Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity
Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Graphic Design by Hanna Carriere
Graphic Design by Hanna Carriere (2020)

Located on Treaty 6 territory, the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Alberta respects the diverse histories, languages, cultures and experiences of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and First Peoples of Canada. We acknowledge a history of racism and discrimination in Canada, and aim to create and maintain a diverse community in which members of any race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, socio-economic status, class, and religion will feel welcome and included. We also acknowledge that the universality and unity of the language of mathematics and statistics lies in contrast to practices within our discipline that have often placed both barriers to entry and obstacles as to who can contribute and thrive within our community. All members of our community have both a responsibility to uphold the principles of equity and mutual respect as well as an expectation that other members of our community will do so as well.


What are the issues in our community?


The Basic Numbers Issue: Most mathematics and statistics departments in Canada (and the University of Alberta is unfortunately no exception) suffer from a numbers issue. Roughly speaking (see the graph below) the disparity between males and females continue to increase as one moves up the academic ladder. A similar phenomenon likely occurs for nearly any other minority group. Why this steady decline? The theories are varied (e.g., lack of role models, implicit bias), complex (e.g. stemming from early childhood education patterns), and need to be investigated further. We do not advocate a one-size-fits-all solution here, but rather will take concrete steps to both understand and address this issue. Our approach rests of the principle of equity, which recognizes that different members in our community have different needs and barriers to their success.  

Source: NSERC (Oct. 2017) report on "Strengthening Research Excellence through Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion" (Oct. 2017)

Source: NSERC report on "Strengthening Research Excellence through Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion" (Oct. 2017)


Gender and Sexual MinoritiesThe mathematics community is a diverse group, consisting of people with many different identities. The numbers issues we highlighted above, that breaks up our community into Male and Female is perhaps the most recognizable one, but we also recognize that awareness of gender and sexual minorities - often referred to as LGBTQ+ individuals, is overlooked when viewed in this dichotomy. We aim to bring attention and serve the needs of members from all identities in our community. Here, we provide some information to address common misunderstandings. 

  • Sex is a biological characteristic that is determined by factors such as chromosomes, hormones, and anatomy. Most people are categorized as male or female; however, a significant portion of the population is intersex, meaning that they do not fit into the binary categories. 

  • Gender is an identity that often relates to social roles expected of different people. People experience and express gender in many different ways, and it may not match the sex they are assigned. For some people, gender remains constant throughout their lives, while others experience more fluidity in their gender. Examples of genders include: man, woman, transgender, non-binary, gender, bi-gender, two spirit, and many more. To learn more about what these terms mean, click here.                    
  • Sexuality is a description of what genders someone is attracted to, often relative to their own gender. They include; but are by no means limited to: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. To learn more about these sexualities, click here.

*Sex, gender, and sexuality are all traits intrinsic to a person, and not lifestyle choices. It may be difficult to understand why people identify a certain way or how they feel; however, it is imperative to respect their identity. 

Discrimination - Can take many forms, every one of which is unwelcome in our community. Discriminatory actions are those that treat a person or a group badly for reasons such as their race, age or disability. They are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act and, unfortunately, can take on many overt and, especially in our community, subtle forms. Especially important in our community are sexism/gender discrimination, which are based on actual or perceived gender or sexual identity and racism which targets people based on their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group. 

Family IssuesResearch, teaching, and other administrative services are the major functions of our mathematical and statistical community. But our members also have other responsibilities and pressures from their equally rich and important family or personal life. When issues from the personal sphere arise - for example, those pertaining to child care, family emergencies, and personal relations - these undoubtedly affect our productivity and mental health. In such situations, we again adopt the notion of equity in offering assistance to our members. The university's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusivity is reflected in our recruitment of new members, in our efforts to retain existing members as their family situations change, and also in our efforts to provide an equitable environment in which our faculty, staff, and students can advance and thrive in our community. 

Disabilities - Come in a variety of forms. Some are more obvious to others (e.g. being in a wheelchair, having visual or auditory impairments) and these are called visible disabilities. While Universities have made great strides over the last few decades to recognize and accommodate these (though there is much more work to do) equally important and perhaps even more prevalent are the invisible disabilities faced by members of our community. These may include brain injuries, chronic pain, mental illness, anxiety, depression, gastro-intestinal disorders, and many more. 

What basic steps can we all take?

We believe it is important that all our members are treated with respect and recognition. 

  • While in a work place, professional conduct is expected, which includes being respectful of others' time and speaking to others in a courteous manner, even and especially when we disagree with them. Harassment of any kind is not tolerated, and we promote the respect of the privacy and safety of all. 

  • We work in common and shared spaces and it is important to clean up after ourselves and treat communal property with respect. This includes always following the University and Provincial health and safety measures.

  • Revealing or spreading personal information about members of our community to other members of our community (i.e. gossiping) can have severe and detrimental effects and will not to be tolerated. If you see someone engaging in this act, tell them to stop and walk away.

  • We encourage all members to use welcoming and inclusive languages and be considerate of the ways in which words may impact others. "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can also hurt".

Use inclusive languages when possible. For instance, replace gendered terms such as "he/she" with gender-neutral terms like "their/they/them".  More information on how to do this can be found here. If you aren't sure what pronouns/name to refer to someone by, just ask them in a private setting. Don't "out" someone without their express permission. There are many reasons someone may not be comfortable with their identity being public knowledge. Be courteous when asking questions, or look for resources yourself. Curiosity about these topics is great; just make sure your questions are not invasive or insensitive.


Planned Initiatives and Activities

Fostering EDI Friendly Environments

Starting in the Winter 2021 term, it was suggested to all instructors to play a short video at the start of their class highlighting the issues faced by members of our society at large. For one such video, click the video below.

Each of us carries with us certain implicit biases, or attitudes we hold towards people or stereotypes we associate with them without our conscious knowledge. We aim to make people aware of their own implicit bias by providing training opportunities for both faculty and students each year at the start of courses. Take a test here to find out about your own implicit biases. 

We also keep our community informed of various activities with the Faculty of Science that help to foster EDI friendly environments, for example the preview of "Picture a Scientist" Feb 17-20. 


Women in Mathematics/Statistics

An Iranian Mathematician, Maryam Mirzakhani (who died in 2017), was the first woman to be honoured by mathematics' highest prize - the Fields Medal. The international Council for Science declared Maryam Mirzakhani's birthday, May 12, as International Women in Mathematics Day in respect of her memory and in celebration of women in mathematics. The May 12 Initiative is now coordinated by various mathematics associations around the world. In 2020, 137 countires participated in the event. The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers - Maryam Mirzakhani.

On May 12, 2020, the Statistics Community also celebrated bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the renowned nurse, statistician, and reformer. Statistics communities worldwide have celebrated various women in statistics, including the Florence Nightingale day, hosted by the American Statistical Association and Caucus for Women in Statistics to inspire women and celebrate their achievements in statistics and data science. To understand God's thoughts, we must study statistics, for these are the measure of His purpose - Florence Nightingale.

We at the Department of MSS observe May 12 in celebration of women in mathematics and statistics to encourage an open, welcoming and inclusive environment for all.


MSS EDI Seminar Series

Each semester, we offer several MSS EDI seminars. EDI talks are open to all members of our community and range from research talks given by leading mathematicians and statisticians to talks about the issues of EDI within the mathematical and statistical science community. The talks will be followed by a discussion session and we hope the talks will both educate and inspire the members of our community. 

A list of past and upcoming talks:

Lisa Willis, December 15, 2020. "Writing effective EDI statements"

Diversity in Mathematics Summer School

In the summer of 2021, building on the success of previous schools hosted by the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and PIMS (Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences)  plans to run two summer schools targeted at undergraduate students and high school students who identify as members of a minority group. The aim of the summer school is to introduce students to new areas of mathematics and statistics, to provide them with first hand information about opportunities they might never have considered before, and also to build a sense of community among students and faculty from throughout Western Canada. More information about these schools will appear here shortly! 

Who are we?
Do you need help?

The MSS EDI committee consists of members of the research and teaching faculty, administrative staff, as well as undergraduates and graduate student representatives. For the years 2022-2023 these include: Terry Gannon (Chair), Shawn Desaulniers (FSO), Peng Wang (Admin), Katie Burak (Grad), Yurij Salmaniw (Grad), Emily Korfanty (Grad), Manish Patnaik (Faculty Member).

We are here to listen and to take constructive steps to address any issues pertaining to matters of equity, diversity, or inclusiveness, which you might be facing within our community. We encourage you to write to us (anonymously if you so choose) using this form, or in an email to any member of the committee listed in the paragraph above.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does Equity mean Equality?
A: Equity refers to providing fair and equitable resources based on needs; whereas Equality simply means to treat everyone equally whether it leads to success or not.
Q: What exactly is Diversity referring to?
A: Diversity refers to the different conditions, expressions and experiences of various groups identified by age, education, sexual orientation, parental status/responsibility, immigration status, Indigenous status, religion, disability, language, race, place of origin, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status and other attributes. 
Q: How do we achieve Inclusivity?
A: Inclusion requires creating an environment in which all people are respected equitably and have access to the same opportunities. 
Q: Who can help me with issues relevant to EDI?

A: You can contact the committee members, listed above who will direct the next courses of actions.

Further Resources