A senior scientist at Pisa University has sparked anger following a talk he gave on the role of women in physics at Cern, the European nuclear research centre, in which he said that physics was “invented and built by men”.
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Responding to the backlash, Cern released a statement which said the talk given by Prof Alessandro Strumia had been “highly offensive” to women in science.
During the talk, Strumia said that male scientists were being discriminated against and that men were being passed over for jobs in favor of women based on “ideology rather than merit”.
There was a workshop at @CERN recently: "1st Workshop on High Energy Theory and Gender". Apparently Strumia gave a talk and manages to hit every horrible idea on gender issues in STEM while demeaning his female colleagues (at CERN and everywhere else). 🤦♀️🤦♀️🤦♀️
— Dr Seyda Ipek (@sheydaipek) September 30, 2018
Strumia presented the results of a study published scientific research papers which he said “proved” that physics was not sexist against women, rather that this notion is “part of a political battle coming from outside”.
Strumia also claimed that research by male scientists was cited more by other scientists in their own publications, which he said was an indication of higher quality work. He also showed data which he said showed that male and female scientists were cited more equally at the beginning of their careers, but that as they progressed, men scored better.
Hey @CERN is Alessandro Strumia fired yet? He told a room full of early-career scientists and women that "Physics invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation." and that "Smarter people less affected by implicit bias, traps, etc." He needs to go. #MeTooSTEM
— Tisha Bohr 👩🏻🔬🔬 (@tishabohr) October 1, 2018
Cern has removed the slides used in Strumia’s talk from its website “in line with a code of conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults”. The senior scientist, however, has said he was just delivering factual information, telling the BBC that “people say that physics is sexist, physics is racist. I made some simple checks and discovered that it wasn’t, that it was becoming sexist against men and said so.”
During the presentation, Strumia also said that “men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people” and said there was a “difference even in children before any social influence”.
To back up his points, Strumia said that Oxford University “extends exam times for women’s benefit” and that Italy offers “free or cheaper university” for female research students.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone was delighted by his presentation and it sparked an angry online reaction, with some pointing out that it was important to provide incentives for women trying get their foot in the door in a male-dominated field.
The utterly false & misogynistic talk by Strumia at @CERN workshop on gender & high energy physics is a kick in the teeth for everyone who's spent years volunteering as @STEMAmbassadors working to engage the next generation of scientists & engineers. Massively unhelpful.
— Tim McCann #FBPE #FinalSayForAll (@mccanntb) October 1, 2018
Short summary of Strumia’s talk: women aren’t as good at physics as men and they’ve been allocated too much funding/ been promoted into positions of power unfairly. He said this to an audience of early career #womeninSTEM. pic.twitter.com/HqZATl8Wal
— Dr Jess Wade 👩🏻🔬 (@jesswade) September 30, 2018
Some also suggested that Strumia’s presentation was the result of anger he felt at being passed over for a job by a woman scientist — an event which he made reference to himself.
Reading through Strumia's slides… Imagine being so petty about not getting a job that you invent the idea that physics is sexist *against men* to make yourself feel better 🙄 #womeninSTEMpic.twitter.com/8DKf1CU4Dl
— Conor McKeever (@conor_mckeever) October 1, 2018
Some also pointed out that it was a woman, Marie Curie, who was the first person ever to be awarded two Nobel prizes for science — one of which was in physics.
"Male scientists produce better research than female scientists"–Prof Strumia? Tell that to madame Curie, first person–male or female–to be awarded two Nobel prizes for physics!
— Paul Rogers (@paulrogers002) October 1, 2018
And the double standards are staggering. He says that physics welcomed Curie after she got her Nobel. Where is Strumia’s Nobel? Why are women perennially held to standards that the vast majority of male scientists don’t achieve?
— Jennifer L. Rohn (@JennyRohn) October 1, 2018
It’s not the first time a male scientist found himself in hot water over comments made about females in science, either. Nobel laureate Tim Hunt ended up resigning from University College London in 2015 after he told a room of young female scientists at a talk in South Korea that the “trouble with girls” in science laboratories is that “when you criticize them, they cry.”
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