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Nobel Prize Awards will no longer have gender or ethnicity quotas

The Nobel Prize committee has said that they will not subscribe to any form of quota related to gender or ethnicity.

Head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the group that awards the prize, Göran Hansson, said they want people to win “Because they made the most important discovery… not because of gender or ethnicity”.

Since the awards began in 1901 only 59 out of 947 awards have been given to women.

Alfred Nobel. Image: Quartz

The awards were founded by Swedish industrialist and chemist Alfred Nobel in his will, written in 1895 – a year before his death.

Marie Curie, the first woman to receive a prize in physics for her research and discovery of new radioactive elements, was not initially given the recognition she now knows.

Though she played a crucial role in the discovery, the award was shared with her husband Pierre and fellow scientist Henri Becquerel.

However in 1911, less than ten years after her groundbreaking discovery, the French Academy of Sciences promptly voted against her proposition for membership. She eventually won a second Nobel prize for Chemistry later that year.

“Keep in mind that only about 10% of the professors in natural sciences in western Europe or North America are women, and even lower if you go to East Asia,” said Mr Hansson.

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Image: Sydney Morning Herald

Though female involvement in STEM fields has increased in recent years there is still a way to go as women face a number of structural and institutional barriers in academic careers.

“Bench science can require years of dedicated time in a laboratory. The strictures of the tenure-track process can make maintaining work-life balance, responding to family obligations and having children or taking family leave difficult, if not impossible.”

This raises questions as to how women can be expected to be fairly represented if they are not given the same opportunities as men are globally.

Image: Women in STEM

Mr Hansson went on to say, “We need different attitudes to women going into sciences… so that they get a chance to make these discoveries that are being awarded,”