Posted by: laurenreececnu | February 20, 2020

Greta Thunberg: Will She Mark the 18th in 118 Years?

It is rarely shocking that women are underrepresented in the awards they might receive, or positions they might seek. We have discussed the fact that many men beat out women for roles in particularly female-oriented positions, and maintain their status in keeping male-dominated professions just that: male. However, with each new year that comes, women are actively trying to break through their societal shackles of confinement in order to reach an equality with their male peers. In receiving awards, “there is a gender gap in recognition [and] award winning” (Feeney 2018) The achievement of winning a Nobel Peace Prize is no exception.

After being nominated by two lawmakers in Sweden, Greta Thunberg could potentially receive a Nobel Peace Prize. This is the second year in a row that Thunberg has been nominated. If she were to win, she would become the 18th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 118 years (Barr 2020). In 118 years, only 17 women have won this award?

First, it is important to note that Thunberg would not have had this opportunity without the nominations of those who are already currently in power, “The rules of the Nobel Peace Prize nominations dictate that any national lawmaker can put forward an individual to be considered” (Barr 2020). Like we have previously discussed, it takes those at the top to reach down and give a hand to those at the bottom. The two lawmakers explained that Thunberg, “has worked hard to make politicians open their eyes to the climate crisis […] action for reducing our emissions and complying with the Paris Agreement is therefore also an act of making peace” (Folley 2020). Thunberg is overwhelmingly deserving of this nomination and potential award, making history at just 17-years-old.

Thunberg began her activism on August 20, 2018, when she began protesting outside of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, advocating for the well-being of the environment. She is now a key activist for climate change. Thunberg has never backed down in the face of adversity- even when that adversity was the 45th president of the Unites States. She has given a plethora of speeches on behalf of the Paris Agreement, carbon emissions, and climate change in general. She has stood in front of crowds of (predominately white) male politicians, begging them to care about the environment. Greta Thunberg is the definition of a strong leader. She uses her platform and her beliefs to transform the conversation of climate change. Thunberg’s, “‘Fridays for Future’ school strike movement has helped spark similar youth-led climate demonstrations across the globe” (Folley 2020). By taking her own platform and status that she has built, she has turned around to give other adolescents the opportunity to voice their opinions and ultimately have the chance at being heard. Overall, Thunberg has done an outstanding job at changing the perception of what it means to be a leader- a young, female leader.

While Thunberg all-deserving of her nomination, it strikes the question: How is she only the 18th woman in all of the history of the Nobel Prize to potentially win? Why are women excluded from this award? Research shows that, “an implicit bias against women as experts and academic scientists is pervasive. It manifests itself by valuing, acknowledging and rewarding means scholarship over women’s scholarship” (Feeney 2018). Women in all categories and fields are iced out from this prize, because implicit bias views them as less. Through the various ways that women are unable to make connections in their fields, are quick to be judged -refer to the president’s tweets about Thunberg- they are unlikely to receive the letter of recommendation or the nomination they need to move forward. Greta Thunberg is no exception. Although she is young, smart, and capable, she is merely at the beginning of the obstacles she is to face. The more educated, popular, and loud she gets, the more backlash she is destined to receive. Nonetheless, Thunberg shows no signs of stopping her pursuits or letting off the climate change debate.

Some questions to consider:

Why do you think that women are excluded from the Nobel Prize, and in the future, what measures could be taken to allow more women to win this award?

In what ways to Thunberg’s leadership styles resonate with some of the themes we have talked about in class?


  1. I think women have been excluded from the Nobel Prize in the past because there is still a remnant of the stereotypical view that there is only a “man’s place” and “woman’s place” in the world, that continued to be perpetuated through various cultures and religions. Many class discussions have brought forth the gendered identity that led to social expectations of women and men in society. Over time we have seen more women (but frankly not enough) receive recognition for their contribution to society through their groundbreaking discoveries that better the global community as a whole. Interestingly, the female leader my group and I are researching for the WLCC project, was an activist for women’s rights to seek higher education and more prestigious occupations during the Victorian Era, which was a time when women were expected to stay home and men were designated as the “bread-winner.” The women’s movement of the late 1800s began to create a shift in the status of jobs women held, like nursing, from being seen as an undistinguished profession to an admirable, trained profession. As technology and information in a variety of fields increased, there was a demand for trained professionals. This may have been a spark in the introduction of women to different occupations because over half the population are women, so they needed to pull workers from somewhere to fulfill those roles. In other words, women still face invisible barriers that stifle the efficiency in reaching opportunities to perform such work; thus, this may be part of the reason why fewer women have yet to win the Nobel Prize.

    Just as Turner (2002) mentioned in her article about women of color in higher education, women are indirectly expected to play multiple identities in relation to university and student life, such as mother/caring figure, mentor, community leader, etc., and expected to reach tenure through active research projects and publishing of papers. How is that a fair and balanced system? Women, more so than men, are positioned to choose between family and work as being the most important. For example, do you sacrifice time with family and community outreach to reach tenure, or do you risk it by not making sacrifices of activities that define who you are as an individual? Essentially, there is a double bind present that further blocks women from reaching attainable goals, such as the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Furthermore, the first step in creating change is awareness. As Ibarra, Ely, and Kolb (2013) suggest from this week’s reading, awareness of the second generation bias (which is the subtle presence of gender bias in the workplace that creates invisible barriers for women pursuing top positions, putting women at a disadvantage compared to men) can help reshape organizational practices and culture to be more inclusive of women. I think this could be effective in allowing more women to be nominated for and win the Nobel Peace Prize, because future lawmakers who nominate people for the award will be surrounded hopefully by a more balanced environment of men and women, so it will not be so shocking to have another woman win, rather recognition for that individual’s work and not their gender will be acknowledged.

    Ibarra, H., Ely, R., & Kolb, D. (2013). Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers. (cover story). Harvard Business Review, 91(9), 60–67.

    Turner, C. S. V. (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 74-93.

  2. It amazes me that only 17 women have won a Nobel Peace Prize in 118 years. The first woman to win the prize was Marie Curie in 1903. Although Curie was the first to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, she won it alongside her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel. With this knowledge it makes me question whether she would have been awarded the prize had her husband and colleague not been a part of it. Nonetheless, Curie’s award is a huge milestone in the history of women. She proceeded to be the only woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize twice and the only person to win it in two different scientific fields.

    Greta Thunberg is like no other. She is achieving things at such a young age that I would never even have dreamed of doing. Very clearly she is deserving of this award. She has made monumental steps as an activist of climate change in spite of the huge amounts of criticism she receives. I did not know that in order to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize you had to be nominated by those who are already currently in power. This may be part of the reason very few women have received the award. The Ibarra, Ely, and Kolb reading said that people tend to gravitate towards people like themselves. More men are in positions of power and are more likely to gravitate and respect people like them. This greatly decreases the chances of women getting the recognition they deserve decreasing their nominations for the award.

    According to “The Nobel Prize” official website, between 1901 and 2019, the prize has been awarded 597 times and to a total of 919 individuals. How is it that so few of the individuals are women. I think that the first changes that need to be made are smaller scale. Recognizing the women who are currently in power and showcasing their abilities will help to inspire other women to follow in their footsteps. Additionally, this will further prove to men the capability women have to do jobs they have been thought out to be incapable of. Theoretically, it would then make sense for women to move up in power and obtain higher leadership positions thus increasing the potential of women Nobel nominees and nominators.

  3. I think it’s astonishing (and by astonishing, I mean infuriating) that only 17 women have won the Nobel Peace Prize in 118 years. Why is it so hard to acknowledge the incredible women who are shaping our world? There is so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start.

    One of the most frustrating parts about this issue is that there are a plethora of men in positions that do not deserve those positions. There are men who have a job because of their privilege, because of their higher social status, and because they had the right connections. For women, and especially women of color, it is difficult to be recognized (like Lauren said) and given opportunities to succeed. Greta Thunberg is 17 years old and yet has taken the world by storm in a way few people have done. She is an average kid with a voice that is speaking truth to an issue that has not been properly addressed for a long time. Truthfully, I admire her courage and her determination in pushing people to action. I think because she is so strong-willed in her convictions, people peg her as “dramatic” or “obnoxious”. This seems similar to the article we read about Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin being two opposite ends of the “spectrum” for women (“The Bitch and the Ditz”). If a woman begins to take charge or show authority, immediately there are men (and women) on her case for being so “opinionated”. The truth is that people are afraid of a person who is so passionate about an issue that she would go to such lengths to make it heard. However, this is heightened because she is a young female and the men who are in power do not want to hear what she is saying. In a TIME article regarding her rising fame and her recognition as a TIME Person of the Year 2019, she was compared to Joan of Arc, something that few people can be compared to (if any).

    Women are excluded from the Nobel Peace Prize because of the people in power. When I looked up who chose the Nobel Peace Prize winners, I saw that it is the “Norwegian Nobel Committee” and, as expected, there were only 2 women on a board of 6 people. This lack in the presence of women on the committee does not even account for the fact that they were all white people. Although the website said that the committee is meant to be unbiased, there is clearly a bias just in terms of who is on the committee.

    I think that, as has been mentioned before, we could implement quotas in the Nobel Peace Prize nominations, however this might defeat the purpose. Ideally, a woman would win the Nobel Peace Prize without any involvement of a quota but it seems this might not happen for a while. My hope is that as more women win the prize (and if Greta wins it), more women will be nominated and so on and so forth. I think it is similar to “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it” in the sense that if girls in the younger generation do not see women winning prizes and getting acknowledged for their success in public, they will not strive to win these awards. If Greta wins this award, that could mean a drastic change in the trajectory of women being awarded accolades that they have always deserved.

  4. I think if Greta Thunberg were male instead of female, this conversation would be completely different. As a male, Thunberg would be praised for being assertive and speaking out against an important issue that Thunberg is passionate about as males are stereotypically assertive and powerful. As a female though, Thunberg is going against society’s definition of a women by making her voice be heard over the crowd. This makes individuals, such as our world leaders, extremely uncomfortable for women to break barriers.

    Similarly, I think women are often excluded from the Nobel Peace Prize as the winners typically come from fields that are predominantly male. Women have little representation in these fields and are often excluded from ‘man’s work’. This causes it to be increasingly difficult for women to make advanced contributions to the field that could award them this prize. It is not the metaphor of the glass ceiling, but it is instead the metaphor of the sticky floor that is causing women to have to work harder to advance to that point in their career.

    I think the first step to advancing more women forward to have the option to win the Nobel Peace Prize would be to break the stigmas around stereotypical male dominated fields. Women should be equally represented in the sciences and maths in order to make brilliant discoveries such as men would. There is no reason that there should be a divide in these fields and both genders should have equal competencies. Further, it would be more fair if judges of the prize were blind to the candidates in that judges were unaware of the people behind the inventions and movements and instead only saw the invention and impact. This would allow judges to be completely unbiased and fair to all parties and candidates.

  5. I like that this touches on awards rather than just male-dominated fields. It shows that women are not only kept from advancing to top positions of power in fields but they are also not recognized for their accomplishments in the field. They face barriers while trying to reach top positions and are also not recognized for their accomplishments when they do make it to the top. Men have an easier time getting high-profile positions and are awarded more accolades for the same accomplishments as women.

    Just like women are passed up for jobs and promotions because they are women, I think women are overlooked for awards for the same reason: society values men over women. Even though we have made progress in the legal realm and women have easier access to entry level jobs, there are still deep-rooted societal norms that place men above women. There is still this outdated idea that men are more important and better than women, which I think is why so few women have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. There are still subtle biases and gender stereotypes that value the work and opinion of males over females, so the work women do are never valued as worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize while men’s work is overvalued for the prize.

    I think the first step to changing how many women are nominate to even win the prize is change how the nominees are chosen. They are chosen by national lawmakers, which are all still predominately white males. Because the people who are choosing the nominees for the prize are predominately white and male the nominees are consequently going to be dominated by males as well. Until there is a more diverse board of people who select the nominees, it will always be skewed in favor of men.

    I think the biggest quality of Greta that relates to course concepts is her more masculine characteristics. She is very abrasive and comes off as aggressive. This often makes the male politicians uncomfortable and hostile toward her because she is assertive. She certainly does not fit into the typical gender norms and categories of a feminine woman. She is more strong and assertive than most females which makes men resistant to her leadership. She has faced a lot of gender bias and backlash for not conforming to gender expectations society has placed on her.

  6. The fact that only 17 women have won this award was surprising to me at first, but the more I thought about it, it does make since and lines up with what we have talked about in class regarding the glass ceiling and the labyrinth. Women may have been able to gain a pathway into male dominated spheres like STEM, but when it comes to getting to the top it becomes much harder for women to be successful in that regard. The idea of implicit bias that is often held by both men and women I think definitely comes into play when it comes down to recognizing individuals for their work.
    Since men typically dominate the kinds of work that is recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize, it is naturally expected for men to win the prizes. In the article you posted about Donna Strickland, the third female physicist to win a Nobel prize, she mentioned that since she works primarily with men, she did not even think twice about why they were the ones winning the awards. Women in male dominated spheres do, in my opinion, have to work harder and achieve more in order to earn respect from others and recognition for their achievements. Because of this double bind, it makes it harder for women to make it to the top as well for others to accept that a woman deserves to be rewarded for her work as an expert in her field.

    I think Greta Thunberg is a great example of a strong leader. The fact that she has accomplished so much at such a young age is quite remarkable as well. I will admit that there are plenty of people who have won or been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize who I have never heard of or would have no idea what they are known for. The fact that Thunberg has widely become a household name for her efforts in combatting climate change says a lot about her ability to be a leader and the impact she has already had at age 17. I think that since she is a young woman with the courage to assert herself and bring her ideas to the table amongst powerful world leaders, many of whom are white men, she definitely challenges the typical model for what society expects of a woman leader. She is more aggressive and unapologetic when she speaks and leads, which is often looked down upon, yet she is recognized by many as being a strong and capable leader of change.

  7. People like people who remind them of themselves, it encourages the way they view the world. I think that this may encourage the fact that women are not nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. As we have seen in our readings, a disproportional number of men are law makers in comparison to the amount of female law makers there are. If you have to be nominated by a law maker to win a Nobel Peace Prize and most law makers are men and people are more likely to like people that remind them of themselves it makes sense that more men are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize then women.

    I believe that there should be an equal number of women nominated to men. For this to happen we must look at who is giving these nominations and in charge of deciding in the end who gets the prize. Its shocking that only 17 women have ever received the Nobel Peace Prize. 7 of the women who won the Nobel Peace Prize have been during the 2000s. This indicates that it is becoming at least slightly more common for women to win the prize in comparison to the 10 women who won the award during the 100 years that was the 1900s. I think that the nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize and who win in the end should become more publicized so that the world can recognize the discrepancies in the amount of women nominated.

    I also think that it is important to note that not only is Thunberg a young woman, she also is on the Autism spectrum. Having grown up with a brother on the spectrum I see the way Thunberg utilizes the strengths that Autism gave her to her advantage, her impeccable memory for facts and drive that is not deterred by people. I would really appreciate being able to see such a young women with a disability win the Nobel Peace Prize because although progress is obviously very slow moving, Thunberg winning would demonstrate that at least there is some progress in the right direction no matter how small.

  8. I think it is widely important to recognize that 118 years ago women had no right to vote in the United States and had zero representation in our government. Therefore, the likelyhood of a woman to be nominated for any global award in 1902 years ago was slim to none. It is an incredible feat that Marie Curie, even though she was nominated alongside two men, would even be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize. While 17 women in 117 years sounds like an egregious offense, women being thought of as more than just property is a seemingly new idea in the grander context. Especially with the Nobel peace prize being an international award where many other nations still have much wider gender divides than our own.

    I am NOT here to say that women don’t deserve to win these awards, or that Greta in general is undeserving. However, when we put into context the history of a male dominated work we should not be surprised that 17 women in 117 years have been recognized in such a grand scale. I would love to see Geta get a peace prize for protesting and advocating for her planet. I would love to see her grow and learn more and see more and more young women thrive, and strive to make an impact globally. We are headed into an era where women’s numbers at the top are steadily increasing. Hopefully the number of women, as well as other minority groups, peace prize winners raises exponentially as another 118 years pass. As women have more access to the means of changing the world the awards better follow suit.

  9. Women aren’t completely excluded from the Nobel Peace Prize, their work is just overshadowed and under appreciated. I would say because this is due to our deep history of treating women as second class citizens. Historically, women were socially stuck to the home and any woman outside of that was not taken seriously and during these times men did most of the work. Once this work was noticed a pattern was created and those qualities were sought after when good work was done. Once women received voting rights and “got out of the house” and starting doing things that men normally did they were very questioning or even baffled by the thought of a woman accomplishing those things. intuitively, more women should have won the nobel peace prize because men fought more in wars and are seen as more aggressive and other stereotypical masculine qualities don’t align with peace. women are seen as more loving, nurturing, and negotiable and those qualities align better with peace. I think the only measure to allow more women to win the prize is to expand our thinking and change perceptions of women. This is difficult but we must dig up the roots that were planted about women and replace them with standards that aren’t restrictive. standards that both men and women can achieve without questioning one another and valuing one another’s abilities regardless of gender.

  10. I really found this post to be incredibly interesting, especially because this is something I have really never considered or thought about before. I’ve never thought about how women are underrepresented when it comes to awards, so I really appreciate you taking the time to invest in such a topic that is rarely thought of! I must say, however, this does not surprise me at all. I am not very familiar with every Nobel Peace Prize winner, but I could not name a single woman if I tried. To be completely frank, I was unaware that there had even been a female recipient, which is incredibly sad. I believe that the reason only 17 women have ever won a Nobel Peace Prize is because their accomplishments are seen as inferior to those of men. Now, not to discourage all men because I am positive most of the men are incredibly well deserving of this award. However, I do believe that women are not taken as seriously. It is just simply much more difficult for women to present ideas and compete against men. I would also be interested to learn who chose the recipient and their genders, because I do believe that would play a role in the selection process, whether prejudice is conscience or not I do believe it is significant.

    I am not very familiar with Greta Thunberg’s work, however I admire her for her activist role she plays in society. Activism is very important to the change of stigma in culture, and I find it admirable that she spearheaded such a challenge. As we have discussed in class, it is important for women leaders to acknowledge the fact that they are WOMEN accomplishing the things that they have, otherwise it undermines what all other women are fighting for. Therefore, I believe Thunberg’s leadership is important in the sense that she is an activist as well as a leader herself, making her impact that much stronger.

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