Is the Nobel Prize’s Gender Gap Narrowing?

There's nothing noble about gender discrimination, but that's not necessarily a charge you can levy against the Nobel Prize, despite the fact that only 58 women have ever won one, as of 2021.

Just one woman was awarded the Nobel Prize this year; only 58 women have ever won Nobel Prizes (Marie Curie twice).
Just one woman was awarded the Nobel Prize this year; only 58 women have ever won Nobel Prizes (Marie Curie twice).

While things have improved, women have historically occupied far fewer positions than men in academia, which is where most Nobel winners can be found, so it might seem logical that they have won fewer awards. Nevertheless, since the awards were first handed out in 1901, women haven't even accounted for three percent of winners in the science categories. In 2021, none of the science laureates were women; Peace Prize co-recipient Maria Ressa was the only female laureate this year.

In a study published in 2021, it was determined that women are far less likely to win major science awards, regardless of the quality or quantity of their research. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that only 16 African Americans have ever won a Nobel Prize, and no African American has ever won a Nobel in a science category.

Nobel novelties:

  • Marie Curie is the only woman to have won two Nobel Prizes, earning one in Physics in 1903 and one in Chemistry in 1911.

  • All of the Nobel Prizes are handed out from Stockholm, Sweden, except the Peace Prize, which comes from Oslo, Norway.

  • Three Nobel Peace Prize winners (Carl von Ossietzky, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Liu Xiaobo) were incarcerated when they were chosen as laureates.

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    • Just one woman was awarded the Nobel Prize this year; only 58 women have ever won Nobel Prizes (Marie Curie twice).
      By: Petra Wessman
      Just one woman was awarded the Nobel Prize this year; only 58 women have ever won Nobel Prizes (Marie Curie twice).