Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  17 / 280 Next Page
Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 17 / 280 Next Page
Page Background

to have told an audience of female journalists and scientists: “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 criticise them, they cry.”

He has since apologised for the remarks and resigned from both his

honorary professorship at University College London, UK, and his position

on the Scientific Committee of the European Research Council.

“Sir Tim’s comments were significant,” said Pollitzer, “given that he’s a

respected and prominent scientist who felt it was okay to make such

remarks at an event arranged by such an organisation. Those words

reflect the kinds of cultures and the sort of implicit biases that still exist

within scientific communities today.

“The reaction to his comments, however, was extremely refreshing. It

was interesting to observe how many people feel that that kind of sexist

remark is not only bad for women but reflects very poorly on science, as

well. I used to think that quotas were probably the best tool for bringing

about change in science, but after seeing the public response to his

remarks, I now feel that social media is perhaps a better approach.”

It would appear a change in attitudes is already underway. It will now be

up to the European Commission to successfully integrate the objectives

of Horizon 2020 into its practical implementation in order to harness the

power of gender analysis to improve the quality of science, remain

competitive, and realise the benefits of scientific investment for both

women and men.

definitions of the calls for proposals, to telling

the applicants what is expected of them, and

to instructing evaluators on what to assess,

right the way through to the National Contact

Points, the monitoring, and the reporting,”

commented Pollitzer.

“Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same position

we were in at the end of FP7, and we won’t

have achieved what has really been intended:

good science and good science knowledge.”

Crucially, if Europe cannot harness gender-

sensitive research and gender-equal science

participation, it will miss out on opportunities

for innovation and the quality of science will

remain limited; if the gender dimension is not

better integrated into Horizon 2020, Europe

risks falling behind its international competitors.

“To address the sorts of issues facing society

today, you need the best research: you need the

really good engineers, the really good

physicists, the really good mathematicians –

but if you're passing up on women, that isn’t

going to happen.”

Progress

Although much remains to be done, progress

has been made. “Leaders the world over are

recognising that it is not just structural changes

within individual organisations that are needed;

the changes must be part of the science

system itself,” said Pollitzer.

“The League of European Research Universities,

for instance, will publish a report on gendered

innovations and research in September; in

the UK, Wales has just completed a taskforce

analysis of what the country needs to do in

order to improve gender equality in its

universities; and Germany has now

recognised that, for a country dependent on

innovation, unless it utilises the potential

talent of all its well-educated women, it won’t

be able to compete. Yet women aren’t going

to choose to study physics or maths if they

feel the cultures within those fields are hostile

to them.”

A male prerogative?

Indeed, the recent comments of the Nobel

Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt have

inspired a debate over how far science is still

considered a man’s domain, even at the highest

European levels.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Korea

Federation of Women’s Science and Technology

Associations on 9 June 2015, Sir Tim is alleged

Dr Elizabeth Pollitzer

Director, Portia Ltd UK

Co-convener, Gender Summits

B R OW S E

www.portiaweb.org www.gender-summit.com

H O R I Z O N

2 0 2 0

www.horizon2020projects.com

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

I S S U E S E V E N

17

E X C E L L E N T S C I E N C E

Recent comments by

Nobel Prize-winning

biochemist Sir Tim

Hunt have sparked a

debate on women

in science

© Intel Free Press