gender discussion at quomodocumque03 Feb 2011
Since I had promised, let me post the comment I finally added to the discussion at quomodocumque I had mentioned before. Also: note the link to Ivelisse Rubio’s talk in there — it’s finally online!
I had been following the discussion and I finally wanted to add my 2 cents. As much as I’m in favor of a gender conference campaign (let me see, my next conference has 52 men and 8 women participating, and that’s a conference exclusively for young researchers…) I think there’s need to think about the levels before that.
I wanted to stress Pipers sad but true point “i find that math is often not worth the people you have to deal with”. As a student, during my PhD and now as a postdoc I have seen how this and similar issues have driven women (and minorities) out of mathematics. Not only did we loose a diversity in mathematical culture, but we simply lost some of the most talented people I have met.
The dominant unconscious bias I encounter is ignorance. That is, many researchers seem unaware of the simple fact that people with different backgrounds require different measures to show them a way towards mathematical research. Yes, everybody has to work hard, but if nobody shows you what doing research is actually about, how can you consider investing your talent in research?
The most brilliant argument in favor of an initiative seems to be success. Ivelisse Rubio recently gave a talk at the UofM about women and minorities in mathematics. She spend the second half of the talk to describe young researchers that were drawn into research through such initiatives and supervisors that were ready to think about the real problems that stand in the way of such a career.
I think that’s the crucial factor. We should do whatever it takes to get the smartest people to do research in mathematics. Not just those white males that get a lot of good feedback from themselves.