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This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating women’s achievements in maths while raising awareness about the discrimination they still face. In 2024, the campaign theme is #InspireInclusion. The history of women in maths is a fabulous lens through which to view this mission. 

If you asked your students to name a famous mathematician, how many would know about Florence Nightingale and the difference she made as a statistician? Or Katherine Johnson and her contribution to space exploration? Or Ada Lovelace as “the first computer programmer”?  

Hopefully, some will know of these amazing women and how they used maths to change the world. How about Joan Clarke – instrumental in breaking the Enigma code but unrecognised in her lifetime? Or Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female winner of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, in 2014? 

Shakuntala Devi was called the “human computer” due to her spectacular mathematical skills. Although less well-known, but no less talented. For example, she could multiply two randomly chosen 13-digit numbers together in 28 seconds!   Shankuntala features in our new ‘Significant Figures’ collection, an easy-to-use Top-Trumps style resource raising awareness of lesser-known mathematicians to #InspireInclusion. For each mathematician, there is a short activity directly linking their work to the Key Stage 3 or 4 Curriculum.

Of course, thankfully, times have changed. Now, we see a much larger number of female mathematicians being recognised for their contributions to maths. For example, who in the maths world has not heard of the phenomenal Hannah Fry – mathematician, author, presenter, and lecturer?

How about the Mathematical Biologist Professor Julia Gog OBE? A current leading expert in mathematical modelling, helping to control the spread of infectious diseases. There are, of course, many more: Dr Eugenia Chang, Rachel Riley, Dr Aoeife Hunt, Anne-Marie Imafidon ….

Students can watch these mathematicians on YouTube and TV. They can also read about their work and discover the positive influence it is having on society right now.

Anne Marie Imafidon is the founder of the Stemettes, a social enterprise that has helped over 65,000 young girls and non-binary people with STEM-based interventions. The Stemettes have supported a call to action from three teenagers to include women role models in the STEM curriculum. This has culminated in a white paper being presented at the House of Commons this week – you can read it yourself here.

Our students need more relatable role models – right now! People they can see as their possible selves in the future. People with a similar background who look like them or are only a step or two ahead of them in life. Here’s some, hopefully, simple ways to help:

  • Use your Alumni.  Not just ex-students but encourage older students in the same school to share their experiences with younger ones.
  • Engage with Maths4Girls to bring female role models to your classroom.
  • Check out our brand new WHY MATHS video collection.  Featuring over 30 diverse young people discussing their experiences of maths. The videos showcase the relevance and practical applications of maths. They aim to inspire students in Years 9-11 to pursue further study beyond GCSE.
  • Tell your A level students about our online magazine – SUMS, and your GCSE students about Quick Maths. They are suitable for all students but with a slant towards female students. Each issue is packed full of support, resources and advice. 

Our female students have far more opportunities than their historic counterparts. Female students are now “allowed” to study maths, and many have successful careers in STEM. However, there is still a huge disparity in the number of women in STEM. This starts with the number of girls choosing post-16 maths. We have a page dedicated to increasing the number of females participating in level 3 maths: Encouraging girls’ participation. We also run events designed to encourage girls to study maths and related subjects at university.

Check out our events page to discover what’s happening near you. You can also contact your local Area Coordinator via the Local Support page. You can also still up to date with our monthly Stay Informed bulletin.

Maybe together we can #InspireInclusion because, as the great Katherine Johnson said:

“Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing.”  

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