Inaugural Women in Maths Day Celebrations

The month of May saw a series of events across Australia to celebrate the first-ever Women in Mathematics Day, and ACEMS was proud to play a part in many of these gatherings.

In 2018, the World Meeting for Women in Mathematics, (WM)2, voted to make 12th May the official date for the celebration. The date is the birthday of the late Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman ever to win mathematics highest honour, the Fields Medal.

In 2019, ACEMS was proud to sponsor or take part in 13 events at universities across the country. The activities ranged from panel discussions and public talks to networking events and public exhibitions.

The biggest event was a day-long conference in Adelaide that brought together The University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, and Flinders University.

Adelaide event co-organiser ACEMS Associate Investigator Dr Rachael Quill at the ‘Women in Maths’ poster exhibit

University of Adelaide masters student Kimberly Becker and ACEMS Associate Investigator Rachael Quill were the lead organisers of the conference.

“We had so many people come, and a diverse range of people, that brought a whole lot of energy to the event and the talks. It really felt like a huge celebration of women and the different paths that women take,” says Rachael.

The event featured a keynote address from one of Australia’s best-known mathematicians, Professor Nalini Joshi from The University of Sydney.

“It was amazing to hear about her journey through mathematics, how she developed her career, and how things have changed over the years," says Rachael.

Associate Professor Amie Albrecht from the University of South Australia says the event attracted people from both inside and outside academia, all at varying stages of their career.

“But we deliberately targeted undergraduate and postgraduate students and early career researchers,” says Amie.

ACEMS-QUT panel discussion (L-R): Prof Kerrie Mengersen (QUT/ACEMS), Sarah Hepworth (ATO), Dr Robyn Araujo (QUT), Dr Kate Helmstedt (QUT/ACEMS) and Virginia Wheway (Thiess)

The conference also featured two parallel panel sessions aimed at students and at ECRs. Attendees got to hear advice and stories from other women who had recently gone through those phases in their careers.

“We also had a networking session, where participants were run through some of the tips and tricks for networking with each other, and they had an opportunity to put that into practice,” says Amie.

The conference also featured a poster display sponsored by ACEMS. The posters featured around 40 women in maths from around Australia, in academia, industry and government, and at various stages of their career.

Spotlight on Women in Maths in Australia

ACEMS Associate Investigator Melissa Humphries created the posters.

“There are so many amazing things that women are doing in mathematics that it was not hard to find incredible women,” says Melissa.

Melissa says one of the biggest challenges was convincing some women that they were ‘poster-worthy’.

“There are so many women out there who are doing these amazing things that just don’t realise how amazing they are. All of us have something to give, and all of us have a story to tell, and they’re all equally valid and important,” says Melissa.

Guest Panelists at UTS Women in Maths Event (L-R): Prof Jacqui Ramagge, Dr Alba Santin Garcia, Dr Nahid Banihashemi, Veronica Price, Dounya Fattouh

It was a jam-packed day with something for everyone. But the main component of the day wasn’t a formal part of the program.

“Some of the feedback we received was that participants just loved being in a group of other women mathematicians, to look around and see so many women who are good at and are interested in mathematics,” says Amie.

Rachael says the day was an excellent springboard to keep the conversation going when it comes to diversity and inclusion in mathematics, and not just with women.

“We saw quite a lot of momentum coming out of the event in discussions beyond the day. There were academics and university leaders in attendance with whom we could continue the discussion about aspects of diversity and inclusion. Those practical things that we could change in the workplace to make life a bit easier for the people who don't fit the mould for whom the environment was created,” says Rachael.

Some of the other big Women in Maths Day events held at ACEMS nodes included:

  • The University of Melbourne: a portrait exhibition from photographer Noel Tovia showcasing ‘Women in Mathematics Throughout Europe’. In addition, there were research presentations, an exploration of the famous women of mathematics, and a panel discussion featuring ACEMS Chief Investigator Kate Smith-Miles, and two of her colleagues in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at Melbourne, Professors Antoinette Tordesillas and Malwina Luczak.
  • Monash University: ACEMS Deputy Director and Chief Investigator Kerrie Mengersen (QUT) presented a talk, "The Mathematics of Change: viewing the world's oldest discipline through a female lens”. Professor Di Cook (ACEMS), Professor Jessica Purcell and Julie Cook, all from Monash, then joined Kerrie for a panel discussion.
  • QUT: Kerrie Mengersen moderated a panel discussion featuring Dr Kate Helmstedt (ACEMS) and Dr Robyn Araujo from QUT, Virginia Wheway from Thiess, and Sarah Hepworth from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
Date (2019) Location\Host Speaker(s) Event type Title
2 -15 May Macquarie University Dr Karen Lamb (UoM) Free public lecture + Exhibition Opening Women in Mathematics: A Gallery of Portraits.
9 May Monash University Prof Kerrie Mengerson (QUT/ACEMS)
Prof Di Cook (Monash/ACEMS)
Prof Jessica Purcell (Monash)
Julie Cook (Monash)
Lecture and Q&A The Mathematics of Change: viewing the world's oldest discipline through a female lens.
13 May University of Adelaide (host),
Flinders University,
University of South Australia
Prof. Nalini Joshi AO (USyd)
Prof Eva Bezak (UniSA)
- Keynote lectures
- Networking session
- Student & ECR Career panels
- Women in Maths poster exhibit
South Australia Women In Maths Day: Career Conference
13 May University of Sydney Panellists from USyd:
- Dr Becky Armstrong
- Dr Lamiae Azizi
- Dr Emma Carberry
- Dr Zsuzsanna Dancso
- Pantea Pooladvand
- Assoc Prof Milena Radnovic
- Dr Sarah Romanes
- Assoc Prof Sharon Stephen
- Dr Rachel Wang
- Prof Jacqui Ramagge (LECTURE)
Panel & Talk Women In Maths Panel Discussion and Q&A, followed by lecture:
‘My life in Maths’ talk by Prof Jacqui Ramagge
13 May The University of Melbourne Prof Kate Smith-Miles (UoM/ACEMS)
Prof Antoinette Tordesillas (UoM)
Prof Malwina Luczak (UoM)
Panel discussion & Portrait Exhibition International Women in Mathematics Day
13-May The University of Queensland Dr Romina Arroyo (UQ)
Dr Sara Herke (UQ)
Dr Sabrina Streipert (UQ)
Sheila Williams
Colloquium & Lunch Colloquium – Celebrating Women in Maths
13 May Queensland University of Technology Prof Kerrie Mengersen (QUT/ACEMS)
Dr Robyn Araujo (QUT)
Dr Kate Helmstedt (QUT/ACEMS)
Virginia Wheway (Thiess)
Sarah Hepworth (ATO)
Panel discussion Women in Maths QUT
14 May Swinburne Fatima Ansari (Swinburne)
Dr Pinkee Dey (Swinburne)
Public talks Two Public lectures:
“Less is more in the chemotherapy of breast cancer” and
“Thermomagnetic convection in ferromagnetic nano fluids”
14 May University of Wollongong Prof Marijka Basterham (UoW)
Dr Valentina-Mira Wheeler (UoW)
Presentations and Networking Lunch Women in Maths @ UOW
14 May Curtin University Prof Jo Ward (Curtin) Public talk An evening celebrating women in mathematics
15 May RMIT Prof Irene Hudson (RMIT)
Prof Asha Rao (RMIT)
Prof Belinda Tynan (RMIT)
Panel Discussion Women in Maths RMIT
16 May UNSW (no featured speakers) Lunch and Film Screening Women in Maths Day UNSW
16 May University of Technology Sydney STEM professionals
- Mary Coupland (UTS/ACEMS)
- Dounya Fattouh (NSW Dept of Education)
- Veronica Price (Macquarie Group)
- Prof Jacqui Ramagge (USyd)
- Dr Nahid Banihashemi (UTS)
- Dr Alba Santin Garcia (UTS)
- Dr Joanna Wang (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics)
Panel discussion Women in Maths Day UTS

Photo Gallery

Guest Panelists at UTS Women in Maths Event (L-R): Prof Jacqui Ramagge, Dr Alba Santin Garcia, Dr Nahid Banihashemi, Veronica Price, Dounya Fattouh

QUT Event – (L-R) Sarah Hepworth, Robyn Aroujo, Kate Helmstedt, Virginia Wheway, Kerrie Mengersen

More QUT event photos

ACEMS’ Dr Sevvandi Kandanaarachchi addressing Monash Event

Adelaide event co-organiser Dr Rachael Quill (ACEMS-Adelaide)

Keynote speaker Prof Nalini Joshi, Dr Melissa Humphries (ACEMS-Adelaide) and UoA Vice Chancellor Peter Rathjen

Group shot of some of the women at the UTS Event

More QUT event photos

Monash event (L-R) Di Cook, Julie Cook, Jessica Purcell, Kerrie Mengersen

Adelaide event with posters of Women in Maths

Co-organiser Kimberly Becker (left) sitting with Rose Crocker (ACEMS-Adelaide)

Swinburne event (L-R) Dr Pinkee Day, Dr Louise Olsen-Kettle and Fatima Ansari

Women in Maths Day podcast

Episode 17: A Day Can Make a Difference - Celebrating Women in Maths

Guest: Dr Amie Albright, Senior Lecturer at UniSA

Guest: Dr Melissa Humphries, Lecturer at University of Adelaide & ACEMS Associate Investigator

Guest: Dr Rachael Quill, Lecturer at University of Adelaide & ACEMS Associate Investigator

Host: Tim Macuga, ACEMS Media and Communications Officer

For just over a week in May 2019, people from around Australia came together for a very special celebration to honour and celebrate women in the mathematical sciences.

In this episode, we talk to three of the women behind that big event, what they did, why it was so important, did anything come of it, and what’s ahead when it comes to the issue of gender equity.