Women scientists should work in separate laboratories because of their propensity for falling in love with the men and crying when criticised, British Nobel laureate Tim Hunt announced this week.

In a toast at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea, Sir Tim said he didn’t want to “stand in the way of women” but that he believes single-sex research labs are a good idea.

He told the room full of female scientists and science journalists:

“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.”

Sir Tim’s comments were tweeted by Connie St Louis, from the science journalism department at City University:

Suzy Firkin, lead on the Ten Steps and Development Director at WISE, the campaign to promote women in science, technology and engineering, said:

“While it is true that we still see chauvinistic comments from individuals within organisations, the organisations that they work for have generally worked out by now that in order to survive and thrive in the future they need diverse work forces and that it is up to them to create an inclusive workplace culture that encourages diversity – in particular, in science and engineering, gender diversity.

“WISE works with and supports those organisations who understand the business case for diversity, through initiatives like the Ten Steps – a framework for driving organisational change to help attract, retain and promote more women. The Ten Steps currently has 31 signatories – all blue chip UK companies – committed to changing attitudes and changing workplaces.”

The Royal Society, where Sir Tim is a fellow, have released a statement distancing themselves from his remarks. They said:

“The Royal Society believes that in order to achieve everything that it can, science needs to make the best use of the research capabilities of the entire population. Too many talented individuals do not fulful their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the Society is committed to helping to put this right.

“Sir Tim Hunt was speaking as an individual and his reported comments in no way reflect the views of the Royal Society.”

Sir Tim Hunt, 72, won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering protein molecules that control the division of cells.