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Scientist angers CERN with ‘offensive’ address on women and science

Europe's physics lab CERN on Monday disavowed a lecture by an invited scientist who claimed physics was "built by men", and accused women of demanding specialist jobs without suitable qualifications.

Scientist angers CERN with 'offensive' address on women and science
the Globe of Science and Innovation at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin, near Geneva. Photo: AFP

The presentation by Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University was delivered Friday at the Geneva lab during a workshop on the relationship between high energy theory and gender. 

The presentation — which includes various slides, charts and graphs — appears to suggest that men face discrimination in the field of physics. 

One pictorial series suggests that women line up to take gender studies and then later protest over a lack of jobs in stem fields, an umbrella term that covers areas like chemistry and engineering. 

“Physics invented and built by men, it's not by invitation,” one slide says. 

“CERN considers the presentation delivered by an invited scientist during a workshop on High Energy Theory and Gender as highly offensive,” the lab said in a statement.  

“It has therefore decided to remove the slides from the online repository, in line with a Code of Conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults.”  

CERN, the French acronym for the European Centre for Nuclear Research, is for the first time being led by a female director general: Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian expert in experimental particle physics, took charge in 2016. 

The lab has said that despite efforts to close its own gender gap females still account for less than 20 percent of staff.

The lab notes that it has backed initiatives aimed at boosting female participation in the sciences. 

“Diversity is a strong reality at CERN, and is also one of the core values underpinning our Code of Conduct,” the statement said. 

“The Organisation is fully committed to promoting diversity and equality at all levels.”

READ ALSO: 14 fascinating facts about the history of women’s rights in Switzerland

SEXISM

US researcher blasts Swiss magazine’s sexist depiction

Kate Darling, an expert in robot ethics, has criticized Swiss magazine Bilanz after it published an article that made reference to her cleavage.

US researcher blasts Swiss magazine's sexist depiction
Photo: Flavia Schaub

In a piece profiling the research specialist, who holds a doctorate from ETH Zurich, Bilanz wrote that Darling gave lectures “with a deep cleavage and tight imitation leather pants”.

Darling, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, questioned the magazine's approach on Twitter. 

Bilanz later amended the article and apologized for using the “wrong words”. 

Darling was born in the US but grew up in Basel and is listed by Bilanz as one of Switzerland’s 100 Digital Shapers, pushing the boundaries of digitalization.

Her website explains that she “explores the emotional connection between people and life-like machines, seeking to influence technology design and policy direction.”  

Check out the video below to learn more about Darling's thoughts on robot ethics. 

READ ALSO: 14 fascinating facts about the history of women’s rights in Switzerland