked about the importance and value of women in science. And Sir Tim also said something like that but then went onto say "But maybe I should tell you about my trouble with girls." These included the fact that 1) women scientists fall love with male scientists 2) vice versa 3) women cried when criticized and this combination of problems lead to the conclusion that (4 ) perhaps we would all be better off with male-female segregated laboratories.
As you know, these statements went viral (starting with a descriptive tweet from Connie St. Louis) and he has since stepped down from an honorary professorship at University College in London and from the advisory board of the European Research Council which had sponsored him to the meeting. He's also responded by claiming that he's been persecuted for remarks that he made in a light-hearted way. In other words, he's been turning the issue from the main point - the status of women in science - to a focus on sympathy for himself.
So today I decided to address that.
And here are a few responses to that series. (Apologies for the numbering, btw. Jetlag does not improve my ability to count.
And I still think that instead of this "people are being mean to me" response, he would be so much better served by a stronger apology to the Korean women scientists who invited him and the rest of the community. And an acknowledgement that the words matter. They do. Statements like this are indicators of an engrained attitude that, yes, does make it harder for women to advance in the world of science.