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!