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The Norwegian Nobel Institute’s Reply

October 26, 2011

The Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, has replied to my essay on this year’s award, The Nobel Peace Prize’s Problem with Women, which was published in Norwegian in the national newspaper, Dagbladet, under the title Kvinner på billigsalg on the internet, and the more tame Nobelkomiteens kvinneproblem in the paper version.

I reply to Lundestad at a broader level in my next posting, but I simply wanted to make his October 21st, 2011, text available here to those of you following this matter from afar. The translation of his letter below is mine.

The Nobel Committee’s problem with women

Geir Lundestad, Director, The Norwegian Nobel Institute
After having read Curt Rice’s op-ed article in Dagbladet the 18th of October, under the title “The Nobel Committee’s problem with women,” my thoughts went directly to Henrik Ibsen: Whether I pound or am being pounded, all the same there will be moaning!

The Norwegian Nobel Committee — where four of five members are women — has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 to three women. Rice claims nonetheless that the committee has devalued the work of women: The three winners must divide the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns among themselves. This is nothing new. It happens every time a Nobel Prize is shared. This naturally has nothing to do with women in particular. Nine of the fifteen women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, have won it alone.

Rice furthermore suggests a quota of 40% for each gender over a 10-year period. Regarding this proposal, it must be noted that the Nobel Organization has rules that apply to all of the Nobel Prizes. The Peace Prize has the highest number of female prize winners (a total of 15), ahead of literature (12), medicine (10), chemistry (4), physics (2) and economics (1). Most of the committees clearly take the view that few women have been worthy of the prize.

A proposal that there be a minimum of 40% of each gender would be completely stillborn in the Nobel system. Quotas can furthermore hardly be said to be in the spirit of Alfred Nobel. In his Will, he writes that the “most worthy candidate” shall receive the prize regardless “of nationality, whether he is Scandinavian or not.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 16:14

    Interesting. As you’ve said previously, I really think it’s less an issue of splitting the money and more an issue of splitting the actual achievement here. Also, I don’t get the argument that they have to follow rules that govern all Nobels equally; already each Nobel is selected under a unique set of regulations. But even so, I would argue that they could try what I proposed in my earlier response to your idea: institute an overall quota system but have the numbers weighted by category to mirror participation of women in each field. Lastly, I find sad that they think women aren’t doing *at least* 40 percent of the “worthy” peace work in the world right now… Anyway, thanks for the post.


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