Women in math will be the focus of panel talks

A year ago, comments by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers on gender ignited a national debate on the ability of women to become leading scientists and mathematicians. Londa Schiebinger, director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, says that in response to Summers' remarks, many universities carried out reviews and created structures to counter lingering and subtle discrimination against women. But what has been women's experience in math, and what within the culture of mathematics makes their presence so rare in elite circles? Schiebinger asks.

To discuss these issues, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender is hosting panel discussions titled "Proof and Prejudice: Women in Mathematics," from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, in Room 426 of Margaret Jacks Hall (Building 460). At 7 p.m., the Golden Globe-nominated film Proof will be screened in Cubberley Auditorium. All events are free and open to the public.

The events are co-sponsored by the departments of Drama, English, History and Mathematics and the Feminist Studies Program.


  • 2 p.m. Welcoming remarks by Londa Schiebinger, the Barbara D. Finberg Director at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. Women Mathematicians in Drama and Fiction, moderated by Harry Elam, chair of the Drama Department. Actors from La Vache Enragée Productions will present dramatic readings from the plays Proof by David Auburn and Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. A discussion will follow with Danica McKellar, an actress and mathematician who has performed on The West Wing and The Wonder Years; Knight Fellow and movie critic Mary Pols; math fiction writer and Professor Alex Kasman of the College of Charleston in South Carolina; and other guests.
  • 3 p.m. A Life in Mathematics: Julia Robinson. Filmmaker George Csicsery will talk about his documentary on Berkeley mathematician Julia Robinson, the first female mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Jonathan Farley, a mathematician and science fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, will moderate the discussion.
  • 4 p.m. Women in Mathematics Today. Schiebinger will moderate a panel discussion on the experiences of female mathematicians, focusing on the barriers they face and their achievements, and about math culture in general. Participants will include Margot Gerritsen, Stanford assistant professor of petroleum engineering; Helen Moore, associate director of the American Institute of Mathematics; mathematician and cultural commentator Claudia A. Henrion; Danica McKellar; and Jamylle Carter, a member of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.
  • 5:30 p.m. Concluding remarks by Schiebinger.
  • 7 p.m. Screening of the Golden Globe-nominated 2005 film Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, at Cubberley Auditorium. Afterward, Jonathan Farley will moderate a short discussion of the film and of general issues raised throughout the day.