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#Distractinglysexy: The trouble of gender bias in the field of science




An embryologist fertilises embryos in the fertility laboratory at Birmingham Women's Hospital fertility clinic on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England.
An embryologist fertilises embryos in the fertility laboratory at Birmingham Women's Hospital fertility clinic on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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Last week at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, U.K. Scientist and Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt set off public outrage when he made blatantly sexist comments about women working in the field of science.

At the conference Hunt told a room of scientists and journalists that “three things happen when they (women) are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

Since then, there has been an outpouring of responses from women around the world who work in science related fields, posting pictures and comments with the hashtag “distractinglysexy” mocking Hunt’s comments.

One is Kate Devlin who works as a lecturer at the Goldsmiths University of London, who tweeted “Dear department: please note I will be unable to chair the 10am meeting this morning because I am too busy swooning and crying.”

Thousands of other women and men have made similar posts and comments about Hunt’s inappropriate characterization of women in the workplace.

As a result of overwhelming criticism from his peers and the public Hunt has since resigned from his position as an honorary professor with the University College London.

However, Hunt’s comments reveal a much larger issue facing women in science, with many recent studies showing that women continue to struggle with pervasive sexism and gender bias in the workplace.  How prevalent is gender discrimination in the workplace? Do comments like Hunt’s discourage women from entering more male dominated fields?

Guests:

Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, a private residential liberal arts college of science, engineering, and mathematics that is part of the Claremont Colleges. She is trained as a computer scientist  

Kate Devlin, a  lecturer and senior tutor at the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, which is part of the University of London