Report on Mid-Year WIMSIG Gatherings

Recently informal WIMSIG gatherings were held in most capital cities. Thanks to Bronwyn Hajek, Inge Koch, Vivien Challis, Barbara Maenhaut, Arathi Arakala, Simon James, Vicky Mak, Barbara Holland, Joan Licata, Deborah Cromer, Catherine Greenhill, Adele Coster, and Heather Lonsdale for hosting gatherings. These gatherings are an important opportunity to discuss issues, share ideas and support each other.

The feedback from these gatherings has been overwhelmingly positive …

  • “We need to have more such activities.” (Melbourne)
  • “It was really worthwhile and enjoyable.” (Hobart)

It is great to share stories of successful programs such as The University of Adelaide’s Women’s Technology Challenge and UNSW’s Girls Do the Math program. We like to hear about upcoming programs such as AMSI’s Choose Maths project. It’s also important to share strategies and ideas with others.

  • “I wasn’t aware that I could ask timetabling not to give me 8am classes.” (Brisbane)
  • Relationships can be “like a transient state in a Markov chain”. (Hobart)

Research collaborations can also be fostered by meeting people that work in your town, but might not otherwise meet.

The next round of WIMSIG gatherings will be held in November/December. If you are interested in hosting, please contact Deborah Cromer.

Women in Astronomy Workshop

The 2015 Women in Astronomy Workshop was held at The University of Queensland in July. Joanne Hall (Secretary of WIMSIG) attended, along with 90 other participants.

Sessions included presentations on organisational good practice, mental health, as well as personal stories of success and workshops challenging conversations, vocal projection and ethical quandaries. Almost everything that was said in almost every session was applicable to all science disciplines.

Double Helix

CSIRO has launched Double Helix magazine – a brand new science magazine for kids and early teens. This replaces the previous publications Scientriffic and The Helix.


Women in Mathematics Dinner at the 2015 AustMS Meeting

The 59th Annual Meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society will be held at Flinders University from September 28 to October 1, 2015.

There will again be a Women in Mathematics Dinner.

  • Time: 6:30pm, Sunday 27 September 2015
  • Place: Tonsley Campus, Flinders University

The dinner will feature speeches and Q&A from some prominent women, including plenary speakers and the Hon. Gail Gago, MLC, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women for the state of South Australia.

Register for the dinner via a check box on the last page of the conference registration form.

WIMSIG General Meeting

At the 2015 AustMS meeting in Adelaide, WIMSIG will have a general business meeting before the Women in Mathematics dinner.

  • Time: 5:30-6:30pm, Sunday 27 September
  • Venue: TBA (near the dinner venue)

This meeting is a chance for members and friends of WIMSIG to meet the Executive Committee and discuss things of interest.

If there is an item you would like put on the agenda please contact the WIMSIG Secretary, Joanne Hall.

27th Behrend Memorial Lecture

  • Time: 6-7pm, Tuesday 4 August 2015
  • Venue: Cuming Theatre, Chemistry Building, The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne is privileged to be hosting Prof. Michèle Vergne in the week of August 3-7. She has made seminal contributions in many areas, including representation theory, algebraic geometry, and harmonic analysis. Among many honours, she has been elected to the French Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a plenary speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2006. She has also been very involved in the popularisation of mathematics in France.

Prof. Vergne has graciously accepted to give this year’s Behrend Memorial Lecture, aimed at the general public. Her talk Linear Inequalities will take place at 6pm on Tuesday 4 August. For full details, please see http://www.ms.unimelb.edu.au/~aghitza/behrend.

Do you have an event you’d like promoted?

  • We would be happy to advertise to our membership any conference or workshop that has specific and suitable measures in place to increase female participation.
  • See the WIMSIG Events page for an advice sheet for event organisers.
  • If you would like your event to be advertised to the WIMSIG membership, please contact the group’s webmaster, Amy Glen.


Positions at The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne is currently advertising the following positions in Pure Mathematics. Women are strongly encouraged to apply.

Homeward Bound

December 2016: 78 women from around the world (all scientists), 20 days to Antarctica and back, learning state of the art leadership & strategic skills.

The Homeward Bound project has an extraordinary and growing global faculty (who will be filmed) including Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Robert Kaplan, and Franny Armstrong. The science on board is sponsored by the Australian Antarctic Division, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science and Women in Polar Science. The University of Tasmania is doing longitudinal research on the participants.

It is expected that the women participating in the project return from the trip measurably more able to take their seat at the leadership table, influencing decisions and policy towards a more sustainable world.

This opportunity is only open to women with a science background. Applications close August 10, 2015.


International Mathematics Olympiad

In this year’s International Mathematics Olympiad, Australia was ranked 6th in the world, which is a the best ever outcome for our country.

The Australian Mathematics Olympiad team was entirely male. Over half of the countries who sent teams to the Mathematics Olympiad had teams which were entirely male. It is noted that on average all-male teams were ranked better than teams which included females, but there is no clear trend indicating causal factors.



In this new section of the WIMSIG Newsletter we summarise the following research article on gender equity.

Exposure to Scientific Theories Affects Women’s Math Performance by Ilan Dar-Nimrod, Steven J. Heine, Science 20 October 2006: Vol. 314 no. 5798 p. 435.

Summary by Joanne Hall:

We hear stories of some people who perform well in stressful situations and others who crack under the pressure. Psychologists have been able to identify situations in which underperformance is likely in a stressful situation. A particular such situation is called stereotype threat. When a person is encouraged to consider their group membership, and that group membership has a cultural association with poor performance at a given task, then the person is more likely to underperform on that task.

Despite our best efforts there is a historical legacy of women being perceived to have poor maths skills. Whether maths skills actually differ by gender is another story for another day. In the experiment conducted by Dar-Nimrod and Heine, women were given 4 different essays to consider immediately prior to completing a maths task.

  1. A discussion about there being no significant gender difference in maths skills.
  2. A discussion about gender but not mathematics.
  3. A genetic explanation for gender difference in maths skills.
  4. An experiential explanation for gender difference in maths skills.

The women who considered the essays that showed no gender difference or gave an experiential explanation performed significantly better than those who considered just a genetic explanation or gender alone.

The environment in which we learn mathematics can have a significant impact upon exam scores. Even if there is a biological basis for differing skills, attributing these differences to biological differences can create significant differences in achievement.

Have you read an interesting article? Have some news? Have an opportunity available?

Please send items to the WIMSIG Secretary, Joanne Hall.