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Photo via Wikipedia/Tim Hunt
Photo via Wikipedia/Tim Hunt

Whoa, you read something like this and think, “Is this guy for real?”

According to the Guardian, Nobel Prize-winning English biochemist Tim Hunt made some incredibly sexist remarks when it comes to women and science — and in front of a bunch of women science journalists and scientists!

At the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea, he said, as the Guardian reports: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

“Hunt said he was in favour of single-sex labs, adding that he didn’t want to ‘stand in the way of women.’ ”

Hunt was quickly outed for his boneheaded remarks by Connie St. Louis, who directs the science journalism program at City University in London, with this tweet:

Hunt, who is also a knight by the way, won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for work on protein molecules and cell division in 2001.

So far, the Royal Society, of which Hunt is a part of, issued a statement about how “science needs women” distancing themselves from his comments.

Hunt was later interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Today show, where his follow-up comments just made things arguably worse. Per the BBC:

“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It is true that people — I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.

“I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.

“I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence, that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.”

I am still grappling with the fact that he calls fellow female scientists “girls.”

Here’s a not-so-funny stat from the National Girls Collaborative Project: “While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences (18.2%), engineering (19.2%), physics (19.1%), and mathematics and statistics (43.1%) (NSF, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2015).”

Various orgs have different stats, but the overall message is essentially the same: There are not nearly enough women in STEM-related fields. Comments and attitudes like this are a barrier to welcoming them. And while Seattle ranks in the the top five cities for recent STEM grads, collectively in the science fields, we have a long way to go.

Update: Hunt has since resigned from University College London.

In the statement, the university wrote: “UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality.”

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