However, a fee to correct the imbalance would not be “in line with the spirit of Alfred Nobel’s last will,” he said.
Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and chemist, set out the fundamental rules of the awards in his will, written a year before his death in 1896. He specifically stated that the committee should not consider the nationality of a nominee when awarding the award.
In the years since, the award has become synonymous with the pinnacle of professional achievement. But the accomplishments of many women and people of color have not been part of this story.
The gender gap has been particularly marked in the sciences. Only four of the more than 200 winners in the history of the physics award have been women.
Last year, scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were the first two women to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry without a male collaborator, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The recipients also remain overwhelmingly white. Just over a dozen Nobel Prize winners have been black, and no black person, male or female, has won in a science category, according to Smithsonian.
Hansson said he and his colleagues have tried to close these gaps by encouraging more diversity in the nomination process.
“We make sure we know the problem and also the subconscious bias, etc., in the [prize-awarding] committees and academies, ”he said. “We have had sociologist conferences, we have had group discussions, we have put a lot of effort into it.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that “only about 10 percent of natural science teachers in Western Europe or North America are women, and even fewer if you go to East Asia.”
“We need different attitudes towards women who are dedicated to science,” he added, “so that they have the opportunity to make these discoveries that are being awarded.”
In a tweet this month, UN Women, the United Nations agency focused on gender equality, highlighted how rare it has been for women to step beyond the Nobel Prize ceiling.
“Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of female Nobel Prize winners over the years is just another indicator of slow progress on gender equality,” UN Women wrote on Twitter.