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Scientist is suspended for making “offensive” remarks about women and physics

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Moya Crockett
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Cern sexism row: scientist Alessandro Strumia suspended for making “offensive” comments about gender and physics.

Professor Alessandro Strumia has been suspended by Cern, one of the world’s leading nuclear research centres, after saying “physics was invented and built by men”.

A senior physics lecturer who made “highly offensive” comments during a workshop about gender and physics has been suspended from his position at Cern, the European nuclear research centre.

During a presentation to a mostly female group of scientists in Geneva, Professor Alessandro Strumia said that “physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation” and argued that male scientists were being discriminated against.

After Strumia’s workshop on Friday (28 September), many physicists took to social media to report their discomfort and anger. By Monday evening (1 October), Cern had released a statement saying it was shocked by Strumia’s “highly offensive” and “unacceptable” remarks.

“Cern always strives to carry out its scientific mission in a peaceful and inclusive environment,” the statement reads, adding that “the organisation is fully committed to promoting diversity and equality at all levels.”

Cern is where the existence of the Higgs boson particle was confirmed in 2013, via the particle detector CMS (pictured above). The nuclear research centre also removed slides from Strumia’s talk from its website “in line with a code of conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults”, and said it was suspending the professor pending an investigation. 

During the workshop, Strumia presented several graphs which he claimed showed that women were treated more favourably than men in physics despite their ideas not being as good. He claimed that women were often hired over men whose research was cited more by other scientists, and showed that men were progressively cited more as their careers progressed. 

He also said that he had been overlooked for a job that ended up going to a woman scientists, despite the fact that he was – allegedly – more qualified.

Physicist Dr Jess Wade, a former Stylist Woman of the Week who campaigns to raise the visibility of women in STEM, was in the audience at Strumia’s workshop.

She told BBC News that his analysis relied on ideas that had “long been discredited”, and “was really upsetting to those at the workshop”.

Wade previously told Stylist of her frustration at the ingrained sexism of much of the science world. For centuries, “scientists have been so determined to prove that men and women are different, that they’ve looked for anything in their results to say that’s so,” she said.

“What we really need to do is change the culture of science, because currently it is not ready to accept a whole bunch of fresh-faced girls,” she continued. “There are structural biases that prevent women from succeeding.”

Images: Getty Images 

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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