Image for post
Image for post
Nobel Award Ceremony. Credits: The Nobel Prize website.

More Than Half A Century Since a Woman Won a Physics Nobel Prize.

A Data-Driven Analysis on the Lack of Female Nobel Prize Winners

Alice Corona
Oct 19, 2015 · 6 min read

As soon as the 2015 Nobel prizes were announced, here at Silk we decided to dig into the data on all the winners published. For that we turned to Wikipedia and the Nobel Prize Website. This year very few women won Nobels so we decided to analyze gender statistics for the prizes over time. We knew it would be male dominated. But the extent to which this was true surprised us. Less than 6% of the 874 (human) laureates are women. And thank God for Marie Curie, who won two Nobel prizes. She is counted twice.

If you thought that this was bad already, then read on. The numbers reveal also a much more dire situations in fields like Chemistry and Physics.
Note: Silk has been discontinued as of Dec. 15th 2017 so links are broken and visualizations are static. Will replace them asap.

Note on terminology. Prize Share: the actual portion of a Nobel medal awarded to a laureate. For example, in 1963, three scientists were awarded a Nobel Physics Prize. Two men and one women. This means that men had a 66% price share, and women a 33%. Throughout the text, we give statistics on the laureates’ count and sometimes on prize shares. We always specify which is counted, so pay attention to this different angles. Also, note that when calculating percentages of male and female laureates, we excluded from the total collective prizes given to NGOs or other organizations (like the UN).

Only 5.7% of all the Nobel laureates have been women

Image for post
Image for post

2015, a relatively good year for women laureates: A third of the prize share went to female laureates

There have also been long gaps without a single woman in the winners’ list. Nobel prizes were 100% male-dominated for 13 years between 1912 and 1925, and then again between 1948 and 1962. To date, 2009 was the best year for women laureates: almost 40% were women, taking home 42% of the prize share. Alas, it was only a lucky coincidence rather than the beginning of a structural change. The next year, the percentage again dropped to zero.

For the first time ever, we are seeing a string of consecutive increases. This year, 2015, marked the first time that the share of women laureates has grown for three years in a row.

Image for post
Image for post

When women win, it’s mostly for Peace and Literature

Only four of the 172 Chemistry laureates (sharing 107 Nobel prizes) went to women. Only two women have taken the full prize share and did not split the Nobel medal with a man. Those were Marie Curie in 1911 and Dorothy Hodgkin in 1964.

In Physics, there have been only 2 women laureates in this field. They were Marie Curie (again) in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, more than half a century ago. Both shared the medal with male physicists. This means that, in total, women have garnered only 0.46% of the total prize share for the Physics field.

Number of Prizes with at Least One Female Winner

Image for post
Image for post

Women Prize Share (%) and Men Prize Share (%) per Award Category

Image for post
Image for post

47 countries (out of 76) never had a home-born female laureate

Image for post
Image for post
Note: We considered the country of birth of each laureate.

Some of the 47 countries have had few or no Nobel laureates. For countries that have won five Nobels or greater but lack a female laureate, some are surprising, such as socially liberal countries like Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Image for post
Image for post
Click on the chart to access the interactive version and explore other variables. Data from http://nobels.silk.co/

The good news: Some countries have only won one Nobel prize..and it went to a woman.

Percentage of Female Nobel Laureates Born in Each Country (out of all the Country-Born Laureates)

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Click on the chart to access the interactive version and explore other variables. Data from http://nobels.silk.co/

If you enjoyed this article, have a look at our Silk. There you’ll find other data visualizations and articles on:

  • Interactive gallery of all Female Nobels
  • Age of Nobel Winners: Laureates are receiving a Nobel prizes, on average, at an increasingly later age than in the past. And 2015 now joins 1966 as the year with the highest average age of the Nobel winners so far: 73.
  • Age and Award Category: Physics laureates have the youngest average age, fifty-five.At the opposite end, the average age of Economists Nobel winners is 68.
  • Interactive map of all countries represented by a Nobel winner
  • Some places are more likely than others to give birth to a Nobel laureate
  • Top Universities: Where to Study to Win a Nobel. Most Nobel winners attended US universities. Yet none of the top seven universities attended by Literature laureates is in the U.S.

SILK STORIES

Silk is a place to explore the world through data.

Alice Corona

Written by

Stories with data, from the data collection (or scrape) to the data visualization. Data storytelling instructor. Currently project leader at batjo.eu

SILK STORIES

Silk is a place to explore the world through data. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. Silk displays data as beautiful interactive charts, maps and web pages.

Alice Corona

Written by

Stories with data, from the data collection (or scrape) to the data visualization. Data storytelling instructor. Currently project leader at batjo.eu

SILK STORIES

Silk is a place to explore the world through data. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. Silk displays data as beautiful interactive charts, maps and web pages.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store