Mathematics is, of course, more than just about numbers. However, one number really stood out at a mathematical sciences conference just held in South Australia: 85 per cent of the attendees were women.
Nearly 200 people attended the WIMSIG 2017 Conference: Celebration of Women in Australian Mathematical Sciences. This was the first-ever conference in Australia showcasing the research of women in the mathematical sciences.
ACEMS was proud to be a Platinum Sponsor for the event, which was organised by WIMSIG, the Women in Mathematics Special Interest Group of the Australian Mathematical Society (AustMS). It was held at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.
“I thought it was a great conference. Women are so used to showing up at a conference and seeing few or no other women there, so it was great to be at a conference surrounded by women,” said ACEMS Chief Investigator Kate Smith-Miles. Kate is also president of AustMS.
In addition to Kate, six other ACEMS Chief Investigators were on hand (pictured to the right). They included ACEMS Director Peter Taylor (Melbourne), Deputy Directors Kerrie Mengersen (QUT) and Nigel Bean (Adelaide), and Aurore Delaigle (Melbourne), Matt Wand (UTS), and Tim Garoni (Monash- NOT PICTURED). Kerrie was also one of the four plenary speakers.
“I loved it. I thought it was a fantastic conference. As a woman, I just loved being surrounded by other women. The whole atmosphere was really different,” said Aurore Delaigle.
“I thought it was a fantastic event. Not only was it of great quality scientifically, but it was clearly a very effective conference from a networking and connection perspective. It was a really interesting experience being in the minority at a maths-stats conference,” said Nigel Bean.
The conference covered the broad range of the mathematical sciences. In all, there were 98 research presentations and six posters, all from women.
“It was quite unlike any other conference I'd ever been to. The high quality technical and plenary talks were similar to conferences such as the AustMS Annual Meeting. But the feel of the conference was quite distinct. It was more collegial or supportive in some sense,” said Tim Garoni.
“It was about researchers feeling supported in what they do, finding mentors, having discussions with people about their future plans and how we can all help each other,” said Kate.
Kate Smith-Miles led a panel discussion that looked into the issue of equity and diversity in the mathematical sciences.
“People came up to me afterwards and told me the panel discussion was the highlight of the conference for them,” said Kate.
The panel included Kerrie Mengersen, Professors Nalini Joshi and Jacqui Ramagge from The University of Sydney, Prof Aleks Owczarek from The University of Melbourne, and Prof Cheryl Praeger from The University of Western Australia.
ACEMS Director Peter Taylor briefly addressed the conference and told them about ACEMS’ Equity and Diversity Program.
“We have the program not because it’s the right thing to do. We have it because we believe having a more diverse and equitable group of people makes us a better organisation,” said Peter.
The conference attracted attendees from 44 different institutions and 10 different countries. More than 50 students were on hand.
“I think everyone enjoyed it greatly, and there is a strong momentum to make this a regular, biennial or triennial, event,” said Nigel.
Aurore said she hopes that is true. “I’m hoping they’re going to do another soon!”