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Features: Faculty Insights


The University of Cambridge recently hosted the Women of Mathematics exhibition. It features portraits of nineteen female mathematicians from throughout Europe accompanied by brief descriptions of the mathematical areas on which they work.

The exhibition was launched at the European Congress of Mathematics in Berlin last year and has been touring universities, schools and other locations all over Europe.

Attracting excellence

As a world-leading centre for higher education and research in the mathematical sciences, the Faculty of Mathematics needs to draw the best students and staff from the widest possible field — irrespective of gender or background. The Women of Mathematics exhibition celebrates female mathematicians, a cause that chimes with our commitment to diversity and to encouraging more talented women to go into the mathematical sciences.

"We want the public, locally and further out, to know that this is something the University of Cambridge Mathematics Faculty is interested in. We want to be one of those forums for discussion of women in maths, their participation, and the celebration of them," says Holly Krieger, Lecturer at the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, and one of the organisers of the local leg of the exhibition.

Role models can play an important part in increasing female participation in mathematics and other STEM subjects. Hosting the exhibition offered the opportunity to highlight the high calibre of female mathematicians working in the Faculty. Six new portraits of female Cambridge mathematicians have been added to the exhibition, featuring leading researchers Natalia Berloff, Professor of Applied Mathematics; Nilanjana Datta, Lecturer in Quantum information (shown in the picture above); Anne-Christine Davis, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge; Julia Gog, Head of the Disease Dynamics Group and Reader in Mathematical Biology; Holly Krieger; and Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb, Head of the Image Analysis Group and Reader in Applied and Computational Analysis.


Supporting equal opportunities

Hosting the exhibition complements the Faculty's wider work to encourage and address gender equality, which was recognised by a Bronze Athena SWAN Department Award in April 2014. Orsola Rath Spivack (the Athena SWAN Coordinator, who also helped organise the exhibition) is working with the faculty's Athena SWAN panel, chaired by Anne-Christine Davis, to implement a wide-ranging plan to ensure equal opportunities for women in mathematics. This includes the presence of three Women's Advisors at the Faculty – Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb, Perla Sousi and Helen Mason, who in 2014 received an OBE for her work encouraging women in STEM. Other Faculty initiatives include family friendly working hours, support for part-time workers and carers returning to work, and the encouragement of professional and social networks for women, including the thriving Emmy Noether Society.

There was an enthusiastic response to the launch of the exhibition at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences on 25th April 2017. The event featured a welcome by Heads of Departments Gabriel Paternain and Nigel Peake, talks by Anne-Christine Davis, Holly Krieger and Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb, and a panel discussion chaired by Christie Marr, Deputy Director of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences. And there was a sneak preview of the portraits for 150 A-level students and their teachers at the LMS Girls in Mathematics Day, inspiring the next generation of female mathematicians.

The portraits will be on display at the Betty & Gordon Moore Library in Cambridge, and you can see the exhibition posters featuring the six Cambridge mathematicians here. To read or watch interviews with them visit Plus magazine.

Image credits: Henry Kenyon