The women in mathematics dilemma

Gender diversity within a scientific community is an important factor to encourage creativity, which in its turn brings better results and contributes to advances to the field. However, the mathematical community still counts on low feminine participation rate, which decreases along the career hierarchy.

More difficult than verifying the existence of gender disparity is to understand its causes to propose actions in order to make our community more inclusive for women. In August 2016, a group of female and male mathematicians from Latin American countries, supported by the CWM-IMU (Committee for Women in Mathematics – International Mathematical Union) spent a week at Casa Matemática Oaxaca (CMO-BIRS), in Mexico, for the workshop “Women in Mathematics in Latin America: Barriers, Advancements and New Perspectives”.

One of the topics discussed was that the inclusion of women should be also thought of from the qualitative perspective, and not only in quantitative terms. The everyday life in a predominantly male community subliminally transmits the idea, to both men and women, that this space belongs to men and that the so-called “masculine” behaviors tend to be naturalized. This makes our classrooms, scientific events or department meetings sometimes hostile environments for many women, leading us to the dilemma in Mathematics: Is the environment male-dominated because there are few women or are there few women because the environment is male-dominated?

The gender disproportion reinforces the stereotype of the male mathematician and the problems faced by women are seen as exceptions or resulting from “personal choices”, apart from being frequently relativized and neglected.

Inspired by existing networks in Europe and Africa, a network of women mathematicians in Latin America and the Caribbean was created, although it is still embryonic.

The complete article (in Portuguese) includes information about the Brazilian mathematical community and is available at

Links for this article

Committee for Women in Mathematics (IMU) -
Workshop “Women in Mathematics in Latin America: Barriers, Advancements and New Perspectives” –
European Women in Mathematics –
African Women in Mathematics Association -