Mathematical Society releases report on women in mathematics


  • Author: Statistics Views
  • Date: 03 April 2013
  • Copyright: Image appears courtesy of iStock Photo

The London Mathematical Society has recently released a report looking into why there are so few women working in mathematics today.

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According to RSS News (26th March 2013), the report especially focuses on women at higher levels of education, both in study and in teaching the subject. Whilst there are many female undergraduates in mathematics, making up a 40% majority, very few continue to MA or PhD level with only 6% of female mathematics professors teaching in the UK at this time.

The report also looks into how the next generation of female students can be motivated to continue studying mathematics.
Speaking to towards the end of 2012, when asked about female students in mathematics, former President of the Royal Statistical Society Valerie Isham, a former mathematics student herself, thought it could be to do with the current economic times and increases in tuition fees. “I work in a statistics department and we have always had more female students than male, but in maths generally, there are a lot of women now. More than half of our students are female but the issue is more as you go up the pipeline. It is something of great concern to the RSS and mathematical societies generally. It’s not just the gender difference but getting people through, so we have lots of undergraduates, a reasonable amount of MA students and PhD students but it’s uncertain what will happen as the change in fees for undergradutes works it’s way through. How much is a student willing to pay for an MA when they already have three years of debt built up? Will a post doc go straight into business or industry rather than choose to study further? Possibly women feel they need to get on in their careers and stop studying, – I don’t know what the answers are but there are lots of women still coming through, and I’m also sure we’ll see more women presidents of societies in the future."

Another possible issue as to why women do not pursue further studies is to do with wishing to start a family and needing to pay off study debts before the financial costs of having a family begin.

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