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Major Awards by Category by Gender


Overall, males won a hefty 95% of all major awards, while women had to make do with a tiny 5% share. Women were distinguished only once with a Fields Medal for mathematics. Even in the more contemporary computer science, they won the Turing Award only three times, i.e. only 5% of the time.

 

If major awards were a reliable indicator of gender capability, which in all likelihood they are not, one should concede that intellectual performance, very much like soccer playing, barbecuing or binge drinking, is a male's domain. Overall, males won a hefty 95% of all major awards, while women had to make do with a tiny 5% share. Women were distinguished only once with a Fields Medal for mathematics. Even in the more contemporary computer science, they won the Turing Award only three times, i.e. only 5% of the time.

However, the indicator is heavily biased. In several cases, for instance in the computer science field, it is widely conceded that female scientists made decisive contributions that have been typically credited to their bosses, the more conspicuous male contributors. Only lately some female contributions have been acknowledged and recognized. Also some Nobel prizes have triggered harsh controversy for reasons of outright ignoring indispensable breakthroughs by female contributors.

A revealing example is provided by the award, in 2018, of a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, worth of £2.3 million, to Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Why is she deemed such a deserving scientist? Simply for having been the first to observe and precisely analyze the pulsars, back in 1967. The pulsar breakthrough was duly recognized by a Nobel prize in physics in 1974, awarded to her thesis supervisor, Hewish and another astronomer, Ryle. Not to Bell — her achievement was disdained by the Nobel committee. How many other female scientists remain ignored after having seen their output diverted by the team leader for his own profit and glory?

The unbalanced split of the awards, rather than portraying the genuine talents of the genders, turns out to be a revealer of the workings of our society, namely of the process by which value judgments are produced in male dominated power structures. This should not come as a surprise, since, after all, male dominated assessment teams are liable to be more lenient towards males, as females would likely go easier on females, whites on whites, and so forth.

Major Awards 1901 - 2018

Breakdown by Award and by Gender

AwardFemaleMaleTotal
NumberPercentNumberPercent
Nobel Prize525.7%85694.3%908
Chemistry52.8%17697.2%181
Economics11.2%8098.8%81
Literature1412.3%10087.7%114
Peace1716.0%8984.0%106
Physics31.4%20798.6%210
Physiology or Medicine125.6%20494.4%216
Fields Medal11.7%5998.3%60
Turing Award34.5%6495.5%67
Total awards565.4%97994.6%1,035
¹ The 27 Nobel Prizes for peace awarded to organizations are not accounted for in this table.
² The Fields Medal is awarded every four years, the first time in 1936, the last time in 2018.
³ The Turing award is announced at the beginning of the following year.

 

Sources: Nobelprize, International Mathematical Union, ACM Awards