10/06/2015 13:27 BST | Updated 10/06/2015 13:59 BST

Tim Hunt's Comments On Women In Science Spark Female Scientist Fightback

Nobel prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt caused uproar when he claimed that female colleagues “fall in love” in the workplace and “cry” when criticised... and now women are setting the record straight.

The self-confessed “chauvinist pig” provoked the ire of female scientists with his comments which included: "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.”

He also attempted to apologise, but added: “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls... it’s terribly disruptive to the science”.

In a blog for HuffPost UK, Dr Ruth Massey, reader in Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, said: “I do not belittle and patronise my adult colleagues by referring to them as 'girls' or 'boys'. Perhaps this is why I have never cried, or made someone else cry at work.

Many female scientists have laid into Tim Hunt

“Sir Tim may therefore want to consider bringing less emotion and personal feelings or attacks into the work place.

She added: “We have a working environment where women earn less than men, where women are awarded proportionally fewer grants than men, where women are promoted less frequently than men and have fewer papers accepted for publication in the top ranking journals than men.

“Add to this the apparent acceptance of sexism, and it's a wonder any females stay in the field at all... and yet some of us do stay. Why? Because we are passionate scientists who will not be bullied.”

Oxford University biochemist Dr Sylvia McLain wrote a blog on the Guardian, in which she said: “So as a human being, I am not sure I particularly care what Professor Tim Hunt, FRS thinks about women. I am, however, grateful I never worked for the man as it might have been pretty weird to be a female in his lab, because apparently you would have to run around with a big stick trying to avoid Prof Hunt’s affections.

“Not to mention the crying: it’s difficult to pipette when crying. It might be hard working for a man who seems to have the emotional outlook of an adolescent, where you would be in danger of falling in love at every stage of your research, not knowing where to turn”

She added: “Apparently, in the world of Tim Hunt, segregation is some kind of reasonable modern answer.

“As a professional scientist, I am annoyed. I am not particularly annoyed that Prof. Hunt thinks these things - I don’t care what he thinks - I am annoyed that a well-known, acclaimed scientist thinks it is somehow rational to stand up in public and say ridiculous things.”

“He wants the world to know that girls are a pain in the lab (for whatever reason he came up with) and that we should be segregated from the boys. Shall we step back into the 1950s?

“Do we women need to leave our mixed labs because we are married - after all we will merely tempt otherwise productive male scientists into falling in love with us.”


Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Jennifer Rohn, a cell biologist at University College London, added: “ow can someone so intelligent make comments like that? Not just in front of a roomful of journalists but at a lunch honouring women in science? It’s just farcical.”

She continued: “In labs, women do cry. I have cried. Yes, I’ve had a bit of a weep, gone to the loo and washed my face, and then got back on with my job. But equally I’ve seen men sobbing over their test tubes.

“I’ve also seen men make sexual advances on their co-workers, as well as the other way round.

“All it shows is that labs are full of human beings; emotional, passionate, competitive and working in a high-pressured situation.”

Their views were echoed by many other female scientists - we rounded up some of the best…