The presentation, by University of Pisa physicist Alessandro Strumia, was part of a workshop organised by CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) on gender and high energy physics.
The presentation, whose slides can be found here, explains research he has done into this topic, and includes a number of graphs.
Strumia writes in the slides that the only discrimination against women in physics is that it was “invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”.
For his argument about discrimination against men he lists wars, gender quotas, and scholarships for women in the sciences.
In one graph, he supposedly demonstrates men had higher rates of citations, but women were still hired instead of them.
He also discusses male and female IQ differences, and cites a study which he says shows that “men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people”.
There is also a number of offensive cartoons throughout the slides, and Strumia also uses himself as an example of men being discriminated against, saying he was overlooked for a job he believed he was more qualified for. (The job was given to a woman.)
Jessica Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London tweeted about the incident, saying that after a talk she’d done at the same event, “he told me British undergraduates faced huge debts after their studies because of the amount of money we spend on equality and diversity training.”
“It was really upsetting to those at the workshop,” she said to the BBC.
“There were young women and men exchanging ideas and their experiences on how to encourage more women into the subject and to combat discrimination in their careers. Then this man gets up, saying all this horrible stuff.”
CERN has released a statement saying they were not aware of the presentation content before the workshop.
“CERN, like many members of the community, considers that the presentation, with its attacks on individuals, was unacceptable in any professional context and was contrary to the CERN Code of Conduct. It, therefore, decided to remove the slides from the online repository,” the statement reads.
“On Monday, 1 October, CERN suspended the scientist from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week’s event.”
The University of Pisa is also investigating Strumia’s presentation and behaviour.
But Strumia is standing by his presentation.
“People say that physics is sexist, physics is racist. I made some simple checks and discovered that it wasn’t, that it was becoming sexist against men and said so,” he explained to the BBC.
“I like physics and science because everyone can do what they want. I don’t like it when there’s social engineering to decide how many men, women and categories there should be,” he said to The Guardian.
Evidence actually shows that women are indeed discriminated against in science fields. A report from July found that half of all women in science have experienced harassment, and many of the papers cited in Strumia’s presentation were either more complex than presented, or the research itself had been discredited.
“His comments were absolutely outrageous,” Anne-Christine Davis, from Cambridge University, told The Guardian. She was in Geneva for the event but left a day before his presentation.
“They are the sort of comments that people may have made decades ago but, coming in this day and age, I just don’t know what planet he lives on.”