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Yale mathletes complain of “gender imbalance” in their Math Department

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Students and professors at Yale University are highly concerned with gender imbalance in the Math Department at the university. Only one tenured professor is female, and out of 53 professors in total, only four are female.

Many faculty members and students recently told the Yale Daily News that these “gender imbalances” are negatively affecting women on campus. They state that these imbalances are an ongoing concern that not only go beyond that of the many years of inadequate representation from women in STEM related fields, but that has persisted even two years into the university’s $50 million, five-year diversity initiative.

“I have seen very little indication of anything changing in the five years that I have been here, so I’m not very optimistic,” Math PHD student Senia Sheydvasser ’18 stated. “The current trajectory that we have is not sustainable. That I can say with a 100 percent certainty.”

Some of the explanations the university community has drawn for the alleged lack of representation for women is that Yale fails to advance junior faculty members currently at the institution, not to mention “a broken supply chain starting at the undergraduate level,” as the Yale Daily News reports.

Sheydvasser also makes the argument that the Math department’s recruitment process overlooks decorated female scholars because women are statistically more likely than men to have a spouse who is employed. This “gender obstacle,” as the article states, hinders their ability to relocate.

“They don’t really have a tenure track as I understand it,” Assistant math professor Pat Devlin stated. “It’s kind of like they hire you because you are already the best, or they hire you because you are disposable, and they will kick you out soon.”

Sheydvasser states that aspects of clear misogyny are evident against certain female students on campus.

“It startles me how many [female math majors] have at least one story of someone talking down to them that they do not belong here,” Sheydvasser expressed.

Prospective math major Catherine Lee ’20 lamented to the Yale Daily News that the gender imbalances has made it difficult for her to engage in study group activities in her classes. To exemplify this concern, Lee referred to a math class she attended last spring in which there were five females out of a class of 30 students.

Lee added that a large sum of professors in the math department are “male and somewhat unapproachable.” She also mentioned some of the benefits aligned with the university making efforts to include more women in their staff and student body.

“Having more women would create a better advising system,” Lee stated. “People subconsciously drive women away from the department and the major, not necessarily intentionally, but they are not very supportive.”

In response to all of the concerns, faculty members and student organizations on campus are reportedly driven to diminish the gender disparities to the best of their capabilities.

Very recently, the Yale Undergraduate Math Society began to offer “problem sessions” in which Yale students who are a part of the Math department can lament their concerns and address problems on campus. Lee stated that this could prove to be beneficial in an effort for women at the university to obtain a sense of inclusion.

Members of Yale have even launched a chapter on campus for the Association for Women in Mathematics, in which Assistant Math Professor Kalina Mincheva hopes will “ease gender disparities by bringing female students and faculty together.”

Professor Devlin, who is currently teaching the advanced math course MATH230 at Yale, stated that one of his objectives this year is to make certain that gender distribution during shopping period (Yale and Harvard’s course selection period), is commensurate to that by the end of the program.


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