Home / Business / How gender bias influences the Nobel Prizes – MIT Technology Review

How gender bias influences the Nobel Prizes – MIT Technology Review

When Donna Strickland received the Nobel Prize in physics this year, she was the first woman to receive the honor of 55 years. The previous female winner Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963, and proposal of the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. Before Marie Curie received the prize in 1903 for her work on radioactivity.

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And that’s it. Between 1901 and 2018, the physics prize has been awarded 112 times, but only three times to women. The prizes in chemistry, medicine, economics, reflect a similar imbalance. Of the 688 Nobel laureates in science, only 21 are women.

Of course, the gender gap in science is known. So it is easy to imagine that a few female Nobel Prize merely reflects this gap. But is this true or are there other factors at work that prevent women Nobel Prize?


Marie Curie

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Liselotte Jauffred at the University of Copenhagen and two colleagues, who have compared the gender ratio among the Nobel laureates with the gender ratio in the field and they do not match. Indeed, women are more underrepresented in the list of Nobel Prize winners who are in science.

Basic facts about the winners of the easy to collect known. Holders on average 55 years old and thus are likely to be samples of senior faculty members in universities in different parts of the world. As you get the award for the work they have done about 15 years on average. Even today the recipients were sampled from senior faculty members with a time lag of approximately 15 years.

But to determine the part of senior female faculty members for all of the senior faculty during the last one hundred years or even more difficult. Jauffred participated in the use of data from the US National Science Foundation that lists the members of the teaching staff in universities by gender and scientific discipline between 1973 and 2010.

They assume this data can be used as a substitute for the global distribution of gender of women. And then extrapolating to determine the proportion of gender through the discipline between 1901 and 2010.

Finally, the team compared the history of gender ratio with the number of awards granted to women and looked for potential bias using a hierarchical Bayesian model of intervention.

The results are not unambiguous. “Female senior scientists are less likely to be awarded the Nobel prize of Sex Ratio suggests” tell Jauffred and associates.

But why? One possibility is that the Nobel Committee’s injustice to submit nominations for women, but Jauffred participated in the discount. Instead they refer to the many challenges and obstacles that affect women throughout their careers, often before they become senior enough or impressive enough for the major awards. “We believe that there are restrictions on women to enter the swimming pool very well esteemed scientists deserve the nomination,” say the researchers.

For example, female Nobel Prize is much less likely to be married or have children of a male Noble. Which refers to the life of the family limits women’s opportunities will enter this trade. Jauffred also participated to say that men in academia are more likely to get the resources and support necessary for excellent scientific. “This suggests that men are more likely to end up in the pool of possible Nobel candidates”, as they say.

This is interesting work that reveals the insidious impact of gender bias in science. “Strikingly few of the Nobel laureates in medicine, natural sciences, social fabric,” says Jauffred and associates.

Now the question is: what is the best way to change this situation so that women equally fairly represented.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1810.07280 : gender bias in Nobel Prizes

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