2021 Nobel Winners: Gender Gap Widens as Most Prizes Go to Men
2020 became only the second year in which science prizes were awarded to more than one woman.
Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for their groundbreaking work in gene editing, is historic in more ways than one. Their win marked the first time a Nobel science prize was given to more than one woman, and no men.
The year 2020 became only the second year in which science prizes were awarded to more than one woman.
Come 2021, eight coveted Nobel Prizes — in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature were all awarded to men, pointing yet again to how women constitute a minuscule number of total winners, especially in science stream.
The Philippines' Maria Ressa, a journalist, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russia's Dmitry Muratov, is the only woman to receive the award this year.
57 Women Winners in Almost 120 Years
Did you know that in their almost 120-year-old history, Nobel prizes in Medicine, Physics and Chemistry have been awarded 599 times to men and only 23 times to women?
Within that, women have won the most prizes in medicine with 12, with seven chemistry wins and four in physics.
The highest number of wins in a single Nobel category for women is the Nobel Prize for Peace, with 18 wins. This includes Mother Teresa (1979), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Jody Williams (1997), Malala Yousafzai (2014), among others.
Only two women – Elinor Ostrom (2009) and Esther Duflo (2019) – have won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
Only Three Women Have Won the Nobel By Themselves
In 1911, Marie Curie won the Chemistry Nobel by herself for the discovery of radium and polonium. She is the only woman to have won the Nobel twice.
The first time she won the award was in 1903 for Physics for her study of spontaneous radiation. She shared this award with her husband Pierre Curie.
More than 50 years later, in 1964, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was the sole Chemistry winner for her work using x-rays in understanding important biochemical substances. Another two decades later, in 1983, Barbara McClintock won the Nobel for Medicine by herself for the discovery of mobile genetic elements.
Swedish author Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf won the first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909. Since then 16 women have won the prize, the most after Nobel Prize for Peace, with the latest winner being Louise Glück in 2020.
(This was first published in October 2020. The article has been updated to reflect winners of 2021 Nobel Prize.)
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