Women in Math

Women in Math: Blazing the trail

Women have always been, and still are, underrepresented in the field of mathematics. The Department of Mathematics at Saint Mary’s is working to change that. A series of lectures discussing the accomplishments of women who love mathematics is being offered this week to students to encourage them to pursue mathematics against the odds.

“Traditionally, mathematics is a field in which women are underrepresented. Women can be fine mathematicians, but the world doesn’t recognize that,” says math professor Mary Connolly. “Current students don’t always realize the importance of women who have blazed the path ahead of them. That’s the point of the activities that we have scheduled.”

Retired math professor Sister Miriam Cooney, CSC, is presenting three discussions on women in math this week. In addition, several alumnae will speak about what their degree in mathematics has helped them achieve in a panel discussion titled AfterMath. A panel of current math majors will also speak, encouraging students to pursue mathematics. “We’re looking at the entire continuum—how to support you while you’re here as a math student, what you can do with your math major, and how can you join this long progression of important women who have contributed to mathematics,” says Connolly.

Each of Cooney’s lectures addressed a different topic. The first was aimed at first- and second-year students; the second discussed the important women of mathematics; and the third will focus on topics that students wanted to address.

Saint Mary’s math majors are passionate about their choice of discipline and look forward to careers in math-related fields. “I became interested in math in middle school when my teachers showed me how much fun math can really be. I wanted to help other students who struggle in math as I did so I wanted to teach it. I believe women have a lot to offer the field in terms of knowledge. I really enjoy the challenges it brings,” says Ashlynd Romkema ’12.

All of the speakers highlight the importance of math to women today and how Saint Mary’s helps women mathematicians achieve their goals. “We’re trying to make a strong statement. This is a great field for women,” Connolly says. “They’ll be supported by us; they’ll be supported by other women in the field. We’re still underrepresented. And that’s why we need to encourage women that are in the field...”
—Alicia Smith '12