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Nobel laureate Pissarides apologises over ‘sexist’ Siri comment

Sir Christopher Pissarides

Cypriot Nobel prize laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides has come under heavy fire for an alleged sexist comment he made at a conference in Norway and has apologised.

According to the BBC, Pissardies jokingly said he preferred the voice on the Apple3 iPhone who is called Siri, to be a male voice because he felt it was more trustworthy.

Following a storm of criticism, Pissarides told the BBC he apologised for upsetting people and his comment was meant to be “light-hearted”.

“It’s a mistake and I’m sorry, but the audience was laughing.”

Pissarides was on an all-male panel during a discussion at the Starmus Festival in Trondheim about the future of humanity.

According to the BBC during the conversation, he took out his iPhone and asked Siri a question about the temperature.

The answer was given in a male voice and when moderator Larry King pointed out that Siri is typically voiced by a woman in the US, Pissarides replied: “I chose a man because you trust the voice of a man more, I was told.”

Immediately afterwards, the BBC said he was branded as sexist, causing a tweetstorm. He defended himself, saying: “I’m not trying to make excuses for myself, After I demonstrated Siri, the audience was laughing, I was being teased.

“I said it at the beginning of the panel and someone only raised it one hour later at the end of the session. It was the last comment made in a session lasting 70 minutes and my comment was the first comment. No one raised it at the time, but when the woman did raise it, I apologised.”

Pissarides who jointly won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics, said that earlier in the day, he had given a lecture about the future of work, in which he discussed two policies to empower more women in the labour force, according to the BBC report.

“My work, over the last 40 years, has been dedicated to equality in the labour market. When people ask me what is the greatest problem in the labour market, I tell them equality between men and women and races. Of course I believe in equality,” he said.

The event’s organisers later issued an apology, saying: “Starmus deeply regrets the sexist comments made by Chris Pissarides during a panel discussion and we accept the outrage that this has sparked.

“Our programme consists of incredible women and men from all over the world and we have made it clear that comments of this nature will not be tolerated at our festival.”

In 2015 British Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt was hounded and had to quit a long and distinguished career – or be fired – over a badly-delivered self-deprecating joke at a science conference in South Korea after it was interpreted as sexist by a female journalist and then set social media ablaze.



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