# Only two women physics Nobel laureates in 115 years

1. Oct 11, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

Great article on the Nobel Committee and their failure to select women of science for the Nobel:

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.8191 [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
2. Oct 11, 2016

Staff Emeritus
So why is Bell's non-receipt of the Nobel prize more unjust than Jim Christenson's? Or for that matter, Nicola Cabibbo's (and Jona-Lasino's - a bad year for Italians)? Or George Zweig's?

3. Oct 12, 2016

### Fervent Freyja

The biggest failure in modern civilization is comparing women and men. It's an unrealistic ideal. Most of the women I've known don't want to follow the typical paths that males take. There might be some issues on the topic that are real, but I think articles like this only make it worse. No system is perfect, I'm sure that other non-gender-related flaws in that system could be picked out as well. How about the laureates origin of birth, there should be a Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to a person from each country?

4. Oct 12, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

"Biggest" is an overstatement, but I otherwise absolutely agree that the totally false a priori assumption that men and women are identical as people is a pervasive problem in the West today.

Such articles don't actually have a point because they know they can't support the point they are implying: that the inequity is wrong and based on discrimination. But in order to take the first step - finding the inequity - you first have to quanitify how many there are (check) and how many there should be (um.....). So instead they rattle off anecdotes of snubs that are powerfully argumentative yet as anyone who does human statistical analysis knows, totally meaningless for proving the point. So they just imply and leave the reader to fill in the blanks where both the point and the data to back it up should be.

True equality isn't generated with artificial and undeveloped stats/examples and action plans, it comes from accepting differences and chosing your own path regardless of them - and then detecting and dealing with (punishing) the true anomalies. Except in cases of extreme prejudice, using affirmative action doesn't actually help level the playing field, it artificially un-levels it in the other direction while generating both perceptions of discrimination in the opposite direction and dilution of the talent pool of the group you're attmpting to uplift.

The media and liberal politicians/pundits harp on the man/women pay gap in particular (partly because it is in Hillary's platform) using a stat (22%) that is a flat-out on-purpose falsehood. True discrimination exists and when it does, it's much worse than even that (and such articles generally provide anecdotes showing it) and for everyone else, the true "pay gap" adjusted for life choices is statistically near zero.

So let's, as best we can, make sure parents and primary schools remove the social pressures girls feel away from STEM and then let them choose what they really want rather than pushing them into something maybe they don't want. Caveat: per another recent discussion, that doesn't mean parents should let girls (or boys) major in art history in college. If she likes art, fine, just push her into something practical like advertising or graphic design.

#firstworldproblems
/rant

Also worth pointing out that the Nobel Prize is just some dead rich guy's charity organization prize. It only has the clout we give it and it's true value to society (in the grand scheme of things, zero?) shouldn't be over-stated. In Philadelphia, they give out a Medal of Freedom every year and that's nice too. I'm sure Nelson Mandela's is in a shoebox in a storage shed somewhere.

5. Oct 12, 2016

### StatGuy2000

I agree with your first two paragraphs above. The article in the original post implies that the lack of women among Nobel prizes in physics is somehow due to inequity or prejudice within the Nobel Committee responsible for awarding the prizes. However, this does not take account the "out of how many" (i.e. the number of women who are actively involved in physics research). If there are fewer women who are physicists, then it shouldn't entirely be surprising that there will be fewer women who could be nominated for a Nobel Prize, let alone win it.

Now the wider question is whether the fact that fewer women who are involved in physics research may itself be due to inequity. That was certainly true in the past, but whether it is still true today needs is a question that needs to be addressed. I have read elsewhere that, overall within STEM a case can be made that it is true, but I don't have hard data to show one way or the other (perhaps others can point me to these).

russ, I agree with you up to a point above. You mention instances of extreme prejudice, but part of the rationale of affirmative action is that the disadvantaged group (be they women, racial/ethnic minorities, etc.) has experienced an overall disadvantage in various aspects of their overall lives (due to said prejudice) that the playing field is not, nor has ever been, level for them. Therefore, an additional support is needed to bring them up toward equality with the dominant or advantageous group.

Whether current affirmative action programs have accomplished this goal is another question, but at least in principle, I am a supporter of affirmative action.

Do you have any evidence (journal articles, etc.) to justify your above statement?

I don't recall seeing any thread about art history in college here at PF (I'd appreciate it if you could link to it), but what is wrong with majoring in art history in college? I'm not necessarily a believer that the only programs worth pursuing in college/university are "practical" areas (I've talked about this at length before).

After all, how "practical" is a pure math degree on its own (which was my undergraduate major)?

I completely agree with your sentiment expressed above. I am in favour of honouring excellence in various fields (be they in STEM or in other areas), but the clout of any prize is what we in society choose to give it.

6. Oct 12, 2016

### StatGuy2000

BTW, there was a thread in the Career Guidance section that links 2 articles that discusses gender bias in hiring practices at colleges/universities, as part of a broader discussion on social inequality in hiring practices (not specifically to physics, but is still relevant overall). See post #3 of thread below.

The specific articles can be found below.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/...et_your_ph_d_at_an_elite_university_good.html

7. Oct 12, 2016

### Fervent Freyja

How much have children lost because of the pressure on women to conform to feminist standards? I would rather have influence over my children and spend more time towards them than use that time towards a successful career. Nothing has been sadder to me than spending each day with my daughter during her first years and thinking of what children and other mothers lose when strangers watch them grow up. There are tens upon tens of thousands of beautiful moments that are missed out on during the first few years. I thought about this almost every day, it's a tragedy, what people don't realize gets lost. Fathers could do the same thing, but that isn't a typical path and has never been in human history. Just because men don't choose that path doesn't mean that children should be brushed aside while women try to be 'equal'. There has to be a better way to do it. My daughter is definitely a daddy's girl, but who do you think she loves 'more'? Do women really want to give up influence over their children and reproductive rights -- because that's what will happen the more they try to be 'identical' to men?

8. Oct 12, 2016

### Fervent Freyja

It is well-known now that that first study has been abused by the masses, although many won't admit it. It has been used to fit agenda for far too long. This began from misinterpreting and misusing just one study. Blown out of proportion. Google wage gap lies, scam, or myth.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timwors...atistics-gender-pay-gap-edition/#82f90a95a642

9. Oct 13, 2016

### StatGuy2000

First of all, I don't think the overwhelming majority of people (including the overwhelming majority of feminists) would suggest that women should lose out on children. What feminists have argued and fought for (and continue to argue and fight for) is for women to have equal rights and protections that men have historically enjoyed, and for women to have a level playing field in areas such as employment.

Second, just because women choose to work doesn't mean that they somehow "give up" influence over their children and reproductive rights (as a matter of fact, feminists have been the champion of reproductive rights).

Third, if you choose yourself to focus on spending more time with your children than correspondingly spending your time towards a "successful" career, then I certainly respect that choice. The important word here is "choice" -- you have the ability to choose your priorities. Many women either do not have that choice or would rather want to make different choices, and we as a society should be in a place where no woman should be penalized for making those choices. Part of making that choice easier would be the availability of universal subsidized daycare for all parents, something that parents in many European countries and some provinces in Canada (e.g. Quebec) enjoy.

Fourth, I find the question of which parent a child loves more is frankly a silly question. If children grow up in a warm, loving household, they will end up loving the parents who are involved, whatever their gender. Are you seriously suggesting that I, as a man, will never enjoy the love of my (potential) children that my (potential) wife/significant other will? (Note: the Jimmy Kimmel video is funny, but hardly demonstrates anything).

10. Oct 14, 2016

### Fervent Freyja

I'm talking about modern feminism in the US. It is a struggle for power here, not equality. I went to a liberal arts college after high school, a historically woman's college, and I will tell you there is an incredible, outright hate for males in the US. Even in the university I attend now, I find it very sexist against males. There are rape ads on every single hallway flatscreen, females are given preferential treatment in most things campus-related, the male organism is put down, if not ignored in many science courses, and there are many female-only groups. Other universities have female students rallying in the US that are attempting to ban fraternities, because they will rape the female peers. There have been many insane demonstrations to demonize the male. It is bad enough to the point that in some polls only 18% of Americans identify as a feminist, the trend is similar in other polls. Think about how bad a situation would be for an entire country to turn against a movement?

Although most feminists in the US aren't so extreme as the two below, the most influential and vocal ones are very sexist against males and it is acceptable to behave this way. Nowadays, the term 'feminist' in the US, doesn't refer to first or second wave feminism. Open hate against males (children) has been tolerated for quite a while, but we've been experiencing a backlash for the last few years, thanks to the internet.

11. Oct 14, 2016

Staff Emeritus
To get back to the original question at hand, we have a metric with a 115-year time constant, a problem with a small (by construction) number of winners, and a history of making decisions based on factors other than purely merit. Why would we think this is a good metric for the state of discrimination today?

And if it is not a good metric, and obviously so, why is the author using it?

12. Oct 14, 2016

### StatGuy2000

You make a fundamental error that many Americans (and others) make, which is that you confound feminism with the most extreme, radical elements. Feminism is a broad spectrum movement. Yes, there are extreme feminists who are fundamentally anti-male, but these do not represent the majority of those who are active feminists.

As for the rape ads you speak of, raising awareness of the importance of consent does not in itself suggest a hatred of males. I can't speak for the male organism put down or ignored in science courses (certainly wasn't apparent in any science classes I took, nor was it apparent among those who have graduated more recently).

I don't what you mean about open hate against male children, because I have not observed this in classrooms I've visited or among teachers.

The videos you've linked only show the most extreme radical elements of feminists. It's funny you mention about men's rights activists (MRA), since I've personally found these groups and their own rhetoric to be dubious or suspicious.

13. Oct 14, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

I don't think we need to debate the nuances of affirmative action as long as we agree (and I think we do) that it can't be a perfect/permanent solution because it is by-definition discriminatory. So there exists a point - whether you think we've reached it or not - where the discrimination it causes will overtake the discrimination it corrects. Nor is it possible to actually correct the inequities in opportunity, since like the woman who has a career ladder that is missing some rungs because she was discriminated against, skipping those rungs can't generally provide an equivalent path and result to climbing them.
"Statistically near zero" is my words only because things get so fuzzy that there are no clear-cut answers for what's left. I'm not sure if clicking through the wiki to the sources is enough for you, but it is a start:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_pay_gap

A 22% gap is big enough to be a real/systemic issue -- if it was, as is typically implied, with all else being equal. But 4-7% is really small, especially when considering the various speculated causes. Not listed there among "negotiating skills" and discrimination is the latency I mentioned above. If we could magically make people totally gender blind today, the unexplainable parts of the wage gap would slowly dissipate over the next 70 years - until everyone who has been touched by gender norms since birth leaves the workforce.

So the reason I say "statistically near zero" is that 4-7% is very small and very difficult to explain quantitatively, which means that none of the potential components of it can be claimed to be large enough to be statistically relevant on their own.
The thread wasn't specifically about art history, it was [eventually] about making college worth attending. Here's what I said:

And to put it bluntly, women (girls) make wrong decisions about college much more often than boys do -- at least, that's what anyone who mentions the 22% pay gap (Hillary and almost every other liberal politician) should accept and focus their efforts on the most if they really want to "fix" it. To make sure we're still on point: that "wrong" decision is almost as certainly the primary cause of the Nobel Prize gap as it is the primary cause of the 22% pay gap (15-18% of the 22%).
Extremely. Median salaries for math majors are somewhere around double the overall national median. It's broad so it depends on exactly what you end up doing with it, but then that's part of the point, isn't it? With an art history degree, you can curate a museum [edit: an art museum], teach art history, or pour hot water on roasted, ground-up beans. And that's about it.

14. Oct 14, 2016

### PeroK

Or, you can become the Duchess of Cambridge!

15. Oct 14, 2016

### mheslep

The failure here was the failure to denounce the criticism of the Nobel Committee as absurd self righteous posturing, bigoted, and anti science. And criticism by who? The like of CNN, the HuffingtonPost, "media discussions", and op-Ed writers; they "complain" between bouts of tabloid journalism. If the issue is one of discrimination in the sciences and not personal choice, then the chattering classes need to explain the list of Nobel Lauretes in physiology and medicine which at quick glance has half a dozen females in the last dozen years. The spread between between genders in US medical schools is now less than 5%. Females now are the majority gender at every level of adult education, from associates through doctorate. Females obviously choose differently from males.

Without dismissal of such tripe there will be more of it, and more personal destruction based on the stereotyping caused by this nonsense, as was the case with Nobel laureate Tim Hunt

Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
16. Oct 15, 2016

### StatGuy2000

While a 4-7% gap is relatively small in comparison with a 22% gap, as a statistician, I would not necessarily describe is "statistically near zero", since that implies that the gap can be accounted for by random processes alone. The wiki article itself suggests that is not the case (one needs to assess the methodology used to arrive at these conclusions).

I know, technical details, but people who work with data often hone in on these.

First of all, I dispute strongly the notion that women (girls) make "wrong" decisions about college more often than men (boys) do, because inherent in that statement is that somehow, humanities & social science degree programs are somehow "wrong" choices. That the only form of post-secondary education worth pursuing is somehow programs that are "practical", or somehow involve STEM programs such as physics.

The simple fact is that a college/university education is not equivalent to vocational training. The purpose of a college/university education is to expand your intellectual horizons and provide an area of learning. Any degree program has the potential or not to impart useful skills that employers will find valuable. It's not what someone studies that is as important as what skills you gain. Whether that be directly through classes, or through extra-curricular activities, there are many paths people can achieve success.

Second (and this is closer to being on the subject), a physics degree may not necessarily be an "employable" degree. Anyone who has read through the Career Guidance section of PF will attest that there are numerous graduates of physics programs who have struggled to find meaningful employment. Perhaps your bias as an engineering graduate is showing, but I'm sure many of those graduates may well have felt that they have made the "wrong" decision, when in actual fact, they may simply have not acquired the skills that would make them employable.

Third, it has only been in relatively recent years (really since the 1960s onwards) where the broader culture in Western societies found it acceptable for women to pursue studies or research in STEM fields such as physics. So, with notable exceptions (e.g. Marie Curie, Maria Goeppert Mayer, Lise Meitner) if you consider the fact that men have been working in STEM for the entire duration when the Nobel Prizes were available (115 years), versus only 50 years for the most part for women, a gender gap in Nobel Prizes should not be surprising. This has nothing to do with making the "wrong" choices, since if the choices weren't necessarily available or acceptable in broader society for women, should we be "blaming" women to make the choices they made?

Median salaries only tell part of the story. Your point is valid that the spread is broad so it depends on exactly what you do with your math degree. If you spend all your courses focusing on reading, writing, and doing proofs (as opposed to gaining useful skills such as computing in addition, or taking courses in cognate fields like economics, business, physics, etc.), then how employable are you?

So in this sense, you and I agree. As for art history, you are again assuming that the degree itself prepares someone only for curating a museum or teaching art history. But what does an art history degree teach you? Part of it is to teach you to communicate, to write well, and communication skills are valuable. Many art history majors have gone to pursue further studies in business, law, archaeology, architecture, etc., and have gone on to achieve success. You are correct that this isn't unique to an art history degree, but the same can be said of all sorts of degree programs.

My own cousin is an art history major, and she's a senior director/manager for a major communications firm out in Texas. A counterexample to your own list of what an art history major ends up doing.

17. Oct 15, 2016

### mheslep

yes, but they are 2nd order. First order is having something valuable to communicate, eg medicine, engineering, law, science.

18. Oct 15, 2016

### StatGuy2000

mheslep, I will respond as follows: your (I presume preliminary) list of what is valuable to communicate is too narrow.

19. Oct 16, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

4-7% isn't the number we're looking for: we're looking for the component of that which is due to discrimination. That number is some yet to be identified number less than 7%. I call it "statistically near zero" largely because it has yet to be isolated from the random noise/uncertainty in the data. The caveat being that it isn't necessarily entirely due to random noise, but also in just difficulty in being able to ask the right questions to get a meaningful answer.
That is at best a meaningless platitude (See here for something similar: https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/careers/pdf/Major_Decisions_How_.pdf )
[in fairness to BC, I don't know if they posted the article from Notre Dame because they agree with it or disagree with it.]

....and at worst a carefully couched lie. The two points can be boiled down to:
1. Study whatever interests you because:
2. It doesn't matter for what comes next (you might die!).

But, the premise is flat-out wrong:
2. You cannot become a lawyer without a law degree. You cannot become a doctor without a medical degree. You cannot become a registered professional architect/engineer without an architecture/engineering or related degree. You cannot become a CPA without an accounting or related degree. On the other hand, if a person chooses to become an art history major, I guess it is true that the choice of major won't have anything to do with what they do after, isn't it? So in that way it is a bait and switch question. It's "true", but in a misleading way. Regardless, because of the premise is wrong or at least extremely misleading:
1. Studying whatever you want with no eye toward the future is a bad decision.

Furthermore, stating the [false] premise that it doesn't matter sounds to me like an acknowledgement that if it did matter it should be taken into account. But in either case, I can't imagine why a person would ever think it would be a good idea for an 18 year old to spend $200,000 on "expand[ing] your intellectual horizons". Unless such a person is independently wealthy, that is at best a life altering (and not for the better) and potentially life destroying decision. I know 40 year olds who are still reeling from it. Um...sure...but not a lot of art history classes teach AutoCAD as far as I know. I'm aware that physics majors often struggle to find "meaningful" employment, but the point I've been trying to make is that "meaning" isn't the most important component of a college major or job: making money to eat and live is the most important function of a job (and getting the job is the most important function of the degree). And physics degrees, like math degrees, provide it. The struggle many physics/math majors have when they first graduate is the realization that their idealism has to be discarded if they don't want to find themselves starving under a bridge somewhere: a physics/math degree will lead to a good job, but often not in physics/math. Read those threads closer. Many believe they made the "wrong" decision, but what they got "wrong" is what the end-game looks like. They are, indeed, employable, just not where they had hoped to be employed. Yes, it was easier for me: an engineering degree qualifies a person for doing engineering and not a lot of engineers come out of college with phd's asking on PF "can I become an engineering professor with my credentials" as many do with physics. But either way, the "fall back" plan is still there, as long as people are willing to accept it. Absolutely agreed. The alleged bias in the Nobel was misplaced for that reason as well. But because of that - and the fact that that issue is totally gone - I don't think it even needs to be discussed. Agreed/no. That history is no longer relevant today, this article notwithstanding. Um, sure -- they are one single data point. But an important one. That's way too down into the weeds for me to be able to answer (not being a math major), but I will say this: based on the medians alone, you would have to go way down in the math major's pay scale to reach the art history median. And the point of citing the median is simply that it tells you in this case that most math majors do pretty well. Not all/no guarantees, but most. I'm not a fan of the ticket-punch concept of certain higher degrees. I think it cheapens them and/or creates an artificial impression of being more advanced than they really are. A law degree should be an undergraduate degree because yes, it doesn't matter what you major in as an undergrad before going on to a law degree. That means the time and money spent was largely wasted. But hey - it does help justify absurd fees! In any case, you are right (if you really want to be there...?): as a ticket-punch degree, you can do anything that you want that "expands your intellectual horizons" before moving on to the degree that actually matters for getting you a job. But such people are not the subject of the problem we're discussing. Similarly, I googled some and found a HuffPost article that listed maybe 8 or 10 attempted counterexamples to the unemployability of art history majors. But listing a bunch where only one was doing something related to art history is arguing against your point. It just reinforces the point that virtually no one succeeds as art historians and therefore people who do succeed as art history majors succeed despite their degree, not because of it. You missed mheslep's point, but connecting it to your cousin, above: I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that she's not communicating about art history in her job. Last edited: Oct 16, 2016 20. Oct 17, 2016 ### StatGuy2000 I concur that you make a fair point, in that component of the 4-7% number that is due to discrimination needs to be distinguished from random noise/uncertainty in the data. The caveat is the degree to which that can be ascertained from the data available (again, statisticians need to look carefully at both the methodologies & the analysis of the data to ascertain whether there is a statistically significant difference that can be meaningfully be attributed to discrimination (or at the very least cannot be explained through random processes). The examples you give above (lawyer, CPA, engineer, doctor, etc.) are all examples of professions which require specific vocational training prior to these positions being open, and the college/university programs are specific vocational training programs. But most university programs (including all non-engineering, non-medical STEM programs) are not vocational training. Again, you (and many others here on PF) are confusing a college/university education with vocational training. It is not. I have never said that it "doesn't matter what you study". What I am saying is that we should not equate a broad-based liberal arts or science education that a college/university provides with job training. That has never been the purpose of such an education -- any job training that such an education provides is a secondary benefit. As for a student spending$200,000 on "expanding your intellectual horizons" -- my first take is that a college/university education should not be so costly (I live in Canada, where a university education is a fraction of the price of American universities, even though fees have increased over the years). But that aside, what a student does during his/her time at college/university matters as much as, if not more, than what specific program he/she studies. Yes, certain programs lend themselves in a more straightforward way to specific career paths, but there are many paths to a fulfilling career, and it is up to the student to gain the skills to make himself/herself employable.

No they do not, but neither do many physics, chemistry, or math classes either. And those who major in liberal arts programs (like art history) will presumably be seeking employment where AutoCAD is not the key skill required.

I agree with you that physics and math degrees can be employable if those who study it expand on what the end-game looks like (i.e. not be so focused on becoming a "physicist" or "mathematician" and seek to expand on the skills they have gained). My contention is that all liberal arts degrees can also be employable if they expand on what the end-game will be.

I didn't mention this earlier in this thread, but I strongly suspect that the median for math majors is higher than, say, those majoring in liberal arts programs (like art history) because in those surveys, math majors include those who majored in applied math, statistics, or actuarial science degree programs (programs that are inherently more applicable to specific career paths) or include those who math majors who have double-majored or at least minored in, say, computer science, economics, accounting, etc. (for the purpose of this discussion, I am only considering those who have finished with a BS in a math program, not those who have continued on with graduate studies). So in essence these people have, within their own studies, gained employable skills in addition to their math studies.

So these students would have followed my basic advice and broaden their skill set to those that employers would be interested in.

It is debatable whether the "ticket-punch" concept of certain higher degree programs such as law is meaningful (btw, in the UK and Australia, if I'm not mistaken, a law degree is an undergraduate program). However, I'm not so sure that the time and money spent on pursuing an undergrad degree prior to law school is necessarily wasted, because one could argue that, given the importance of the legal implications of broad aspects of life, that someone with a "well-rounded" education can become more effective lawyers, as an example. I'm not sure if that argument holds water though.

BTW, I know the discussion is about art history, but the point I was raising is more generally about humanities and social science programs and the value that a humanities education can provide.

Now regarding my cousin, she is not communicating about art history now in her career, but she did start her career that way (she started out working for a museum). So in a sense, her art history degree did open a door that ultimately led to her current career (of course, she did not rest on her laurels and only relied on her degree -- she had expanded on her education with additional training while on the job).