Mathematics, “fools” of male-female parity among teachers-researchers

France, at the top of mathematics prizes, is a poor student when it comes to gender equality among its researchers.

With less than 25% women among mathematics science teachers in universities and research organizations, mathematics is a “Fools of Science Disciplines” in terms of gender parity, deplores Marie-Françoise Roy, professor emeritus at the University of Rennes. “Everyone agrees with the observation, but if there are things to question, we don’t touch them”judge severely the scientist observing this number “Constant for 15 years”.

In so-called pure or basic mathematics, the proportion of women among teachers is even lower: 7%. To explain this phenomenon, scientists use the metaphor of the “leaky pipe”: the proportion of women in basic sciences in general and in mathematics in particular decreases as these disciplines penetrate the professional world.

An imbalance that results from secondary or even primary education, stressed researchers gathered for a round table at the Assises des Mathématiques organized by the CNRS in Paris.

Need for a “collective examination of conscience”

So is the reintroduction of compulsory mathematics for all high school students in the first grade starting in the 2023 school year good news? With a domino effect, the first version of the grammar school reform launched in 2019 actually led to a collapse in the number of girls in mathematics with increased teaching in the subject Abitur.

” READ ALSO – Mathematics will be a primary compulsory subject from the 2023 school year

With that, the participants in the roundtable make a good point for National Education, even if other mathematicians gathered in the collective are more skeptical. As for higher education or research, “Girls drop out because they are not listened to, recognized and encouraged enough”argues Professor Roy, urging the mathematical community “collective soul-searching on the subject”.

The taboo of quotas

But beyond the politics of combating gender stereotypes from primary school, the right formula has yet to be found. Several academics or researchers point to the obligation of geographic mobility, which forces those who are promoted to a position as lecturer or professor to change institutions. An obligation felt far worse by women than by men.

This also includes the sensitive issue of quotas. According to Guillaume Hollard, economics professor at the prestigious École polytechnique, the X “Limited to 10-12% women to the point where the school considers mandating 20% ​​women with quotas”.

” ALSO READ – The big schools at the time of the quotas

Quotas were a “absolute taboo” for a long time, adds Marie-Françoise Roy, who is also President of the Commission for Women in Mathematics of the International Mathematical Union. It reports a growing consensus in the mathematician community for “Measures for integration and support” women, noting that countries such as Germany and the United States have performed better in this area in recent decades.

” ALSO READ – Why are French students so bad at math?

For Étienne Ghys, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Sciences, what matters “13% Female Members”, the situation is slowly improving as the institution must have as many candidates as candidates. If, as Stéphane Jaffard from the National Institute of Mathematical Sciences and their Interactions (INSMI) reminds us, “There are many studies and initiatives in favor of parity”the problem is their lack of scientific evaluation.

These programs “are hard to judge because they weren’t built for that”, explains Guillaume Hollard. One second “Blocking” According to him, time lingers too long to obtain data that would allow evaluating the effectiveness of a program. Paradoxically, noted Étienne Ghys, “The math community doesn’t like to be evaluated numerically”. A shame for experienced scientists!

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