Just one of this year's 13 Nobel Prize winners was a woman, but the head of the academy that awards the prizes in science has ruled out bringing in quotas to even the balance. Since 1901, only 59 Nobel Prizes—6.2% of the total—have gone to women. "It’s sad that there are so few women Nobel laureates and it reflects the unfair conditions in society, particularly in years past but still existing," Göran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, tells AFP. "And there’s so much more to do." But quotas will not be introduced, he says, explaining that they want laureates accepted "because they made the most important discovery, and not because of gender or ethnicity."
"In the end, we will give the prize to those who are found the most worthy, those who have made the most important contributions," Hansson says. The decision, he says, is "in line with the spirit of Alfred Nobel's last will." Hansson says the number of women receiving Nobel Prizes in recent decades has increased, but "from a very low level," the BBC reports. He notes the the proportion of professors in the natural sciences in Europe and North America is only around 10%, and even lower in Asia.
Hansson stresses that the academy is working to ensure "all deserving women get a fair chance to be evaluated for the Nobel Prize" and "significant efforts have been made to encourage the nomination of women. But "we need different attitudes to women going into sciences... so that they get a chance to make these discoveries that are being awarded," he says. The only woman to win this year was Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. Marie Curie, the first women to win a Nobel Prize, remains the only woman to have won two. She followed up her 1903 physics award with the chemistry prize in 1911. (Read more Nobel Prize stories.)