Month: August 2017

From Anonymous

The Dean of our College sent our Mathematics department an email to let us know that a STRIDE (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) workshop will take place, and he highly recommending that anyone on a hiring committee go to it. He called for a composition of the faculty to be reflective of society at large. “For example, ideally the Math department would be 50% women. As an intermediate goal I’d like to see the composition of our faculty reflect the composition of PhD recipients in each department in the college. For the Math department this would mean ~32% women according to the AMS”. Here is one of the responses from one of the faculty members (with names removed).


Dear All,

Let me take the liberty to add my two pennies.

First of all to make this clear. I am absolutely for involving women in mathematics. Here is some background

I supervise a female undergraduate student of xxx origin. What could be better for diversity? She got a WIM stipend last year. And the first place on a student exhibition for the project she is doing under my supervision. She came to xxx this August to continue her work with me on her project before a busy semester starts. I covered her travel from my funds.

I had several female PhD and Master students.

I collaborate and discuss mathematics with quite a few female mathematicians including xxx , xxx, (who came to xxx by my invitation a couple years ago to work with
xxx and me), xxx and many others.

If you ask my opinion, the best candidate for the next chair of our department would be xxx. Even though she … I would be happy to work under her leadership.

I wrote this to indicate that I am not at all biased. Having said that I am sorry to say that the goal figure of 50% IMHO is absolutely unreasonable. Men and women are different. Women give birth to our kids and almost always take more time for taking care of them than men. I hardly can imagine a boxing match on Olympics with a man agains a women. If this happened, if near from there, walking with my cane, I would run there to protect the lady. I would.

My understanding of the term “equal opportunity” consists of two contradictory goals which somehow should be combined for coexist.

–There should be no difference in our attitude towards women and men, Black, Indian, Mexican, Hispanic and so on.

— On the other hand, we need to take into account that some of them had less opportunities, and we want to give them more opportunities to realize their potential.

This is a hard task.

In my family, both parents of mine were brilliant mathematicians. When my younger brother was born, it became clear that two parent entirely dedicated to Mathematics can not take reasonable care of the kids.
They decided that my mother gived up her position at xxx Institute and switched to a teaching position at xxx University. She was a great teacher. When xxx received (one of) his latest prizes, in his celebrating speech, in the first sentence he said first that without her he doubts he would become a mathematician. After my mom retired in xxx, she taught for xxx for two years.

If one likes numbers (as a mathematician, I hate them), I still would not like to look at %% at xxx. Better look at publications in the Annals.

My wife xxx, an M.D., does not work as a doctor. She takes care of our daughters. She is essentially a co–author of my mathematical work, my paintings, literature.

Setting a specific goal of 38% or 50% – I don`t like this. This seems unreasonable to me. Moving in this direction -– I like this a lot.

Thank you,

From Elizabeth

Title Chemist

I would like to start by saying that throughout my seven years of college, I never felt like I was treated inappropriately because I’m a female. I majored in chemistry and math for undergraduate, and in a few of my math classes I was the only female. I didn’t feel like the other students or the professors treated me differently.

However, since I entered the workforce five years ago, I have encountered a few less than pleasant situations. Three specific instances come to mind, which I would like to share here.

My first job out of school was at a company that did chemistry consulting work. One day, the administrative assistant’s husband stopped by. She introduced me to him, and he shook my hand but would not let go, even when I tried to release my grip. They both found it funny. I later found out that he is a nuclear physicist, and he returned on another occasion. I was at my workstation, and I could hear him down the hall loudly saying “Where’s Elizabeth? I bet she’s hiding because she knows I’m going to hit on her.” I felt mortified and now regret that I didn’t speak up and express disapproval at his behavior. I cannot imagine what his female co-workers must go through.

In order to drum up new business, the company hosted an open house, essentially a social event for the clients. Most of the clients were laboratories and engineering firms. My boss assigned me to greet people at the front door. One of the first groups of people to arrive was two men. I said “Welcome to (our company name)”, and he scoffed and said “yeah there you are.” I should note that I am not sure whether his unpleasant attitude was a result of me being female or because of my age. What I do know is that he would not have greeted my middle-aged male boss that way if it had been him at the door.

After I left that company, I started a lab job. My boss was friendly from the start, but after a few months he began pressuring me to meet up with him outside of work. He would ask me to dinner but clarify that “it is not a date or anything.” These encounters quickly turned awkward, since of course I was not interested. I feel like in this type of situation, the rejection can possibly influence decisions on promotions and pay raises. Although I expressed no interest in him, he remained persistent, and even invited me to his father’s farm for camping!

Fortunately he left the company soon after. I exchanged contact info with him, since I needed to use him as a reference, and he sent me occasional emails, sometimes asking me to visit. After a few more months, I noticed that the invitations had ceased. Soon after, I learned that one of my co-workers was pregnant and he was the father.

As a disclaimer, I should say that I am aware that these types of situations can go both ways. Since I have been a girl my whole life, I don’t have firsthand experience with any female-to-male inappropriate actions. But I do feel compelled to share here since I feel that being a female has had some negative impact on my career.