Abigail Bown, AC for Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside
Results of boys and girls taking GCSE Mathematics are fairly even but, from that time onwards, the number of female students taking maths drops significantly. In many universities, women taking PhDs in maths are noticeable only by their absence, despite no statistical difference in prior achievement. Fewer than 10% of maths professors in the UK are women.
In the summer of 2018, the AMSP and the University of Manchester put on an event for Year 12s girls and boys to celebrate Women in Maths Research. To showcase successful female role models, all speakers and volunteers at the event were female mathematicians. The event included plenary talks by Professor Victoria Gould (York) on “My Career as a Mathematician”, and Dr Isobel Falconer (St Andrews) on “Female Mathematicians Throughout History”. It then concluded with a keynote talk by Helena Stage (Manchester) on “Rationalising Chaos”. There were several parallel workshops run by mathematicians at different stages of their careers relating to aspects of their research. The students were free to choose which workshops to attend, and time was also factored in to the workshops for the mathematicians to say a bit about their careers so far and to allow questions.
This event particularly inspired female students, and showed all attendees that a career as a research mathematician is something they can aspire to. In addition to learning about areas of mathematics not encountered at school, the students really appreciated “being able to ask lots of individual questions” due to small group sizes. When asked what the most useful aspect of the day was, one student said: “Hearing about women who have achieved something in worse conditions than we have nowadays has inspired me to handle being in a male dominated job.” Another commented that “meeting all these amazing mathematicians” gave the event a really “empowering atmosphere”!
We’re very pleased that this event has been nominated for the Faculty of Science and Engineering’s Better World Showcase in the category of Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. We are hoping to run the event again in the summer of 2019 and open it up to year 10 students as well.