Women and the Nobel Prize: An Encouraging Trend After Years of Invisibility

Although the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision to award this year’s Peace Prize to President Obama has been the focus of the media’s attention, it’s interesting to note that five women have won Nobel Prizes this year alongside eight men. This marks the most equal distribution of the prizes in the past ten years.

Since 1999, only six women have won Nobel Prizes, most often in literature or peace, compared to the 106 men who have won across all categories. (This does not take into account years when organizations, rather than individuals, were awarded the prize, such as in 1999 when Médecins San Frontiéres [Doctors Without Borders] won the peace prize.) And in 2006, 2005, 2002, 2001, 2000, and 1999, no women won any of the prizes.

The disparity is striking, especially when considering that women are completing higher levels of educational and professional attainment and ascending to more powerful positions in government.

This year’s female winners have taken home prizes in several fields: Herta Müller won the prize for literature; Ada E. Yonath won in chemistry along with two men; Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider shared the prize for medicine with a male colleague; and, just announced today, Elinor Ostrom was awarded the prize for economics with a male colleague.

We congratulate all the winners of the Nobel Prize and hope that the prize committee continues this promising trend toward more gender parity when distributing the prestigious award.


About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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