Athene Donald has been at the forefront of fighting for women in science in the UK. And she has some very wise things to say regarding Tim Hunt. Brief version: She condemns his remarks, but notes that there is not yet evidence that this is part of a broader pattern for him. And most importantly she gets at something that has been bothering me in an inchoate way, and suggests a re-direction of our energies.
Curing the issues of women in science needs each and every one of us to be vigilant and to speak out about the everyday sexism that is all around us, not just wait to bay at a celebrity (which of course Nobel Prize winners are) who says something crass, suggesting he holds views that most of us think are Victorian. If watching this sorry affair unfold provoked people to act locally to eradicate all the microinequities that abound, then some good would have come out of it.
The ‘#distractinglysexy images, like the recent #girlswiththeirtoys photos that circulated on Twitter, are lighthearted ways of demonstrating just how much women are successfully embedded in scientific laboratories. But women will not rise to the top of the ranks if unconscious bias continues to rein. It would be wonderful if everyone who has posted some horrified comment about #huntgate or who has read some of the outpouring of media articles, committed to taking one action, just one, in their local organisation to counter the local brand of disadvantage that women may be facing. We should all be pro-active, not look the other way. Here’s an easy list to help people make that commitment. Everyone should be able to find one they are in a position to carry out…
For these things, and the rest of her post, go here.
I can’t help but be reminded of the studies showing that if one is giving the opportunity to condemn a blatant instance of sexism, one is *more* likely to display implicit bias against women on subsequent tasks. I think Donald is right to worry that many people will feel pleased with their condemnation of Hunt, reassured of the their anti-sexist bonafides, and perhaps then left themselves off the hook. I like her use of this to call on people to make the commitments she suggests.