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Historic Lack of Diversity Among Nobel Laureates Points to Larger Issues

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This week, scientists across the world are celebrating the winners of the most prestigious award in science, the Nobel Prize.

Some of the winners this year include Andrea Gehz, who won this week for her contributions to physics, and Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who won the chemistry prize for their work on CRISPR gene-editing tools. Three of the eight winners this year are women, although none of the winners is a person of color.

Since the awards were first given in 1901, nearly every winner of a Nobel Prize for science has been a white man. In 119 years, only 23 women have won. A Black scientist has neverwon.

The homogenous legacy of Nobel science laureates points to larger issues like global racial and gender education gaps and the hardships women, and especially people of color, still face while working in STEM academic research. 

Claudia Rankins is the program officer for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Undergraduate Program and for the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology at the National Science Foundation. She also founded the Society of STEM Women of Color. She spoke to The Takeaway, not as a representative of the NSF, about the issues that have prevented women and people of color from winning Nobel Prizes for science. 

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