In a July 5 entry, writer Joseph Castro discusses Lincoln’s latest findings surrounding discrimination against women in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.
Dubbed “the Mathilda Effect,” Lincoln has shown that women in the STEM areas do not receive the same recognition for their research and achievements as do men in those fields.
In earlier research funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the Association for Women in Science, Lincoln found that female scientists do not win awards for their research in proportion to the number of women in the PhD pool for their discipline.
An assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Lincoln also has done extensive research on how science careers can be incompatible for both women and men who also want to have a family.
By Joseph Castro
Despite the push in the last decade to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, women are still vastly underrepresented in these careers. But recent research shows the issue runs deeper than just jobs. Compared to men, women receive far fewer scientific awards and prizes than expected based on their representation in nomination pools.
This disparity, researchers found, is likely due to implicit or unconscious biases against women scientists that begin early in life. Numerous studies of school-aged children have found that when they’re asked to draw a scientist, they overwhelmingly depict an older white man working alone. Researchers have found that these biases can be curbed with education.
“I think counteracting these biases is going to be an ongoing process,” says Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas. “If little boys and girls are still drawing scientists that only look like men, I think that’s an indication this is still an issue.”
In 1968, the late sociologist Robert Merton coined the “Matthew effect,” which describes how famous scientists get more credit for collaborative research than their lesser-known colleagues, even if they took the backseat on a project. Twenty-five years later, science historian Margaret Rossiter noticed a similar thing happening to women scientists, whose work was often credited to men or glossed over completely. She called this sociological phenomenon the “Matilda effect.”
“The idea is that scientists strive to be unbiased and objective,” says Lincoln, who is the lead author of a study published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Social Studies of Science. “But if we’re overlooking scientific discoveries based on gender, that’s not a very scientific practice.”
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