1932

Abstract

After a long career at the National Center for Health Statistics, I retired and joined the Stanford Prevention Research Center as an unpaid associate. I was once described by a former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner as “one of the great epidemiologists.” The chair of the Harvard nutrition department, speaking on National Public Radio, once described my research as “rubbish.” Both may be exaggerations. Here I address some of the events that led to these contrasting descriptions. I also address the extent to which the so-called Matilda effect may have influenced my career. Are women in science on an equal footing with men? The Matilda effect suggests not. Unlike the Matthew effect for scientists, whereby those of higher prestige accrue a disproportionate share of recognition and rewards, the Matilda effect proposes that women scientists are systematically undervalued and underrecognized. I could never get a faculty job and was often treated like an underling. Nonetheless I persevered to publish highly cited research on several high-profile and sometimes controversial topics. Though overt sexism in science and workplaces has diminished over the course of my career, progress toward eliminating unconscious bias has been slower. The Matthew and Matilda effects are still powerful forces that distort incentives and rewards in science.

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2022-08-22
2024-04-24
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