women (still) under-represented in the list of laureates

In 2021, only one woman received a Nobel Prize, after a week of attribution of the five prestigious prizes. Not really an exception, in terms of history.

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One in ten women winners. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 8, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Rappler investigative platform, is the only woman to have received a prize this year. She shares this award with another journalist, Dimitri Mouratov, confirming a strong trend in the charts of the famous Swedish academy: women are still very little represented.

Before this 2021 vintage, only 58 women had received the prestigious award, since its creation in 1901. In comparison, 885 men were honored, as well as 28 organizations, as shown in this infographic. The proportion of women among the Nobel Prize winners therefore amounts to… 6%.

The prize list in which they are the most represented is that of the Nobel of literature, with 16 awards out of 118 distributed (13.5%) since 1901. The Nobel Peace Prize follows, with 18 distinctions out of 137 (13.1%) , among which figures like Malala Yousafzai or Mother Teresa. On the other hand, women are particularly under-represented in physics, with only four Nobel Prize winners out of 219 (1.8%). Between 1963 and 2018, none of them had the honors of the academy in this category, i.e. fifty-five years of famine.

All prices combined, the first woman to be decorated was the Frenchwoman Marie Curie, in 1903, with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity. The year 2009 is the one where they were the most rewarded, with five prizes out of thirteen awarded. The trend has also increased slightly over the past four decades: since the 1980s, there have been 40 laureates, against 19 during the first 80 years of the prize list.