Nobel Prize: female representation does not exceed 10%

Before he died, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, used his fortune to create the institution of the Nobel Prize, which would be awarded to those who confer the greatest benefit to humanity within the categories of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine , Literature and Peace. A century after its implementation, more than 90% of the winners have been men. This 2022 adds points with female representation, because in the literature section Annie Ernaux was awarded, while Carolyn Bertozzi was one of the three people who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Does the gender gap continue to grow or is there greater awareness when awarding an award? In 1903, Marie Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, which she shared with her husband Pierre Curie and physicist Henrie Becquerel. And, it was not until 1911 that she got her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but this time alone. However, rumors that linked her to her relationship with a married man – after her husband died – almost cost her attendance at the ceremony. Albert Einstein was part of the minority that supported Curie, since he had never been sanctioned for the scandals in her private life.

From the other side, the 1993 Nobel laureate in physics, Svante Arrhenius, wrote a letter to Marie Curie stating: “I beg you to stay in France; no one can calculate what could happen here… I hope you will send a telegram … to say that he does not want to accept the award before the Langevin trial proves that the accusations against him are unfounded.” She decided to go despite criticism. From 1901 to 2021, the award has been awarded 887 times to men and 59 to women.

The figures also stand out in the letters and humanities. This year, Annie Ernaux, who is behind “Pure Passion” or “La Vergüenza”, became the seventeenth woman to obtain the high honor in literature, within the 115 times it has been awarded.

The first woman to receive an award in this category was Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf in 1909, but the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral also stands out in 1945, an honor motivated by “Her lyrical poetry that, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world. To date, she is the only Ibero-American with a Nobel.

Only in the last decade has there been an increase in women who have received the award, this every two or three years; but we are another century away from reaching the current figures of those who have benefited humanity. This is not just about talent and skills, male domination and the band of machismo have hijacked the opportunities from the start.

This authoritarianism is not only international, since it is also reflected, for example, in the National Prize for Literature in Chile, where only five women have received the award since 1942. At what point do the bases of the highest distinction change? If we don’t see it from abroad, let’s start in the country and invite you to read more, as well as to participate in science with a gender perspective that involves the entire community.

It is necessary to expand the references in the different disciplines, from schools to the press and the government. Let’s train new Carolyn Bertozzi so that in another 121 years, they will no longer be just eight researchers in chemistry but hundreds more women.

  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of The counter.
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Nobel Prize: female representation does not exceed 10%