The “Matilda Effect” that makes scientists invisible

This ancient custom of silencing female voices in science … It seems incredible, but its echoes linger. It is the “Matilda Effect” that makes scientists invisible. Why is it called that? One of the first women to publicly denounce him was Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a suffragette and abolitionist in America in the late 19th century. She fought for the rights of women and minorities.

Matilda Joslyn Gage gives the "Matilda Effect" her name.  She was one of the first to denounce the invisibility of women in science.
Matilda Joslyn Gage gives the “Matilda Effect” her name. She was one of the first to denounce the invisibility of women in science.
Silenced women

His 1883 essay Woman as an inventor (“Inventors”) describes this phenomenon, but does not give it a name. «The scientific training of women was massively denied. But she owes some of the most important inventions in the world, ”he wrote, listing a few examples.

“However, the proportion of female inventors (with patents) is much lower than that of men. This is due to the fact that women do not have the same freedom as men, ”Gage analyzed.

She was a victim of the same effect she denounced. Not because she was an inventor overshadowed by a man who stole her loan. But because she was silenced by her peers and not properly recognized by history, researchers say.

Gage was a passionate campaigner for women’s voting rights. Yet she was pushed aside by her own feminists. Margaret W. Rossiter is the American historian of science who coined the term “Matilda Effect”. She is a retired professor at Cornell University in the United States. She has spent her entire life looking for lost names of women scientists who are not documented in books. He observed that this pattern of female invisibility was repeated over and over in science. Men recognize the work of women and win more awards than women. I’ve already had it: it was the “Matilda Effect” that made scientists invisible in history.


Gender inequality is not new. Until recently, women in Western countries had no right to study at a university. But there are many inequalities and prejudices that still hold true in society.

“There are still stereotypes about the role women play in science. “Women are less clever”, “women try less”. Only 3% of the scientific Nobel Prizes were given to women. According to the President of AMIT, there are only between 20 and 25% women in the Spanish scientific world. And with the pandemic, that number got worse. A likely explanation for this low number is injury.

“A very important part of the problem is the perception of society. He believes that girls are worse at math, that they have no spatial view, that they are incapable … And if they are able, it is believed that they will not do well. “

A famous example of the "Matilda effect" are Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn.  They worked together, only he received the Nobel Prize.
A famous example of the “Matilda effect” are Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn. They worked together, only he received the Nobel Prize.

The movement #NoMoreMatildas It is supported not only by scholars, but also by writers, institutions and the media.

The initiative includes the free publication of stories about Einstein, Fleming and Schödinger as if they were women. And biographies of real scientists like the Danish geologist Inge Lehmann, the American biologist Barbara Mcclintock and the British chemist Rosalind Franklin.

The campaign aims to make girls visible and inspire them to pursue careers in science. “Don’t be intimidated by the famous scientists. Most of us scientists are not famous. We are normal people who do a job that we really like, ”says Rossiter.

“You always told me it didn’t fit. And I think. So this is a good thing. I don’t want to fit in with it. It’s not my goal in life, “he says.

Go on, you don’t know what the future holds! And when boys still say that girls can’t learn math. You should say, “Hey, we’re doing just as well!”

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