Chris Kelly did not take long to disappear from Massey University's governing body after his careless remarks about woman vets.

His view that "one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life" appeared on December 6.

Published in a rural outlet, the incautious comment took a few days to circulate beyond the farmgate. Kelly's role as Massey chancellor was probably doomed from the time that a social media firestorm started raging, and by Tuesday, a week after the article appeared, the university posted an apology to Twitter.

Kelly compounded his insult towards female students undertaking veterinary studies by implying that many women weren't suited to the large-animal work that rural practice required. "New Zealand needs large-animal vets rather than those wanting only to work with small animals in the cities," he was quoted as saying.


The university itself corrected this perspective, noting Massey was "confident that all of its graduates, irrespective of gender, are more than adequately prepared for all areas of the veterinary workforce on completion of their examinations".

What's more, Kelly's contention that female graduates only delivered two-fifths of a full-time equivalent over a lifetime shortchanged the work of women.

The actual contribution, according to Massey, was that across all ages women vets delivered 82 per cent of a full-time equivalent, not the two-fifths of Kelly's assertion. It is reasonable to assume that childcare and family demands play a significant part in explaining the difference.

Whether Kelly got a gumboot to hasten his departure is not clear but he was gone by Wednesday. The one thing Kelly got right in this saga was his decision to quit while he was behind. The tendency of high profile figures betrayed by their own hand is to apologise, lie low and hope it all blows over.

On this occasion the former Landcorp chief executive could hardly ignore the sting of groups such as the National Council of Women who directed its Facebook followers to the Kelly interview in case "anyone is still wondering whether there's a prevalence of outdated and insulting attitudes held against women in scientific fields".

The message for males is a simple one: think before you open your mouth.