European Women in Mathematics

Founded in 1986

The European Women in Mathematics was first proposed in August 1986 and came into existence with its first meeting held in Paris in December 1986.

The International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Berkeley, United States, from 3 August to 11 August 1986. The Association for Women in Mathematics organised a round table panel discussion during the International Congress. Bodil Branner, from the Department of Mathematics, Technical University of Denmark was one of the mathematicians at the event organised by the Association for Women in Mathematics. Bodil Branner writes [2]:-
We were five European women on the round table, and I happened to be one of them. We decided to try to form a network in Europe similar to the Association for Women in Mathematics and to meet again in Paris, already in December the same year.
The five were Bodil Branner, Caroline Series, Gudrun Kalmbach, Marie-Francoise Roy and Donna Strauss. They decided to meet every year and at this early stage of the Society, one woman was made responsible to oversee the organisation of each meeting. The second meeting of the European Women in Mathematics was held in Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1987. Bodil Branner describes that meeting [2]:-
The second meeting of European Women in Mathematics took place in 1987 at my university, the Technical University of Denmark, in Copenhagen. We had reports about the situation for women mathematicians in the different countries that were represented. We started with countries in the North and ended by countries in the South. What a difference: the further South the more women in mathematics. There were also more women mathematicians in the East than in the West. I think the diversity came as a big surprise to all of us. No doubt culture, tradition and educational systems have an enormous influence on the number.
The third meeting was held at the University of Warwick, Coventry, England, in December 1988 was organised by Caroline Series. Capi Corrales Rodrigáñez from the Departamento de Álgebra, Facultad de Matemáticas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, writes [2]:-
Our plane from Madrid was delayed and by the time we arrived the meeting had already started. We sat quietly behind a large circle of chairs that practically occupied the whole room, fascinated by the many women, seemingly of all ages and countries, gathered there. Each one of them was briefly introducing herself in English to the rest, and the basic structure was the same in each presentation - name, country of birth, institution where she was working at the time and mathematical interests. The variety of accents that we heard, the different ideas about what it is to be a professional mathematician hidden in those two or three sentences and the richness of ways of thinking - and, consequently, of doing mathematics - reflected in the different choices of words, were just a little sample of the richness that kept emerging in the following days.
Here is a list of the places where the meetings were organised:
1986 Paris, France
1987 Copenhagen, Denmark
1988 Warwick, England
1990 Lisbon, Portugal
1991 Marseille, France
1993 Warsaw, Poland
1995 Madrid, Spain
1997 Trieste, Italy
1999 Loccum, Germany
2001 Malta
2003 Luminy, France
2005 Volgograd, Russia
2007 Cambridge, England
2009 Novi Sad, Serbia
2011 Barcelona, Spain
2013 Bonn, Germany
2015 Cortona , Italy
2017 Graz, Austria
Now with the exception of 1989, this list shows that between 1986 and 1991 there was a meeting each year. At the beginning these meetings was organised by one person, elected at the previous meeting. However, at the 1991 meeting, and at each meeting since, a standing committee and a convenor was elected and it was decided to hold the meetings every second year. This biennial meeting lasts for one week. It has a scientific program consisting of mini courses, invited lectures and contributed lectures. By 1993 European Women in Mathematics had obtained legal status, established an office in Helsinki and was registered as a legal organisation in Finland. The main reason for choosing Finland was the fact that the European Mathematical Society had been registered there in 1990.

The aims of the European Women in Mathematics are:
(i) Encouraging women to study mathematics.

(ii) Supporting women in their careers.

(iii) Providing a meeting place for like-minded people.

(iv) Promoting scientific communication.

(v) Cooperating with organizations with similar goals.

(vi) Gathering and providing information on women in mathematics, in particular gathering statistics about the situation of women in mathematics in Europe.

(vii) Giving prominence and visibility to women mathematicians.

(viii) Spreading the society's vision of mathematics and science.
European Women in Mathematics has a coordinator in each European country. Their role is to advertise European Women in Mathematics initiatives, to develop activities in their country, and to report on them to the network. In addition to the biennial meeting, the society runs biennial summer schools aimed particularly at younger colleagues. Sara Munday writes [2]:-
... in 2009, I noticed a poster for the 3rd Nordic European Women in Mathematics Summer School. Intrigued, I signed up and I can honestly say that I have never been to such an amazing event in my (admittedly short) mathematical life. Before attending such an event, I really would not have expected that simply being in a room with so many other women getting on with the business of learning some new mathematics could be such an empowering feeling. Moreover, the whole week was incredibly good fun! It was lovely to be around so many intelligent, motivated and interesting women. It was such a relief to be able to talk openly about gender issues without feeling constrained or encountering hostility.
Let us end with quoting Caroline Series. She was interviewed in 2007 and asked about her involvement with the European Women in Mathematics [3]:-
I first encountered an organised group of women mathematicians when as a graduate student I was invited to a meeting of the Boston Women in Mathematics. It was so warm and pleasant to be sitting tightly packed on the floor in somebody's house, all women involved in mathematics. After that, we set up a little group of the women graduate students at Harvard and I made some close friends. I did not think much more about it until the International Mathematical Congress in 1986 in Berkeley. The Association for Women in Mathematics, which had existed in the US for some years, invited women from different countries to speak in a panel discussion. There were a number of us Europeans there, all belonging to the American organisation. It came to me that we ought to be doing this in Europe. I floated the idea and we decided to try. A small group of us set up a first meeting in Paris. Then we had a meeting in Denmark the following year. The third year, I offered to organise a meeting in Warwick. It was all tremendously exciting. We were making things up "on the hoof" and we had to think ahead. If you did not have a suitable plan of action prepared, the meeting would happen and everyone would go away and it would fizzle out. There was no funding. It was a hand to mouth existence, but it grew. We set ourselves up as a legally constituted organisation before the European Mathematical Society and gradually we tapped into various sources of funding. It is not a big organisation but we hold meetings every couple of years somewhere in Europe. European Women in Mathematics offers the kind of friendships and networking that evolve through working together and making the organisation function - meeting women of all different ages and hearing their stories. I hope that we have been a support to younger women. They see women who have made it. Perhaps one or two have been at a difficult point in their career and we have convinced then to carry on.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. European Women in Mathematics website.
  2. S Munday and E Resmerita (eds.), European Women in Mathematics Newsletter 18 (1) (2011).
  3. C Series, Interview, Mathematics Today (2007).

Last Updated February 2018