Nine Scientists Join Israel's National Academy – but Nary a Woman

The academy's president, Prof. Ruth Arnon, admits she is 'deeply saddened' that no female scientists were elected this year.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is one of the country's most male-dominated institutions: Nine newly elected scientists - all male - will join the academy in a festive event on Tuesday, and the academy's president, Prof. Ruth Arnon, admits she is "deeply saddened" that no female scientists were elected this year.

Only eight of the academy's 105 scientist members are women.

Among the new members is mathematician Elon Lindenstrauss - recipient of the prestigious 2010 Fields Medal. At the age of 42, Lindenstrauss becomes the academy's youngest member, which is comprised mostly of professors who have passed retirement age.

Another new member is Hebrew University political scientist Prof. Shlomo Avineri - a researcher of Zionism and an Israel Prize laureate. The others are archaeologist Prof. Amihai Mazar, also of Hebrew University; physicist Prof. Amnon Aharony of Tel Aviv University; biblical researcher Prof. Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University; organic chemist Prof. David Milstein of the Weizmann Institute of Science; biblical historian Prof. Nadav Naaman of Tel Aviv University; cultural researcher Prof. Ben-Ami Shillony of Hebrew University; and Prof. Shlomo Shamai of the electrical engineering faculty at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa.

The academy, established by law in 1961, now has 105 members, elected for life. By law, it is the highest academic body in Israel's scientific community, and its role is to concentrate Israel's top scientists to promote scientific activity and advise the government on research and knowledge.

Of course, the fact that all nine new members are men widens the gap between male and female membership of the academy. The eight women members include Prof. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute, a Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry; and Israel Prize laureate in law, Prof. Nili Cohen.

The academy's spokeswoman said Monday: "In answer to your question regarding the few women members, the president, Ruth Arnon, said she is aware of the situation and is deeply saddened by it. The president expressed her concern in no uncertain terms to the academy members during the academic plenum's last session about a month ago, and the president called on the academy's members to pay attention to this issue." "I will do everything in my power to fix this situation in the coming years," Arnon has said.

The academy's gender imbalance points to another recently established institution that does somewhat better in terms of sexual equality: the Academy for Young Scientists, established by the national academy last month, to which 26 young scientists were elected, nine of whom are female researchers.

Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities president Prof. Ruth Arnon.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Elon LindenstraussCredit: Sasson Tiram

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