Sir Tim Hunt's Comments - What can we learn? 14 June 2015

The row over the sexist comments made by Sir Tim Hunt on women in science rambles on this weekend, and we are - in general - united in our condemnation of his remarks and their unwanted consequences. But these views are not new, and any woman working in science or engineering will doubtless have stories to tell about how she has encountered negative gender bias. The thing we need to do now though is work out how we move on from here in a positive way. The sentiments that Tim Hunt expressed were real, and he believes them. He does see a problem. But the problem is in his perception. Diversity is a benefit, not a problem. We need to ensure that we change the culture of our organisations to recognise diversity as a positive goal and not something to be avoided or criticised. This is a state of mind, and changing it is something that is quite achievable,  with training and appropriate challenge.

Let's look at what he said in more detail. Scientists who meet in labs fall in love with one another. So what's wrong with that? It happens in all walks of life - not just science labs. And don't we want to create children with scientifically literate parents? This is certainly what happened to me when I was in the university lab, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

And on the subject of crying - well what's wrong with crying? We don't all have to be stiff upper lipped. Crying is fine.  Emotion is good. Diversity is key. If women cry then men need to work out how to deal with that - it's not women who always need to change.

Tim Hunt will surely wish he had never opened his mouth about women in science but now that he has, let's use his comments for positive change. Let's work out how to rebrand diversity as a good thing to be encouraged - in everybody's opinion. And Tim, if you want to make amends and show your support for young women in ‎science, then we offer you a role on our team working on the Sparxx project for girls in STEM. And could I suggest that as a science community we show a bit of our sensitive side and offer Tim some kindness now - we can all say things we regret from time to time. 

Let's see what positives we can take from this, and thank Tim for the opportunity to work this one out.

Written by WES President Dawn Bonfield