Tim Hunt, a biochemist from University College London, recently resigned following controversial statements he made at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. Hunt was quoted as saying “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 criticize them they cry.”
After a backlash in the Science community, Hunt offered the following apology: “I’m really sorry I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists… What was intended is a light-hearted ironic comment. Apparently it was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience… I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing but getting at the truth.”
Unfortunately for Hunt, this apology was not enough and he resigned days later. A recent article in The Atlantic highlights why Hunt’s statement is so problematic. Most notably, he perpetuates unfair stereotypes about women in STEM fields that have persisted for decades. As the article notes, women are continually paid less for the same jobs as men in Science fields. Additionally, women face an exorbitant amount of sexual harassment in their fields, as well. Thus, Hunt’s statements gesture toward wider biases and systemic issues that need to be solved if women are to close this gap. It is up to education to help further the publicity of this issue and allow for women to advance properly in STEM field on the whole.