Celebrating Women in Mathematics Day

    Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences honours contributions of women to the field of mathematics.

    By Andrew Lyle on May 10, 2019

    Sunday, May 12th marks the inaugural Women in Mathematics Day—an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women around the world in mathematics. Today, the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences is celebrating the event to help spread the word on campus about the important day of recognition.

    “We are recognizing this date because—quite simply—much of the recognition for women in mathematics is long overdue,” said Arturo Pianzola, professor and chair in the department.

    Jill Bagwe, assistant chair (administration), added, “Such recognition is one way that we are able to encourage young women to enter into the fields of mathematics and statistics as well as foster inclusivity within our own department.”

    The proposal to create a Women in Mathematics Day was approved at the 2018 World Meeting for Women in Mathematics and is supported by multiple mathematics associations around the world, Bagwe explained.

    Making a day of it

    May 12th was selected for the event to coincide with the birthdate of Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician and professor at Stanford University. In 2017, Mirzakhani died at the age of 40 just three years after becoming the first female recipient of the prestigious Fields Medal. Selecting May 12th to observe this important day of recognition serves to honour her legacy, the achievements of all women in mathematics, and continue to inspire young women today.

    "We recognize that there is a gender imbalance in the department—one that we are determined to address and correct,” said Pianzola. “Recognizing and celebrating women in mathematics is one of the ways that we are narrowing this gap.”

    Recently, the department updated a vintage poster on campus—one older than the Central Academic Building it’s housed in—to reflect the contributions of women in mathematics as part of International Women’s Day. However, Bagwe notes, these efforts are just the start of the department's ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

    “We are working to transition the temporary update of the Modern Men of Mathematics display into a permanent one, to which we will annually add new featured women in mathematics,” said Bagwe. “We also intend to create a seminar series in which we will invite outstanding female mathematicians to speak in the department every May 12th.”

    Learn more about diversity in the Faculty of Science.