2015‎ > ‎


Source: France 24
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnT1R30bjnw
Date: 26/06/2015
Event: Connie St. Louis: "let's have some all-women short lists"
Credit: France 24, The 51%

  • Connie St. Louis: Lecturer in science journalism, City University
  • Annette Young: Senior journalist and presenter, France 24

Annette Young: Connie, thanks for being with us.

Connie St. Louis: You're very welcome. Thank you for having me.

Annette Young: Now when you heard what Sir Tim Hunt had to say, what was your initial reaction?

Connie St. Louis: My first thought was "Goodness me, what is that English person doing, saying these really outrageous things? I'm so embarrassed -all the way in Korea and here I am, listening to these ridiculous comments being made by a British man." And then I suddenly realised he was Tim Hunt and I was just really aghast.

Annette Young: So Connie, do you think that the amount of backlash against Sir Tim Hunt has been because of what his supporters have described as a "Twitter lynch mob", or is it really a genuine reflection of gender inequality in the science community?

Connie St. Louis: I think women are at a moment in time when they've really had enough with this kind of behaviour and this kind of poor portrayal of themselves. And I just think one of the things about social media is that they can seize it and use it for their own good. I don't think there has been a lynch mob. I think, of course, a lot of people have said it's inappropriate. I think the "distractinglysexy" hashtag has been really clever and funny, and, um, shows the breadth of the way women are - like to campaign, so, um, the word "lynch mob" I don't recognise it, to be honest. I think just people expressing the same sort of frustration as I and the other 100 people that were in the room - why is it appropriate in 2015 for somebody to think that this is an okay way to behave?

Annette Young: Sir Tim Hunt has had to step down from several positions. Was that enough, in your opinion?

Connie St. Louis: I actually am not bothered what happens to Tim Hunt. Um, I think what is important to me is that we keep thinking about what can be done about women in science. Um, this is only a reflection of what goes on in society. I think one of the things that was also really important is that when I put that tweet out, I was very aware of the phenomena [sic] of "Twitter-shaming" and I thought "Well actually, I don't want this to happen to him, because I think it's really horrifying when it happens". Um, I want this to be useful and be taken - taking women in science a little step further, to getting the kind of equality that they need.

And so I immediately started to ask his organisation that he's a Fellow of, the Royal Society, which is the national academy of science in the UK: "So, what are you going to do about a Fellow that says these kind of things, abroad?" And, um, when I got a very poor response from them, I asked them again, um, I decided to set up a petition, because the Royal Society is the oldest national academy of science - it's been going since 1660 - and it has never had a female president, in that time. Not to have appointed a woman to head that organisation, I think, is really, really a serious omission, because there are women out there -

Annette Young: Connie -

Connie St. Louis: - who could do this.

Annette Young: Connie, the reality is, however, in general, across the world, women still are the minority in the field of science. Why are we still lagging so far behind?

Connie St. Louis: I think because of attitudes that exist in the lab. Um, my neighbour's daughter is a Cambridge Ph.D student and she was [sic] recently talked about a visit from a really senior scientist from the States to their labs in Cambridge. And the male Ph.D students were introduced and she and her colleagues, the female colleagues, weren't introduced. Now, that's - that's just incredible, that they can be, sort of, pushed to the back. Now fortunately, the scientist who was visiting walked up to the young ladies and said "Hello, what's your name? What are you doing?" Um, and so I think they dealt with that very well, but I find it incredible that that sort of um, er, action is still going on.

Annette Young: So, how do - how do you correct that?

Connie St. Louis: Well, I think, actually, what it now needs is a sort of a positive - um, I wouldn't say a positive discrimination, I think just positively thinking about enhancing women in these places. So, um, for one thing, one could do is let's have, like, I think, most, um, er, Labour Party and Conservative Party and Liberal Parties do - let's have some all-women short lists, all-women candidates to be put forward for some of these really big jobs, like heading the MRC, like heading the Wellcome Trust, like heading the Royal Society. Let's not say, um, "We can carry on like this in a really slow way and it will, it will change", which is what I think the head of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, says. Let's say "Let's do something a bit more dramatic now", because the time has come. And I think the role model are [sic] that helps younger science females to aspire, they're not there, still. And so, really, some urgent action needs to be taken.

Annette Young: Connie St. Louis, I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there, thank you so much.