This Nobel Laureate Resigned After His Sexist Comments About Female Scientists Spurred Global Outrage

Science fields are lagging behind in gender diversity.

Following the widespread criticism for his remarks on women scientists, Nobel laureate Tim Hunt resigned as honorary professor at University College London. Speaking to a group of renowned journalists and scientists at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea on Monday, Hunt had said that labs should be gender segregated because women were a romantic distraction who cried when criticized. 

Hunt's comments were greeted with frigid silence at the conference. Connie St. Louis, City University London's director of the science journalism program, tweeted the comment quickly after, inciting angry, sometimes hilarious, reactions on Twitter. Hunt's remarks were:

Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.

Hunt apologized after, saying that he meant what he said, but was "really, really sorry." He also added that it was a lighthearted, ironic comment that the audience interpreted seriously. 

But his apology did little to curb the damage. The Royal Society — where he is a fellow — distanced itself from the comment, and his resignation from UCL indicated the sensitivity surrounding the topic.

Hunt's comments added munition to the debate about gender diversity in STEM fields.

There is a growing debate surrounding the discrimination and gender bias in science fields. Recently, there has been a surge in effort to encourage young girls toward STEM careers to boost diversity in fields that, more often than not, are dominated by white males. But studies have shown that professors in science often favor male students over female students and that women scientists are regularly discriminated against in the workplace.

If there is anything to take away from the remarks on Monday, made by a biochemist who won the 2011 Nobel Prize Physiology for Medicine for groundbreaking work on cell division, it is that it highlighted the dire need for a change in attitudes toward women in science.