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Understanding Underrepresentation: Women in Mathematics and Related Fields
Mathematical Intelligencer (2014)
  • Cathy Kessel
It is generally acknowledged that women are underrepresented in mathematics, but the evidence offered differs.

Some authors offer statistics for PhDs, some for full professors, and some for highest honors. Such statistics are rarely coordinated to analyze relative proportions of women in these categories and whether they have changed through the years. Given that there is now so much statistical information available, such cursory treatment suggests that authors are often not interested in examining just how women are underrepresented and whether there has been any change, but they wish to get on with their preferred explanations for underrepresentation. In some cases, this haste has generated explanations for phenomena whose existence is unsupported.

These problems can be avoided by examining more statistics, more systematically. In this article, I sketch a two-part examination: a survey of statistics on women in mathematics and comparison of the resulting picture to that of women in other fields. Its findings correct some common errors and lead to a characterization of the situation of women in mathematics that is not well publicized.
Publication Date
March 20, 2014
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Citation Information
"Understanding Underrepresentation: Women in Mathematics and Related Fields" Mathematical Intelligencer (Online first, March 20, 2014). DOI: 10.1007/s00283-013-9441-1