Women who have changed the history of medicine

Without too much in the way of gender prejudice, Alfred Nobel set up the Nobel Prize with a desire to recognise “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Between 1901 and 2019, of the 923 Nobel Laureates, only 54 were women and, of those, just 12 received the Nobel Prize in Medicine. It’s a fact: women are under-represented among Nobel Laureates.

This situation has arisen due to unequal access to education, technology and leadership positions, alienating countless brilliant female minds from scientific careers and blocking their progress.

The lack of prizes and recognition is reflected in the inequality all too often experienced by women throughout their careers. The gender gap in science, technology and innovation translates into missed talent and unmade discoveries. Without examples to follow, young female scientists and researchers might be discouraged from pursuing scientific research.

After the first series of #contagiousstories, the IBSA Foundation has decided to dedicate a second series to the 12 female winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. The aim is to give visibility to those who have contributed to the future of medicine and at the same time guide new generations of young women by encouraging empowerment and gender mainstreaming.

Each of them has given their fundamental contribution to research and each of their stories is different. Their work changed the way in which we view medicine and their stories deserve to be known, acknowledged and told.

The illustrations are by the talented Nina Chhita, whose Instagram handle is @nina.draws.scientists. Her preferred subjects are contemporary and historical trailblazing female scientists. Her work has been featured on BBC News, Mental Floss, the social media pages of the University of Oxford, the University of Bath, Dementias Platform UK and in a YouTube video by Vanessa Hill.

The first 5 #contagiousstories are available on the blog Science Beyond Frontiers, the others will be published every Wednesday until the end of the year.