For this question I exclude the Nobel Peace prize.

A few years ago there was some talk by the Nobel committees and the Nobel Foundation board to be more inclusive. The committee explicitly called for nominations to take into account geography and gender for 2019. There was apparently some increase in nominations of female academics, and in 2019 and 2020 there were also a few female laureates. This year, however, all Nobel laureates (excluding Maria Ressa who won half the Peace prize) are male.

I'm wondering if the Nobel Foundation has said anything about this.


2 Answers 2


The BBC has posted an article stating:

Goran Hansson, head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said they want people to win "because they made the most important discovery... not because of gender or ethnicity"

It goes on further:

"It's sad that there are so few women Nobel laureates and it reflects the unfair conditions in society, particularly in years past, but still existing. And there's so much more to do," Mr Hansson told the AFP news agency.

So, they recognize that this year was heavily male, but will not go for quotas.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 13, 2021 at 18:05

The question asks whether the Nobel Foundation has said anything about the gender ratio. As far as I am aware, they have not. However, that's probably not the right question to ask. The foundation itself is not involved in the process of selecting the laureates, so it is more useful and relevant to look for statements from the different Nobel committees or the prize awarding institutions (which, again are separate from the foundation). The existing answer includes some quotes from Göran Hansson, secretary general of one of the prize awarding institutions.

There is also a recent Science news article with some statements from members of several Nobel committees. They want more women to be nominated, but do not consider that the full story.

“The fraction of women among the nominated people is very low and I don’t think it represents the [fraction of] women that were doing science even 20 years ago,” says Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a biophysical chemist at Chalmers University of Technology who is one of two women on the eight-person chemistry committee. “We want to have more women nominated,” agrees Eva Olsson, an experimental physicist at Chalmers who is a member of the physics selection committee.

Wittung-Stafshede adds that, in addition to finding ways to boost the number of women who are nominated, the committees might also want to broaden their view of what counts as a Nobel-worthy discovery. “It’s possible we miss certain topics and candidates because we are biased and have a narrow view of what is an important chemistry discovery. We may need to think more outside the normal box.”

She agrees with those who say the scarcity of women winning prizes is due in part to the systemic disadvantages women face throughout their careers. But that explanation is not the whole picture, she adds. “That’s kind of a passive way to approach the problem. … We also need to address it ourselves,” she says of the Nobel committees.

They also effectively state that there are no quotas. The article further discusses the representation on the Nobel committees themselves.

The committees don’t consider gender when they discuss which discovery to award a Nobel Prize, Olsson says. “The focus is on science.” But she thinks it’s important for women to participate in the selection process and ceremonies because they can serve as role models. “We make sure that women are there and presenting the prizes.”

“The few women we have at high positions in academia are used a lot, often too much, for committee work,” Wittung-Stafshede says. “One should be careful around this, to save women’s time. But in the case of the Nobel Prize committees … it is extremely important. It sends a clear signal we care about this topic.”

  • 'The fraction of women among the nominated people is very low' I'm sure that's true. But as far as I can see, there's nothing in the statutes to stop the Committee from monitoring the demography of nominations as they come in, in advance of the deadline; and if members of the Committee suspect, shortly before the deadline, that the community is systematically failing to nominate deserving candidates where those candidates happen to be women, there's nothing in the statutes to stop the Chair (or any other member) of the Committee from submitting one or more nominations to correct matters. Oct 19, 2021 at 17:10
  • @DanielHatton Indeed, at least the physics, chemistry and medicine prizes do explicitly allow committee members to nominate potential awardees. Still, appealing to a broader range of qualified nominators probably helps bring in fresh ideas for names.
    – Anyon
    Oct 19, 2021 at 23:31

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