Tim Hunt – ScienceGrrl responds

Sir Tim Hunt (photo by Masur, Wikimedia Commons)

Sir Tim Hunt (photo by Masur, Wikimedia Commons)

For the last week, discussions around women in science in the UK have largely centred on remarks made on Monday 8th June by Sir Tim Hunt, at the World Conference of Science Journalism, as part of a speech he gave during a lunch sponsored by female Korean scientists and engineers: “Let me tell you my trouble with girls: 3 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”

Sir Tim, a Nobel Laureate and Fellow of the Royal Society, then went on to recommend single-sex laboratories as a solution to these problems.

Here at ScienceGrrl we were dismayed that an eminent and influential scientist would make such comments (however they were intended), and particularly in front of an audience that would ensure they received international attention.

Our Directors responded to Sir Tim’s remarks with a brief riposte to end an article in theYorkshire Post (by Dr Heather Williams) and a more in-depth reflection for BBC News magazine (by Dr Anna Zecharia) on Thursday 11th June.

At ScienceGrrl we feel it is vital to frame gender inequality in science and engineering within a social context, and tackle it as such. As we reported last year, many young women still feel science is not for people like them.

When such remarks are left unchallenged, it only perpetuates a cultural legacy that we are all working hard to change.

We hope that if there is a silver lining to this debacle, it is that more considered attention is focused on addressing these deeper inequalities.


To set these responses in context, we’ve listed the major developments in this story below. The links are in chronological order.

Nobel scientist Tim Hunt: female scientists cause trouble for men in labs – Guardian, Wednesday 10th June

Sir Tim Hunt FRS and UCL – UCL press release regarding resignation, Wednesday 10th June

Female scientists post ‘distractingly sexy’ photos – BBC, Thursday 11th June

Sir Tim Hunt resigns from Royal Society awards committee – Royal Society press release, Thursday 11th June

The unseen women scientists behind Tim Hunt’s Nobel prize – Guardian, Friday 12th June

Shamed Nobel laureate Tim Hunt ‘ruined by rush to judgment after stupid remarks’ – Guardian, Sunday 14th June

Tim Hunt: ‘I’ve been hung out to dry. They haven’t even bothered to ask for my side of affairs’ – Observer, Sunday 14th June

Sexist Scientist: I Was Being Honest – account of original events from journalist present, Daily Beast, Tuesday 16th June