Statistics of Women Mathematicians by Isabel Sutil

Como trabajo de investigación en el área de Matemáticas, Isabel Sutil, alumna de 3º de ESO, ha navegado por Internet en busca de   varios documentos (citados al final del artículo) en los que aparecen reflejadas las enormes  diferencias de  participación de mujeres y hombres en congresos, conferencias y concursos de Matemáticas en Europa y la situación concreta de nuestro país. 


Por otro lado, se aborda, de acuerdo con los estudios realizados por el New York Times, la poca atención que se presta a las Matemáticas en la escuela estadounidense. Parece ser que esta asignatura, en las denominadas «HIGH SCHOOLS»  se considera apropiada para asiáticos, hijos de inmigrantes (procedentes de países que valoran las Matemáticas) y «pringados» (nerds). Veamos qué tiene que contarnos Isabel…


Checking news about maths in some American newspapers I have found an article that caught my attention in the New York Times (1). The article says the United States fail to develop mathematical abilities among students and, curiously, those who manage to success in this area are most of them immigrants or immigrants’ children from countries where education in Mathematics are more prized.


A survey shows that there are a lot of students with exceptional talent for Mathematics but they are rarely identified in this country. This happens because Maths is not really valued and because at Secondary schools it is thought that this subject is just for Asians and «nerds».

 The «American Mathematical Society» has analysed the results of an international competition for high school students called «Math Olympics”. These Olympics started in Romania in 1959 and about 500 high school students from 95 countries compete in it by teams. The American team participated for the first time in 1974. Each team is formed by six students chosen all around the country and trained in an intensive summer Maths camp.

 But what most caught my attention in this article was the small number of girls who participate in these Olympics. The article says that no girl participated until 1988. The girl who participated that year in the competition won the silver medal (gold lost by a single point). Since then, only two girls have won the gold and both were of Chinese origins. In recent years only 13 girls have participated and 12 of them were of Asian origins («Iglesias» was the surname of the thirteenth participant. It doesn’t say where she is from.)

 After reading this information I was curious to know some more specific information about the presence of women in the survey and research of mathematics:


  • The American Society of Mathematics has published a report (2) with statistics about the presence of women at Mathematics conferences and congresses . Counting the number of speakers by gender shows that in the period of 1998-2007 only 16-18% were women. Curiously if among the organisers there was a female, the percentage went up to 25%.

With the purpose of encourage women and girls to study and develop careers in the field of Mathematics and to promote equal opportunities the association of women mathematicians AWM was created.




  • Oxford University (3) has also been interested in the presence of women in Mathematics and it has made statistics about the situation in Europe. Curiously they found strong differences between countries. In southern countries the presence of women is much higher (47.6% Portugal, Italy 35%, Spain 27%) while in northern countries is much lower (6.7% Switzerland, Austria 9.2%, the Netherlands or Denmark 10 %, Sweden and Norway 12%, Germany 14.6%). However, a large increase is observed in the percentages of women from previous statistics.


Looking for closer information about this topic I have surfed the website of the Spanish Royal Mathematical Society and I have found that there is a commission called  «Women and Mathematics» which wants to study the current situation of women mathematicians in our country. On this website ( there are many statistics. It is interesting that at university women have already exceeded men in percentage nowadays. But from all statistics I want to point one who is related to the article from the New York Times: the corresponding to the XLVII Mathematical Olympic in Spain in 2011.(4) This year 1103 boys and 527 girls (32.33%) participated . In this edition the boys got 67 medals and girls just 13 (16.25%). 13 boys and 8 girls (38.09%) from Burgos participated. The boys got a gold , a silver and a bronze medal and the girls didn’t get any medal.


There is still a long way to get gender equality in this topic.


Last year, however, our mate Myriam Bravo turned out to be one of the finalists in the XIX International Mathematical Olympiad which took place in Burgos. She went to León as one of the participants in the Regional Phase.


Accompanying documents:


  1. Math Skills Suffer in U.S., Study Finds

  2. Statistics onWomen Mathematicians Compiled by the AMS

  3. Statistics on Women in Mathematics

  4. Datos de la XLVII Olimpiada Matemática



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