By Josh Dehaas
When Canadian physics professor Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize last week, it was bound to be a big story. She’s only the third woman out of about 200 to have ever received the honour.
When journalists gathered at the University of Waterloo where Strickland works, she was asked about her gender. Stickland told the reporters that the world has come a long way since the last time the Nobel was awarded to a woman, in 1963, and that she “has always been paid the same and treated the same” as men.
Yet the Canadian news media promptly ignored her words, choosing instead to spin her achievement into a story about persistent gender bias. CBC’s The National declared that despite Strickland’s success, “sexism appears to be alive and well” in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Their evidence was a lecture given by Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia at a conference in September, for which he has been suspended from CERN.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin, near Geneva, suspended Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia after he alleged men in the field are being discriminated against.
“Physics was invented and built by men” and “women are actually being hired over men who are more qualified,” an indignant CBC reporter quoted Strumia as saying. The reporter then turned to a disgusted female physicist, Jessica Wade, who claimed that Strumia is a “jealous” bully, and suggested that men like him are the reason only about one in 10 physics professors are women.
Wade appeared the following day on the CBC’s flagship radio program, The Current, where she expanded on her outrage, telling listeners how “terrifying” it is for women that gatekeepers like Strumia exist to keep the talented female physicists out. The host of the show, Anna Maria Tremonti, could barely contain her contempt for Strumia, demanding that Wade explain, “What does the research actually say?” Wade responded with the usual: stereotypes about women being bad at math cause young women to avoid STEM, and those who persevere face misogyny in promotions, publications and student evaluations.
Not for a second did the CBC bother to examine what Strumia actually said. If they had scrolled through his 26-slide lecture, they would have found not an attack on women in physics but an evidence-based plea to end discrimination against men in the field. Strumia, it turns out, made a far more convincing argument about gender …read more