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A Tricky Business?

Years ago, I read in a science magazine somewhere that in order for someone to increase one’s probability of winning the Nobel Prize, one has to be 1) white, 2) male, and 3) belonging to the upper class. That was based on the demographic analysis of Nobel laureates in science and medicine awarded so far.

There have been only two women awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics: Marie Curie (1903) and Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963). (And by the way, Marie Curie also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. What an exceptionally gifted woman!) Somehow, the dearth of women given this prestigious award makes one wonder if women must really prove themselves able to outperform men in order to receive any recognition at all.

On the other hand, a relatively higher number of women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. One of them was Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, who was given the award in 1995.

Now here is a rather interesting clip taken from her interview. Here, the 1995 Nobel Laureate in Medicine describes why she might not recommend a career in science to women, in an excerpt from the full interview at nusslein-volhard-interview.html

However, I do not necessarily agree with her opinion that it is a tricky business to encourage women to pursue careers in science because they will eventually be disliked by society or their contemporaries. I’d say, instead, that if someone really has a passion and talent for science, then the real crime would be to discourage her just because she is likely to face obstacles along the way. There should absolutely be no questions about encouraging her to pursue her scientific ambitions. Surely any obstacle would pale in comparison to the higher and more noble goal of scientific discovery?

Nobody said that doing science would be easy. Challenges exist for both men and women. For women, perhaps the task may even be more daunting, and the expectations may be higher. The number of women Nobel laureates may be small for now, but the fact remains that they were still able to do so – it simply means that it is not impossible! They will serve as an inspiration to all: no matter the odds, yes, women CAN!


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  1. high blood

    In some society, women may have less opportunities than men, but this does not mean that men are better than women. What makes those who have won the Nobel prizes different is that they have seen a vision and pursued it to the end. With a lot of hard work and dedication they have made the difference.

  2. victor manalac

    science is gender free. let anyone get into it without an ardour to prove that women can outperform men or vice versa. ms curie won the prize not because she was a woman but because of her work, the same reason that men won the Nobel. she was not out to prove anything but merely her findings.

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