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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Distractingly Sexy

Published June 15, 2015 4:10 PM by Michael Jones

After winning the Nobel Prize1 in 2001 for his research in cell division, Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt recently made headlines for his attempt to prove the existence of foot-in-mouth disease while speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ). According to an article2 from the Guardian, Hunt’s “single-sex lab” comments were delivered while “addressing a convention of senior female scientists and science journalists.” The effects of the remarks (seen below) were immediate.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” said Hunt at the WCSJ Conference. “Three things happen when they are in the lab… You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.”2

Hunt partially apologized,3 but his efforts were too little, too late -- as the comments had already gone viral. An ongoing social media campaign featuring women from many different fields in the sciences using the hashtag, “#distractinglysexy,” has become increasingly popular.4 Hunt has since resigned5 from his post at University College London (UCL) following the social media backlash.

The Guardian article2 mentioned that the statistics for women working in science, technology or engineering (STEM) are low -- just 13 percent. It also cited the gap in academia, in which 84 percent of full-time STEM professors are male. In the clinical laboratory environment, however, the ratio seems to be less severe -- albeit similarly troubling.  ADVANCE for Laboratory’s 2014 salary survey pointed to disparaging wage and career gaps when analyzed based on gender -- despite an overall female majority.

As laboratory professionals, what do you think about the perception of women in science-related careers? 

References:

1. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/oct/08/research.highereducation1

2. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/10/nobel-scientist-tim-hunt-female-scientists-cause-trouble-for-men-in-labs

3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nobel-prize-winner-tim-hunt-partlyapologises-over-sexist-comments-and-says-he-was-just-being-honest-actually-10309577.html

4. http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/jun/11/distractinglysexy-twitter-campaign-mocks-tim-hunts-sexist-comments

5. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/11/nobel-laureate-sir-tim-hunt-resigns-trouble-with-girls-comments

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