Skip to Main Content

Open Books Open Minds (2019/2020) - 'Lab Girl' by Hope Jahren

Open Books--Open Minds book of the year 2019/20

The Matilda Effect

"In 1993, Margaret Rossiter coined a phrase that captures an increasingly well-recognized phenomenon: the Matilda Effect, named after a suffragist, Matilda Gage, whose own work was overlooked by historians, and who also wrote about the way women scientists, in particular, had been erased by history. Rossiter’s 1993 paper decried the troubling recent history of male scientists receiving credit for work done by female scientists. The phrase—the Matilda Effect—took off, and has been cited in hundreds of subsequent studies. A 2013 paper, “The Matilda Effect in Science Communication,” reported that both men and women judged research papers by men to be stronger than those by women, and both men and women showed preference for the male authors as possible future collaborators. In the past year alone, dozens of papers on gender discrimination in science have cited the Matilda Effect. In naming the phenomenon, Rossiter identified the issue of misplaced credit as a problem that institutions would have to fight to rectify, and that equality-minded scholars are monitoring with even more rigor." -- Susan Dominus, October 2019

Sexual harassment in the sciences

"Women have an uncomfortable relationship with safety. We all know that. You know that when you take the subway. You know that when you fly into an unfamiliar place and stay in a hotel by yourself and you have to go somewhere at night. We all know that feeling. But science requires a lot of that. It requires a lot of being alone in a dark building after hours and moving around by yourself, and dealing with a lot of men that you often don’t know every well. I have tried to write honestly and openly about how these are not the safe spaces we would like [to think]. So I had that wrench in my pocket because I was working alone at night and I knew there were a lot of other people who had a key and some of them creeped me out – the wrench made me feel safer. That is the reality of all women’s lives – we negotiate risk while we live our lives, and that is true in science as well. I think men are surprised when I say that, and women are not." -- Hope Jahren,  April 16, 2016

Hidden histories