26 Feb 2015

Underrepresentation of women in mathematical conferences


Despite significant improvements over the last few generations, the discipline of mathematics still counts a disproportionately small number of women among its practitioners. These women are underrepresented as conference speakers, even more so than the underrepresentation of women among PhD-earners as a whole. This underrepresentation is the result of implicit biases present within all of us, which cause us (on average) to perceive and treat women and men differently and unfairly. These mutually reinforcing biases begin in primary school, remain active through university study, and continue to oppose women’s careers through their effects on hiring, evaluation, awarding of prizes, and inclusion in journal editorial boards and conference organization committees. Underrepresentation of women as conference speakers is a symptom of these biases, but it also serves to perpetuate them; therefore, addressing the inequity at conferences is valuable and necessary for countering this underrepresentation. We describe in detail the biases against women in mathematics, knowing that greater awareness of them leads to a better ability to mitigate them. Finally, we make explicit suggestions for organizing conferences in ways that are equitable for female mathematicians.

Download the paper here.