Nobel Award Ceremony. Credits: The Nobel Prize website.

Nobel Prizes Interactive Database

Only 5.7% of all the Nobel Laureates Ever Are Women

As soon as the 2015 Nobel prizes were announced, here at Silk we decided to dig in the data on all the winners published on Wikipedia and on the Nobel Prize Website

We began to look at gender statistics, and quite some interesting things came up.

For example, less than 6% of the 874 (human) laureates are women. In other words, this means that only one every 16 Nobel laureate is a female. And thank God for Marie Curie, who won two Nobel prizes, and so is counted twice. 

If you thought that this was bad already, then read on. The numbers reveal how female representation is much worse in fields like Chemistry and Physics.

*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.

The Nobel Prize has been awarded since 1901. Yet, in more than a century of awards, men still largely dominate this award. Consider that, overall, less than one every 16 laureates has been a woman.

Men and Women Laureates

Gender
Winners
Count
Male825
Female49



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


The year average for 1901 - 2015 is 5% women laureates per Nobel Ceremony. Many editions had a higher count, even in the early years. At the 5th Nobel edition, in 1905 women were a (relatively) "stunning" 20% of all the Nobel winners. The problem is that this number has always been incredibly fluctuant, for example dropping back to 0% already the next year in 1906. 

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 1948 and 1962.

The record-edition so far is that of 2009: almost 40% of the laureates were women, taking home 42% of the prize share. It seems only a lucky coincidence, rather than the beginning of a structural change: the next year, the percentage again dropped to zero.

For optimistic minds, 2015 might be the year of change. It's the first time that the share of women laureates is growing for the third year in a row.

Awarded Women (%) and Women Prize Share (%) 1901 - 2014


When women win, it's for Peace and Literature


Of the only 46 Nobels with at least one female laureate, more than 60% of them were for Peace or Literature.  There's been only one woman among the Economics laureates, and only 4 female Nobel-winning physicists.

Only four of the 172 Chemistry laureates (sharing 107 Nobel prizes) went to women. And actually, only two women took the full prize share and didn't split the Nobel medal with a man: Marie Curie in 1911 and Dorothy Hodgkin in 1964.



Number of Prizes with at Least One Female Winner


 In Physics, the situation is currently even worse.  There have been only 2 women laureates in this field, Marie Curie (again) in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, more than half a century ago. And neither managed to have the full prize to herself: both had to share the medal with other two male physicist. This means that all women physicists together have been awarded only 0.46% of the total prize share for this field. 

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


47 Countries (Out of 76) Never Had a Female Laureate

Countries with No Women Nobel Laureate

Note: We considered the country of birth of each laureate

Countries datacards with Number of Women Awarded below 0


Some of the 47 countries in the previous map have on their side the fact that they only had one or two laureates in total. But even if we exclude nations that received less than 5 prizes, gender conscious countries like Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland still don't make it to have 1 female laureates


The highest percentage is the still sadly low 15% reached by Poland. Italy and Australia are the only other country that make it to 10%. (Excluding countries with less than 10 laureates).

Norway, Denmark and Sweden, considered exemplary cases for their gender equality policies, still only less than a women for every 10 laureates.

Countries with at Least One Women Nobel Laureate


The Good News: some countries have only one Nobel prize to represent them..and it's a she

This includes Kenya, Yemen, Macedonia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Iran and Liberia also have a women-only Nobel squad to represent them as birth countries. (Note: calculating which country each candidate represented at the Nobel ceremonyIran's home-born Nobel is Doris Lessing, who actually lived in the UK at the time of the award and represents a UK Nobel winner. Mother Teresa, born in Macedonia, counts as a Nobel for both Macedonia and India)

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


Laureates From Kenya, Liberia, Yemen, Macedonia, Myanmar


Interactive Gallery of All Female Nobels

Interactive Gallery


We also made other Nobel data visualizations. Have a look at:

  • 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.

About this site

This site was created with Silk, a platform for easily structuring information, so that it can be organized, queried, visualized and shared in a few clicks. The Silk team built this as a demonstration project. You can contact us at feedback@silk.co

To download the cleaned dataset imported to create this DB, click here

You'll find five spreadsheets (Prizes, Winners, Countries, Years and Award Categories), all released under Creative Commons.