Friday, April 1, 2011

Women in math and theoretical computer science

This week at the Newton institute, I had few technical discussions in the hallways since the subject of the workshop (discrete harmonic analysis) was really outside my sphere of competence.

So we talked about, mostly, the same things that always come up: food; job openings; who got a new job where, got married, had kids, got divorced, or died; comparative quality of life as an academic across various countries; teaching conditions at various universities; Java versus Scheme; quality versus quantity in publications; theoretical versus applied research; mathematics versus theoretical computer science; beauty; why we do what we do; the meaning of life; and the lack of women in science.

It's amazing that I have had discussions about women in science at pretty much every conference for more than 20 years, have even been to a couple of events that were dedicated to women issues, and yet, I have absolutely nothing to say about it. I can make an effort and repeat what I have heard, and maybe spew out a few half-forgotten, half-made-up statistics, but I have never had a single thought of my own on the subject.

I see that there are very few women in academia.
I hear that the masculine gender predominates in language.
I listen with sympathy or indignation, as the case may be, to stories of sexism and discrimination.
But I am unable to abstract the problems, hypothesize the reasons, propose possible solutions, and design a mechanism to implement them and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Could it be that I am just not interested?

3 comments:

  1. Dear Claire,

    If you are the person I believe you are then I can state that you already started your teaching career in a primary school at Ifs in Normandy, teaching me some English words your mother had learnt you and some Ancient Greek ones which you got from your father. You were already a small genious back then. My empirical guess is therefore based on pure (strong?)intuition, knowing that the probability might be little for having at least 2 Frenchwomen named Claire Mathieu and having both an academic job in the US.
    Anyway who ever you are it is nice to see that you have gone so far making an impressive career beyond the Atlantic. Well done!

    A bientôt, qui sait.
    Xavier résidant maintenant au Danemark (expatrié lui aussi)

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  2. Hi Xavier! I can't believe it!!! You are the boy who got a higher grade point average than me inm the second quarter of CM1, right?

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