The effect of "The Matilda Effect"

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

I was in the second year of college when I realized that although my teachers and college faculty were all female, the scientists I knew were all men. Being from a science college, this naturally made me curious about the lack of women in the upper echelons of science, and wonder why despite having such large numbers of women, we did not have any buildings or units named after them. Following this realization, I asked some classmates of mine as part of a social experiment to name all the scientists they knew in a three-minute span. I wanted to know if I was ill-informed or were there actual forces who were actively suppressing the stories of female scientists. To my utter dismay, my classmates named only male scientists!

I was appalled and extensively searched for the cause behind their behavior. Certainly, there must have been someone who had researched this anomaly - so many women in science but few female scientists known. Turns out I was right, there was even a name for this behavior! It’s called the Matilda Effect, which is basically the refusal to acknowledge women’s contributions to science, instead crediting their discoveries to their male counterparts as it was assumed that women were not capable of doing breakthroughs in science. The effect was first described by Matilda Jocelyn Gage, and the term was formally coined by Dr. Margaret W. Rossiter in her paper “The Matthew Matilda Effect in Science” published in 1993. I wrote a paper on this topic, expanding on this principle as well as the reasons as to why there were few women names in science. I recently uploaded it on Bioarchive, as it is still undergoing some revisions with the journal. It is titled "Women in Science and Technology: An Indian scenario". But I felt a paper was not enough, I had to convey the biased attitude against women to people around me, specially young girls, who thought that science is only for men and not women. For this reason, I created a page on Instagram called @womenin.stem, where I elaborate more on these forgotten women scientists, the ones who came before us, highlighting the sexism they faced in science. People ask me, "Why is your page so negative? You only talk about the struggle, not the happy stories". I feel that It is important to celebrate female scientists of today. But it is equally important to remember and honor those who came before us, who lit torches so that we could see, who ran barefoot through the dark forest so that we could walk on a clear defined path. These women in history deserve to be honored and recognized for their contributions, especially those discoveries which we usually attribute to men, for example, the DNA structure, nuclear fission, treatment to anemia and even Global Warming. Follow @womenin.stem to see how many of these amazing women do you know! “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” - Gloria Steinem

Post by: Akanksha Swarup

Edited by: Nida Rehmani

About the Editor:

Dr. Nida Rehmani serves as a mentor for the Global STEM Alliance programs, New York Academy of Sciences, USA. She is the scientific editor for and content editor for Lotus Stories blogs.

Dr. Rehmani completed her B.S. & M.S. in Biochemistry from India. Her zeal for higher education led her to pursue Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. Under the auspices of the Obama-Singh exchange dual degree program, she continued her research in the Department of Radiology, The Ohio State University, USA. During the program, she earned a M.Ed., specialized in STEM higher education.

She is a science communication enthusiast and volunteers for advocating STEM education, especially under-represented communities and minorities. She has a flair for writing & maintains her own personal blog She loves cooking and launched her own youtube channel: Millenial Recipes. Last but not the least, she is a dedicated mother to an active toddler!

Linkedin: Nida Rehmani

Twitter: @DrNidaRehmani

Instagram: Dr.Nida.R



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