The London Mathematical Society (LMS) have developed a “Good Practice Scheme” which aims to help university mathematics departments “to take practical actions to improve the participation of women and to share examples of good practice with other departments.”
The Good Practice Scheme document explains the background to this initiative.
It is well-documented that, although nearly 40% of graduates in the mathematical sciences are female, there is a severe drop-off in the proportion of women who become academic mathematicians. Only about 4% of professors of mathematics in the UK are female. This is a general story across STEM subjects, although the drop-off rate is particularly bad for mathematics.
The 2010 International Review of Mathematical Sciences included as one of its main findings that “action about gender diversity is not a sufficiently high priority for the UK mathematical sciences research community” and recommended that “urgent action should be taken to improve the participation of women”. The panel also stated that, compared to other countries, the proportion of women in the UK mathematical research community is strikingly small.
The Scheme offers workshops, a website and discussion forum, a mentoring network and, currently collecting data, a benchmarking survey of university mathematics departments. The Scheme is also designed to support departments in applying for an Athena SWAN award, a system designed “to recognise and celebrate good employment practice for women working in SET in higher education and research”. There is a suggestion in the Good Practice documentation that the UK Government research councils may impose restrictions on the research funding which can be applied for from departments with some level of Athena Swan award, following a decision from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in relation to medical research funding awards.
This scheme was presented at the conference of the Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences (HoDoMS) in April and has the support of HoDoMS and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences. Departments are being asked to respond to the survey and will be provided with a report “summarising the position” of their department “against the national picture” in return. The LMS website carries a list of departments which are “registered Good Practice supporters“.
Benchmarking Survey by the LMS.
LMS Good Practice Scheme for Mathematical Sciences.