Monday, 12 October 2009

women Nobel prize winners 2009

I have mentioned earlier that women scientists are not featured prominently among the Nobel Prize winners. Now, within a week (from 5 to 12 October 2009), five women won Nobel Prizes.

So, a little correction to the statistics: now there are altogether 40 female Nobel Prize winners out of 802 individual laureates, i.e. 4.9%. Still, only 15 women got Nobels in science — unless you count Economic Sciences, in which case it will be 16.

However small the number of women Nobel Laureates remains, this year’s prizes make a bit of difference. Ada Yonath is only fourth (!) female Nobel laureate in Chemistry, the previous one was Dorothy Hodgkin in 1964. Elinor Ostrom is the first woman ever to receive The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”, whatever that means. For the first time, two women biologists, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, share the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

In the latter case, there is a sort of explanation. In the telephone interview, Elizabeth Blackburn said that in her research field (molecular biology of telomere and telomerase) the ratio of men and women is “fairly close to the biological”, while all the other research fields are “aberrant” in this sense. Overgeneralisation? Maybe. Maybe not all the other fields. Simply vast majority of them.

There’s nothing particularly about the science per se which has any, sort of gender-like quality to it.
You want women to have access to science because it’s such a wonderful thing to do. Anything that makes it more feasible for women to be in science and do the science they like, that’s good.
I think that it doesn’t help to be a woman in science. Maybe now, but not when I was progressing.

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