Women Nobel Power

Credit: nobelprize.org

Nobel awardees and their work always receive people’s great admiration. Every year these awards are bestowed in six categories on men and women (individually or on sharing basis) or to any organization of any creed and nation.  Looking at the history of Nobel Prizes from 1901 to 2018, it is very pathetic to know that only 52 women out of total 904 individuals i.e., 5.75 % have received the Prize.  This article has tried to list the total women Noble laureates in all fields with other various highlights on the basis of respective countries, fields and time blocks along with the challenges faced by the women Nobel Laureates, and efforts under way for changing of dismal scenario of women Nobel power.

Introduction

Nobel prizes in five fields Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace were started in the year of 1901 as per the wish of Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize in Economics was started in 1969 in the memory of Alfred Nobel. Nobel prizes are being awarded for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Curious people eagerly wait for the annual Nobel Prize winner announcements.  Selection for Nobel Prize brings both the awardees and the work selected in limelight and gives people new directions of thinking. Between 1901 and 2018, the Nobel Prizes (Physics, chemistry, Medicine, Peace and Literature) and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 590 times to 935 people and organizations. With some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once, this makes a total of 904 individuals (including 852 men, 52 women) and 24 organizations. It always seems fascinating to look into the statistics of Noble Prizes in various respects like: no. of awardees, country of awardees, no. of men, no. of women, field of work, average age of awardees, and similarly many other aspects.  In the present article, woman Nobel power in various respects is highlighted.  Efforts are made to present the women awardees with different aspects and outcomes.

 

Table 1: List of women Nobel laureates from 1901-2018 in all six fields of Nobel Prizes are being awarded

 

S.No.

Year

Laureate

Country

Category

Rationale

  1.  

1903

Marie Skłodowska Curie
(shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel)

Poland and France

Physics

"in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel”

  1.  

1905

Bertha von Suttner

Austria–Hungary

Peace

Honorary President of Permanent International Peace Bureau, Bern,Switzerland; Author of Lay Down Your Arms

  1.  

1909

Selma Lagerlöf

Sweden

Literature

"in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings"

  1.  

1911

Marie Skłodowska Curie

Poland and France

Chemistry

"for her discovery of radium andpolonium"

  1.  

1926

Grazia Deledda

Italy

Literature

"for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general"

  1.  

1928

Sigrid Undset

Norway

Literature

"principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages"

  1.  

1931

Jane Addams
(shared with Nicholas Murray Butler)

United States

Peace

Sociologist; International President,Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

  1.  

1935

Irène Joliot-Curie
(shared with Frédéric Joliot-Curie)

France

Chemistry

"for their synthesis of newradioactive elements"

  1.  

1938

Pearl S. Buck

United States

Literature

"for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces"

  1.  

1945

Gabriela Mistral

Chile

Literature

"for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world"

  1.  

1946

Emily Greene Balch
(shared with John Raleigh Mott)

United States

Peace

Formerly Professor of History and Sociology; Honorary International President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

  1.  

1947

Gerty Theresa Cori
(shared with Carl Ferdinand Cori and Bernardo Houssay)

United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion ofglycogen"

  1.  

1963

Maria Goeppert-Mayer
(shared with J. Hans D. Jensen and Eugene Wigner)

United States

Physics

"for their discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure”

  1.  

1964

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

United Kingdom

Chemistry

"for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances"

  1.  

1966

Nelly Sachs
(shared with Samuel Agnon)

Sweden and Germany

Literature

"for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength"

  1.  

1976

Betty Williams

United Kingdom

Peace

Founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People)

  1.  

Mairead Maguire

  1.  

1977

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow
(shared with Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally)

United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for the development ofradioimmunoassays of peptide hormones"

  1.  

1979

Mother Teresa

India and
Yugoslavia

Peace

Leader of Missionaries of Charity,Calcutta.

  1.  

1982

Alva Myrdal
(shared with Alfonso García Robles)

Sweden

Peace

Former Cabinet Minister; Diplomat; Writer.

  1.  

1983

Barbara McClintock

United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for her discovery of mobile genetic elements"

  1.  

1986

Rita Levi-Montalcini
(shared with Stanley Cohen)

Italy and 
United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discoveries of growth factors"

  1.  

1988

Gertrude B. Elion
(shared with James W. Black and George H. Hitchings)

United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment"

  1.  

1991

Nadine Gordimer

South Africa

Literature

"who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"

  1.  

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma

Peace

"for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights"

  1.  

1992

Rigoberta Menchú

Guatemala

Peace

"in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples"

  1.  

1993

Toni Morrison

United States

Literature

"who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality"

  1.  

1995

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
(shared with Edward B. Lewis and Eric F. Wieschaus)

Germany

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development"[31]

  1.  

1996

Wisława Szymborska

Poland

Literature

"for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality"

  1.  

1997

Jody Williams
(shared with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines)

United States

Peace

"for their work for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines"

  1.  

2003

Shirin Ebadi

Iran

Peace

"for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children"

  1.  

2004

Elfriede Jelinek

Austria

Literature

"for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power"

  1.  

Wangari Maathai

Kenya

Peace

"for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace"

  1.  

Linda B. Buck
(shared with Richard Axel)

United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system"

  1.  

2007

Doris Lessing

United Kingdom

Literature

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"

  1.  

2008

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
(shared with Harald zur Hausen and Luc Montagnier)

France

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discovery of HIV, human immunodeficiency virus"

  1.  

2009

Elizabeth Blackburn
(shared with Jack W. Szostak)

Australia and United States

Physiology or Medicine

"for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase"

  1.  

Carol W. Greider
(shared with Jack W. Szostak)

United States

  1.  

Ada E. Yonath
(shared with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan andThomas A. Steitz)

Israel

Chemistry

"for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome"

  1.  

Herta Müller

Germany and Romania

Literature

"who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed"

  1.  

Elinor Ostrom
(shared with Oliver E. Williamson)

United States

Economics

"for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons"

  1.  

2011

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberia

Peace

"For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and forwomen's rights to full participation in peace-building work"

  1.  

Leymah Gbowee

  1.  

Tawakel Karman

Yemen

  1.  

2013

Alice Munro

Canada

Literature

"master of the contemporary short story"

  1.  

2014

May-Britt Moser
(shared with Edvard Moser and John O'Keefe)

Norway

Physiology or Medicine

"for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain"

  1.  

Malala Yousafzai
(shared with Kailash Satyarthi)

Pakistan and India

Peace

"for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education".

  1.  

2015

Tu Youyou
(shared with William C. Campbell and Satoshi ÅŒmura)

China

Physiology or Medicine

"for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria"

  1.  

Svetlana Alexievich

Belarus

Literature

"for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time"

  1.  

2018

Donna Strickland
(shared with Gérard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin)

Canada

Physics

"for their method of generatinghigh-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses"

  1.  

Frances Arnold
(shared with Gregory Winter and George Smith)

United States

Chemistry

"for the directed evolution of enzymes"

  1.  

Nadia Murad
(shared with Denis Mukwege)

Iraq

Peace

"for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict"
 

 

 

Table 2: Number of women Nobel laureates from 1901-2018 in a block of 20 years

S.No.

Block year

No. of women Nobel laureates

  1.  

1901-1920

4

  1.  

1921-1940

5

  1.  

1941-1960

3

  1.  

1961-1980

7

  1.  

1981-2000

11

  1.  

2001-2018

22

 

Points for consideration

  • 1901-1980 (80 years) only 19 women were awarded Nobel prizes which are even less than the number of women laureates in 2001-2018.
  • Women Nobel laureates are increasing from 1981 onwards and the number in the block year of 20 years is on an increase indicating the rise in women power in all the fields.

 

Table 3: Number of women Nobel laureates from 1901-2018 in each field

Sr.No.

Field

Total No. of Nobel Laureates

Men Nobel Laureates

Women Nobel Laureates

  1.  

Physics

209

206

3

  1.  

Chemistry

180

175

5

  1.  

Medicine

216

204

12

  1.  

Literature

114

100

14

  1.  

Peace

(Individuals +Organizations)

133

116

17

  1.  

Economics

 

81

80

1

 

Total

933

881

52

 

Points for consideration

  • All other Nobel prizes started in 1901 but Nobel prize in the memory of Alfred Nobel was started in 1969.
  • Peace, literature and medicine fields have the largest (43) representation of women Nobel laureates in the decreasing order among themselves.
  • Economics has only one woman Nobel laureate so far.
  • It is, however, very clear that the number of women laureates in fields as well as with time is just insignificant as compared to the number of men Nobel laureates
  • Thus, there is a great need to encourage women researchers as well as to recognize their work

 

Table 3: Country-wise representation of women in Nobel power

S.No.

Country

Number of Women

 Nobel Laureates

S.No.

Country

Number of Women

 Nobel Laureates

  1.  

Australia

1*

15.

Israel

1

  1.  

Austria

1+1*=2

16.

Italy

1+1*=2

  1.  

Belarus

1

17.

Kenya

1

  1.  

Burma

1

18.

Liberia

2

  1.  

Canada

2

19.

Norway

2

  1.  

Chile

1

20.

Pakistan 

1*

  1.  

China

1

21.

Poland

1+2*=3

  1.  

France

2+2*=4

22.

Romania

1*

  1.  

Germany

1+2*=3

23.

South Africa

1

  1.  

Guatemala

1

24.

Sweden

2+1*=3

  1.  

Hungary

1

25.

United Kingdom

4

  1.  

India 

2*

26.

United States

14+2*=16

  1.  

Iran

1

27.

Yemen

1

  1.  

Iraq

1

28.

Yugoslavia

1*

Note:  Nine Women Nobel laureates have dual citizenship

Points for consideration

  • Only 28 countries have figured in the Women Nobel Power out of 195 countries in the world today.
  • Out of 52 women Nobel prizes, 16 have gone to USA.
  • Sixteen countries have just one women Nobel laureate each, six countries have two women Nobel laureate each, three countries have three women Nobel laureate each, and two countries have four women Nobel laureate each.

Women Nobel Laureates

In 1903, two years after the Nobel Foundation was established, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, in Physics. Second Nobel prize happened in 1963 and then third just happened in 2018. Both the Nobel prizes in Physics happened after a gap of 60 and 55 years respectively. In 1966, Nelly Sachs became the first Jewish woman to win a Nobel Prize when she was awarded the Prize for literature but the field at present has the second highest number of women Nobel laureates. The rarity of female Nobel laureates raises questions about women’s exclusion from education and careers in science. Female researchers have come a long way over the past century. But there’s overwhelming evidence that women remain underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Studies have shown those who persist in these careers face explicit and implicit barriers to advancement. Bias is most intense in fields that are predominantly male, where women lack a critical mass of representation and are often viewed as tokens or outsiders.  When women achieve at the highest levels of sports, politics, medicine and science, they serve as role models for all of us, especially for girls and other women. But are things getting better in terms of equal representation? And what still holds women back in the classroom, in the lab, in leadership and as award winners?

Dismal percentage (5.75%) of women Noble awardees (52) in comparison to men (852) representing only 28 countries of the world and in that major chunk of women Nobel power belongs to United States only point out to three important factors of concern i.e., i) the presence of women workers is negligible in every field ii) they are ignored or sidelined for their contributions iii) they are not competitive enough.  This is an example of an implicit bias: one of the unconscious, involuntary, natural, unavoidable assumptions that all of us, men and women, form about the world around us. People make decisions based on subconscious assumptions, preferences and stereotypes – sometimes even when they are counter to their explicitly held beliefs. In an era of women and men equal empowerment, efforts have to be made at every level to give due facilities, opportunities, encouragement and recognition to women also not only in career in education, jobs, and politics but also as women Nobel power. Women by virtue of their natural traits of bearing and bringing up children and managing home in a so called men dominated world either do not go for higher education and careers or could not dedicate whole heartedly for competitive excellence and therefore limit themselves as a better half of men only.   Social need is to open up for the support of women in every aspect of life so that they can work independently and can make highlights as achievers as Nobel laureates.

Points to ponder at:

  • With each level of education, the number of women studying in general and science in particular drops. By the time they get to grad school and the lab, there are not that many of them.
  • The fields of physics and astronomy have a long history of being male-dominated, and struggling with sexism.
  • Exposures made by a number of women in different walks of life on #MeToo social media movement clearly indicate the various levels of harassment suffered/faced by women at the hands of men.
  • Many cases of sexu

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