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Gender Gap in The Nomination of The Nobel Prize

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Nobel prize was created by Alfred Nobel with a purpose to give recognition to the discoveries that have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. He believed that people are capable of helping to improve the society through knowledge, science, and humanism. We clearly understand the purpose of Nobel prizes which is to award prizes to scientists that have great discoveries regardless of their gender. However, statistics have shown that since the Nobel prize in 1901 till today, there are 892 individuals that have received the Nobel prize, but just 48 of them are female. 30 of these women won either the literature of peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. Do you feel that there is a problem in the nominating process? This has raised many voices for Nobel committees to consider gender diversity when nominating scientist.

First, we have to find out the reason why is there a wide gender gap in the laureates for STEM field. A very good example we can learn from is that Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an outstanding astrophysicist who was the first to discover pulsars. In 1974 Nobel prize, Jocelyn’s name was not included for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the discovery of pulsars, yet it was her male colleague, Anthony Hewish that was honoured (CBC Radio, 2018). We clearly understand that for a single discovery, it is possible to put forward multiple names. This clearly shows that there is gender bias in the nominating process. In addition, at a press conference together with Anthony Hewish, Jocelyn was treated as “human interest”.

There is a traditional stereotype hold that women “don’t like math” and “aren’t good at science” (Feeney, 2018). These stereotype against women in the STEM field are totally false. Studies have shown that girls and women avoid STEM education not because of cognitive inability, but because of early exposure and experience in science, stereotypes and a lack of exposure to role models. Women face structural and institutional barriers in academic STEM careers. In this field, it is dominated by the males leading to women feeling isolated, perceived as tokens. Women are often excluded from networking opportunities and social event and left to feel that they are outside the culture of the lab. This has greatly affected the self-esteem of women scientists. The domino effect has caused women to think twice whether to pursue a career in STEM field due to the lack in gender diversity in the field.

We can find out it is extremely important to have women role models (Harrington, 2016). In 2013, a study by The Glass hammer and Accenture concluded that there was a strong correlation between women with role models and women with leadership goals. In the past years of Nobel awards, the number of women that have been awarded the prize has been less than six percent. An abundance of research demonstrates that having few women represented in science create a lack of role models to attract and retain young women in STEM professions. Statistics shown that only twenty-eight percent of the world scientist is women. If we start considering gender diversity in nominating scientist, the number of female scientists will increase drastically over the years.

Many organisations and nominators said that they have been taking gender diversity into consideration. The vice chair of the board of director of Nobel foundation, Göran Hansson said “There was an even larger bias against women then. There were far fewer women laureates if you go back 20 or 30 years”. That is not the case as statistics have shown that from 1961 to 1990, there is a total of six women laureates in the science prize. From 1991 to 2017, the number of women laureates is eight. As you can see, the improvement of women representative is minimum.

If we do not solve this issue, it will not only affect the reputation of Nobel Prize, there will be more petition regarding gender inequality in nominating scientist for Noble Prize. In order to solve the issue of raising voices to consider gender diversity, we must first tackle our unconscious biases. By eliminating the biases; there will be more women representative in science so that the future female scientist will have a role model to look up and strive in science.

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Gender Gap In The Nomination Of The Nobel Prize. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from
“Gender Gap In The Nomination Of The Nobel Prize.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
Gender Gap In The Nomination Of The Nobel Prize. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2022].
Gender Gap In The Nomination Of The Nobel Prize [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2022 Jun 24]. Available from:
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