Gender Representation on Journal Editorial Boards in the Mathematical Sciences

Our advisor, Chad Topaz, recently gave a faculty seminar on his research on gender representation on the editorial boards of math journals.  Check out the study he and Shilad Sen completed, Gender Representation on Journal Editorial Boards in the Mathematical Sciences, and read the press coverage here:

Some takeaways from his talk:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion are cornerstone issues in and outside of academia.
  • Women mathematicians have been treated horribly for centuries.
    • Sophie Germain‘s parents did not think her passion for mathematics was appropriate for a woman, so they took away her warm clothes and fire at night so she couldn’t study math.  Eventually, when they kept finding her “asleep at her desk in the morning, the ink frozen in the ink horn and her slate covered with calculations,” they relented and realized she would push through all odds to learn more math.
    • Sofia Kovalevskaya could not study in Russia because education was restricted to men.  In order to get permission to study abroad, she had to contract a “fictitious marriage” with Vladimir Kovalevskii.  She became the first woman in Europe to hold a doctorate in mathematics, but it took her many years to obtain a paid position at a university.  As a side note, she may have sustained a romantic relationship with Anne-Charlotte Edgren-Leffler for much of her life.
    • Emmy Noether, namesake of Noetherian rings and pioneer in ring theory and theoretical physics, taught at the University of Erlangen’s Mathematical Institute for seven years without pay.  Initially, many faculty members resisted hiring her at all, saying, “What will our soldiers think when they return to the university and find that they are required to learn at the feet of a woman?”  To this, David Hilbert responded, “I do not see that the sex of the candidate is an argument against her admission as privatdozent. After all, we are a university, not a bath house.”  She eventually began receiving a small salary.
    • Alice Schafer was the only female math major at the University of Richmond when she attended in 1915, and she was denied access to the university library since women were not allowed.  Still, she graduated in high standing and went on the found the Association for Women in Mathematics.
  • The percentage of women on journal editorial boards in the mathematical sciences is significantly lower than the percentages of women at lower levels in math.
    • 51% of the US population are women.
    • 42% of US recipients of BAs in the mathematical sciences are women.  (Really, 42%.  At Williams, this percentage usually hovers in the 20s. We are that much lower than the national average.)
    • 29% of US recipients of doctorate degrees in the mathematical sciences are women.
    • 16% of US tenure-stream faculty in the mathematical sciences at doctoral-granting institutions are women.
    • 8.9% of editors on editorial boards in the mathematical sciences are women.
  • Journals that are “applied” have more women as editors than journals that are “pure” or “both.”
    • Editorial boards of “applied” journals are 10.3% women.
    • Editorial boards of “pure” journals are 7.2% women.
    • Editorial boards of journals that are both “pure” and “applied” are 7.4% women.
  • Still, there is some hope.
    • The past 11 presidents of the American Mathematical Society have been men, but both candidates on the ballot this year are women!
    • The Mathematical Association of America and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics both currently have women as presidents.
    • The NSF Science and Engineering Indicators point to increased participation of women in science and engineering across all racial and ethnic groups.
  • You can help!  Here’a an abbreviated list of how to start.
    • Take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.
    • Educate yourself.
    • Create inclusive classrooms.
    • Change policies/procedures.
    • Create fair/inclusive professional environments.
    • Support AWIS, AWM, AAUW, and more.
    • Men: listen, learn, speak up, participate.

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