Posted on October 9, 2014

How the Nobel Prize Has Favoured White Western Men for More Than 100 Years

Oliver Duggan and Peter Spence, Telegraph (London), October 8, 2014

Just five percent of almost 900 Nobel Prizes distributed to the most brilliant minds in peace, literature, science and economics over the past century have been awarded to women.

Of 867 prestigious awards distributed since 1901, just 46 have been awarded to women, starting with Marie Curie who won the prize for physics alongside her husband Pierre in 1903 and again for chemistry in 1911.

Since then, 15 women have also been awarded the Nobel prize for scientific pursuits–compared to more than 500 men. A dozen have received the award for literature, 14 for peace and one for economics.

Geographical analysis by the Telegraph has also revealed that western countries have received a disproportionately high number of awards throughout the Nobel’s history.


The United States, which has produced 323 award winners, and the United Kingdom, which has 113, are by far the most regular recipients of the prize.

In third place is Germany, which has produced 87 Nobel winners, with the majority in physics, chemistry and medicine. Just 17 awards have been given to men or women from Africa and 10 to those from South America.

The breakdown of male and female winners of the award in each discipline shows women in peace and literature are more likely to win the award than those in scientific pursuits.

Given the huge political and social power held by western men over the last century, low representation for women may be expected. However the findings in certain disciplines are striking.

For Physics, less than one per cent of the award winners have been women. Similarly, just under a dozen of the 200 prizes handed out for medicine have gone to female healthworkers.

The findings come as the Nobel Institute prepares to announce the 2014 winner of the peace prize, with Pope Francis tipped by bookmakers as the favourite.

The Argentinian Pope is now the 5-2 front-runner for the award, which will be unveiled in Oslo on Friday, according to bookmaker’s William Hill. Paddy Power also has him as a strong contender.

Since being elected in March last year after the resignation of Benedict XVI, the Pontiff has repeatedly called for peace in conflict zones such as Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.

If he was to win this week, he would become the 83rd man to be awarded the peace prize, compared to 24 organisations and 14 women.

He would also add a sixth Nobel to Argentina’s haul of prizes. The two other Argentinian-born peace prize winners are Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a human rights leader who won in 1980, and Carlos Saavedra Lamas, who won in 1936.

[Editor’s Note: You can see how each country fares on an interactive map in the original article.]