Meet the voices ignored by the Nobel Prize committee

*This text was written by a columnist from TechWorld; learn more at the end.

“And the scientific Nobel Prize masculine from 2021 goes to:”

Another year passes and the Nobel Prize Gender Gap becomes bigger. The disparity in awards is not new, but we are in 2021 and we still have the same problem.

Comparison of Nobel Prize Awards by Gender.Source: Statista

The problem starts with the appointment: less than 10% of this year’s appointments for physics and chemistry were women. Now, why are women less nominated and, consequently, less rewarded? There are some explanations.

Less presence of women in the fields

Lack of natural interest or systematic sabotage?

Did you know that in the field of astronomy women were not allowed in installations such as telescopes? There’s no way to make a big discovery without access to the data.

Vera Rubin (1928-2016), responsible for concrete evidence of the existence of dark matter, was not allowed at the Palomar Observatory. A great advocate for women’s rights, she didn’t let that stop her. Avoiding a direct conflict, the Observatory claimed that women could not observe because there were no women’s toilets on the premises. A close friend of Dr. Rubin reported the moment when she drew a female symbol and stuck it on the door of one of the bathrooms and said the famous phrase: “Look, now you have a ladies room” (look, now you have a ladies room).

So far, the presence of women in mountains leading observations is less than that of men. Studies demonstrate that observation proposal selection committees are biased towards men. Seeking to solve a given problem, the Hubble Telescope observation time selection committee decided to make an anonymous ranking. The result in 2018 was more balanced by gender and for the first time more women received the required time.

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Dr. Rubin has never received recognition for her work, with dark matter being one of the foundations of current cosmology. She died in 2016, before any awards were given. But she wasn’t the only one.

Credits stolen.

This was not the case with Dr. Rubin, but many other women did not receive recognition for their work, and for worse reasons: the credits were given to the wrong people.

Some cases are widely known by the scientific community, but the silence of the Nobel Prize committee is deafening.

Let’s remember some names here:

Lise Meitner and the Experimental and Theoretical Discovery of Nuclear Fission

The Nuclear Fission discovery received the 1944 Nobel Prize. But the lead author of the discovery, Lise Meitner, did not. Being ignored by the Nobel committee, it was never credited with recognition.

Lise MeitnerLise MeitnerSource: Wikipedia

Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the Discovery of Pulsars

The discovery of Pulsars received the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. The person responsible for the discovery was the incredible astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell, during her doctoral research in the 1960s. The person who received the prize was her advisor.

Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of DNA

Rosalind Franklin’s work was fundamental to the discovery of DNA. She and students were responsible for the data using the X-ray diffraction technique that led to the discovery. After many protests within the community, it was agreed that she deserved to receive recognition as well. Unfortunately, she had already passed away, never seeing her incredible contributions to science being noticed.

Rosalind FranklinRosalind FranklinSource: Wikipedia

These are just the best known cases. How many more women have not had their voices silenced? The lesser presence of women in the fields, the invisibility of their work, their credit stolen by men. All of this adds up to the fact that girls are discouraged from pursuing scientific careers, even though they are as capable as boys. Finally, with a sexist, racist, anti-Semitic and biased committee, these are the real reasons why women have fewer Nobel Prizes than men.

Who loses out (besides women)? Science and humanity. Studies show that by increasing social diversity, we improve efficiency! This applies to both research centers and companies!

Who benefits from a fair award? Science, which benefits from social diversity. And the people who deserve your recognition. Understand, this recognition, only the greatest scientific recognition of humanity, goes to somebody. Better to go to the right people.

And how do we stay, with another year that the Gap increases? It is past time for the recognition of the work of women to be as important as that of men.

Camila de Sá Freitas, columnist of TechWorld, holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in astronomy. She is currently a PhD student at the European Southern Observatory (Germany). Self-styled Galaxy Examiner, he investigates evolutionary scenarios for galaxies and possible changes in star-making. It is present on social networks as @astronomacamila.

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