Nobel Prizes Still Struggle with Wide Gender Disparity

Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious awards on the planet but the aura of this year’s announcements has been dulled by questions over why so few women have entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences.

The march of Nobel announcements begins Monday with the physiology/medicine prize.

Since the first prizes were awarded in 1901, 892 individuals have received one, but just 48 of them have been women. Thirty of those women won either the literature or peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. In addition, only one woman has won for the economics prize, which is not technically a Nobel but is associated with the prizes.

Some of the disparity likely can be attributed to underlying structural reasons, such as the low representation of women in high-level science. The American Institute of Physics, for example, says in 2014, only 10 percent of full physics professorships were held by women.

But critics suggest that gender bias pervades the process of nominations, which come largely from tenured professors.

“The problem is the whole nomination process, you have these tenured professors who feel like they are untouchable. They can get away with everything from sexual harassment to micro-aggressions like assuming the woman in the room will take the notes, or be leaving soon to have babies,” said Anne-Marie Imafidon, the head of Stemettes, a British group that encourages girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s little wonder that these people aren’t putting women forward for nominations. We need to be better at telling the stories of the women in science who are doing good things and actually getting recognition,” she said.

Powerful men taking credit for the ideas and elbow grease of their female colleagues was turned on its head in 1903 when Pierre Curie made it clear he would not accept the physics prize unless his wife and fellow researcher Marie Curie was jointly honored. She was the first female winner of any Nobel prize, but only one other woman has won the physics prize since then.

More than 70 years later, Jocelyn Bell, a post-graduate student at Cambridge, was overlooked for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the discovery of pulsars. Her supervisor, Antony Hewish, took all of the Nobel credit.

Brian Keating, a physics professor at the University of California San Diego and author of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor,” says the Nobel Foundation should lift its restrictions on re-awarding for a breakthrough if an individual has been overlooked. He also says posthumous awards also should be considered and there should be no restriction on the number of individuals who can share a prize. Today the limit is three people for one prize.

“These measures would go a long way to addressing the injustice that so few of the brilliant women who have contributed so much to science through the years have been overlooked,” he said.

Keating fears that simply accepting the disparity as structural will seriously harm the prestige of all the Nobel prizes.

“I think with the Hollywood (hash)MeToo movement, it has already happened in the film prizes. It has happened with the literature prize. There is no fundamental law of nature that the Nobel science prizes will continue to be seen as the highest accolade,” he said.

This year’s absence of a Nobel Literature prize, which has been won by 14 women, puts an even sharper focus on the gender gap in science prizes.

The Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, said it would not pick a winner this year after sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals rocked the secretive panel, sharply dividing its 18 members, who are appointed for life. Seven members quit or distanced themselves from academy. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, said the academy wanted “to commit time to recovering public confidence.”

The academy plans to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize next year _ but even that is not guaranteed. The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars Heikensten, was quoted Friday as warning that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature prize every year.

Stung by criticism about the diversity gap between former prize winners, the Nobel Foundation has asked that the science awarding panels for 2019 ask nominators to consider their own biases in the thousands of letters they send to solicit Nobel nominations.

“I am eager to see more nominations for women so they can be considered,” said Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and vice chairman of the Nobel Foundation. “We have written to nominators asking them to make sure they do not miss women or people of other ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations. We hope this will make a difference for 2019.”

It’s not the first time that Nobel officials have sought diversity. In his 1895 will, prize founder Alfred Nobel wrote: “It is my express wish that in the awarding of the prizes no consideration shall be given to national affiliations of any kind, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.”

Even so, the prizes remained overwhelmingly white and male for most of their existence.

For the first 70 years, the peace prize skewed heavily toward Western white men, with just two of the 59 prizes awarded to individuals or institutions based outside Europe or North America. Only three of the winners in that period were female.

The 1973 peace prize shared by North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and American Henry Kissinger widened the horizons _ since then more than half the Nobel Peace prizes have gone to African or Asian individuals or institutions.

Since 2000, six women have won the peace prize.

After the medicine prize on Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the Nobel in physics on Tuesday and in chemistry on Wednesday, while the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On Oct. 8, Sweden’s Central Bank announces the winner of the economics prize, given in honor of Alfred Nobel.

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Trump, Saudi King Discuss Oil Prices in Telephone Call

President Donald Trump has discussed global crude oil prices with Saudi King Salman in a telephone call amid the American leader’s call for OPEC to bring down energy prices.

 

The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported the call late Saturday night, saying “the efforts to maintain supplies to ensure the stability of the oil market and ensure the growth of the global economy” were discussed by the two leaders.

American officials acknowledged the call, but offered no details.

Trump, facing political pressure at home, has been calling on OPEC and American allies like Saudi Arabia to boost their production to lower global crude oil prices.

Benchmark Brent crude now trades above $80 a barrel. Analysts say prices likely will go higher as American sanctions on Iran resume in November.

 

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Macedonians Vote in Name-Change Referendum

Macedonians are voting Sunday on whether the country should change its name.

Macedonians are being asked to change the name of their country to North Macedonia to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece and pave the way for the country’s admission into NATO and the European Union.

Athens has argued that the name “Macedonia” belongs exclusively to its northern province of Macedonia and using the name implies Skopje’s intentions to claim the Greek province.

Greece has for years pressured Skopje into renouncing the country’s name, forcing it to use the more formal moniker Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations.

It has also consistently blocked its smaller neighbor from gaining membership in NATO and the EU as long it retains its name.

President Gjorge Ivanov said giving into Athens’ demand would be a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”

He steadfastly refused to back the deal reached between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras that puts the name change to a vote.

“This referendum could lead us to become a subordinate state, dependent on another country,” Ivanov said. “We will become a state in name only, not in substance.”

Ivanov has urged Macedonians to boycott the referendum on changing the country’s name, saying that changing the name would amount to “historical suicide.”

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Low Turnout in Macedonia Name-Change Referendum

Few Macedonians turned out to vote in a referendum on whether to change the name of their country – a move that could pave the way for it to join NATO and the European Union.

According to election officials, only about a third of eligible voters cast ballots Sunday. But more than 90 percent of those voting cast a ballot in favor of changing the country’s name to North Macedonia.

Macedonia’s electoral commission said two days ago the referendum results would be declared invalid if less than 50 percent of the eligible voting population went to the polls.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who had said he would resign if a vast majority of eligible voters did not approve the referendum, described the vote as a clear success, despite the low turnout.

Zaev said he would not resign because a “vast majority” of those who turned out Sunday approved the measure.

He urged lawmakers to ratify the necessary changes to the constitution, which would finalize the deal.

In a statement Sunday, however, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the “contradictory” vote – overwhelming approval, yet low turnout – would require Macedonia to move carefully to “preserve the positive potential of the deal.”

The U.S. State Department on Sunday welcomed the results of the referendum. In a statement, the department said the U.S. “strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security and prosperity.”

However, nationalists, including Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, had urged a boycott of the vote.

Macedonians are being asked to change the name of their country to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece and pave the way for the country’s admission into NATO and the European Union.

Athens has argued that the name “Macedonia” belongs exclusively to its northern province of Macedonia and using the name implies Skopje’s intentions to claim the Greek province.

Greece has for years pressured Skopje into renouncing the country’s name, forcing it to use the more formal moniker Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations. Greece has consistently blocked its smaller neighbor from gaining membership in NATO and the EU as long it retains its name.

President Ivanov said giving in to Athens’ demand would be a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”

He steadfastly refused to back the deal reached between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, that put the name change to a vote.

“This referendum could lead us to become a subordinate state, dependent on another country,” Ivanov said. “We will become a state in name only, not in substance.”

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Індонезія: кількість загиблих від землетрусу перевищила 800 осіб

Кількість виявлених загиблих через землетрус і цунамі на острові Сулавесі в Індонезії сягнуло 832 осіб і може вирости ще по мірі того, як наслідки стихійного лиха стають більш очевидними, заявляє індонезійська влада.

Речник Агентства з реагування на катастрофи Сутопо Пурво Нугрохо заявив 30 вересня, що доступ до багатьох ділянок острова, постраждалих від катаклізму, досі дуже обмежений.

28 вересня на острові Сулавесі стався землетрус магнітудою в 7,5 балів – епіцентр був неподалік від узбережжя, поруч із містом Палу. Слідом за поштовхом місто, де проживає близько 350 тисяч людей, накрила шестиметрова хвиля цунамі.

Землетрус і цунамі також призвели до вимкнення електрики, а це разом із повторними поштовхами ускладнює рятувальні роботи, повідомляє місцева влада.

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Croatian Vintner Ages Wines in Amphoras on Adriatic Sea Floor

Traditional two-handled ceramic jars known as amphoras were used extensively in ancient Greece to store and transport a variety of products, especially wine. These days they are more likely to be found in shipwrecks than in stores. But wine-filled amphoras are once again being found on the sea floor, not from sunken ships, but deliberately placed there by a special Eastern European winery. Faith Lapidus explains.

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Some US Catholic Churches Close as Attendance Flags

The Catholic Church is closing parishes across the American Midwest and Northeast in response to years of flagging attendance. Changing demographics and an overall trend of secularism is partly to blame, but repeated cases of sexual abuse in the church have not helped. Reporter Teresa Krug reports from the Midwestern state of Iowa, where some church members are questioning why they should stay.

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Using Art to Unite a Divided Neighborhood

Sedgwick Street in Chicago is a thoroughfare divided by race and socio-economics. The area was settled by German, Irish and Sicilian immigrants. But in the 1950s and ’60s, when the original settlers began moving out, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and so-called hippies started moving in. Today, Sedgwick Street remains a social and economic demarcation line between the haves and the have-nots. But as VOA’s Mariama Diallo reports, one art studio owner hopes to use art to unite the neighborhood.

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