Students Celebrate Women in Mathematics

The Further Maths Support Programme Wales and College of Science held an exciting conference on 15th March 2016 at Swansea University entitled ‘Celebrating Women in Mathematics’.

The event, organised as part of the British Science Week, was dedicated to celebrating women who have made significant contributions to Maths, Science and Engineering. The conference showed both contemporary and historic examples of women who have made great progress in what is sometimes seen as a field dominated by men. 

The FMSP Wales were delighted to welcome Professor Julie Williams CBE, Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales, who in her talk highlighted what exciting opportunities are there for students with good scientific background. Julie Williams commented “Girls who take A level maths or science can increase their subsequent salaries by a third.  There are many opportunities for interesting and rewarding careers using mathematics, in fact there is a shortage of people with this knowledge and skill.  Maths is an excellent career choice. ” 

The day consisted of three interactive workshops and the end talk “Behind the Scenes” demonstrated what it means to be an undergraduate student and a researcher. The event was well received with 100% students’ feedback saying they would recommend the conference to other students. Students’ comments included “Great opportunity to learn more about the importance of maths, and how women are very influential in Maths”, “I enjoyed very much.  This has left me feeling inspired about women in science”.  A teacher from Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr commented “Roedd e'n dda i'r myfyrwyr gael cyfle i feddwl am broblemau.”  

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice- Chancellor of Swansea University, who shared the story of her success with the students, commented:  “We were thrilled to hold the conference in Swansea as part of the British Science week this year. Mathematics here is part of the College of Science, which is undergoing an exciting period of growth and expansion. This is the second year of the implementation of the Science 2020 Strategy. This is a grand multi-faceted vision, which will see the establishment of the Computational Foundry, a transformation of the Physics department, re-introduction of Chemistry, and an enhancement of the culture and environment both for learning and research in the College. The College has already earned an Athena Swan Bronze award for its work on encouraging diversity, in particular, encouraging girls to pursue scientific studies and careers. We are hoping events like today's conference will help to encourage even more girls to pursue a STEM career!”

The FMSP Wales funded by the Welsh Government has doubled the proportion of A-level students taking Further Mathematics, from just over 7% in 2010 (when the programme was launched) to nearly 14% now.  By supporting the teaching of Further Mathematics, more girls and boys have been enabled to study the subject they enjoy and are good at. Although the number of Further Maths students is growing, only a quarter of those are girls. The FMSP Wales are hoping events similar to the Celebrating Women In Maths conference will help to redress the balance.

In the recent STEM in Education and Training delivery plan for Wales published in March 2016 the Welsh Government outlined its’ commitment to funding “the successful Further Mathematics Support programme Wales to better support the flow of high-order mathematics skills with increasing emphasis on girls’ progression and teacher professional learning”. The review of how the programme can be rolled out Wales-wide is planned to be done by July 2016. The STEM plan for Wales also outlines the upcoming reform for A-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics and highlights the FMSP Wales work with SEREN hubs.