All Volumes (2001-2008)


Volume VI, 2007

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The topic under investigation is women in math-related careers and the motivating factors. Two careers, college professors and actuaries, were selected from the many math-related careers because both require advanced studies in mathematics. They also provide a contrast: one is in the business world while the other is in the world of academia. The purpose of this research is to determine if the numbers of women in upper level mathematics and these two careers are increasing. To accomplish this we first analyze women’s enrollment in mathematical programs from high school through graduate school from 1965-1995 in order to assess the impact of affirmative action. Then we compare and contrast performance levels for males and females on two standardized tests, National Assessment of Educational Progress Mathematics Test for age 17 and the Mathematics Section of the SAT. Next, the employment statistics for actuaries and women in academia are presented. The sources of the statistics are the National Science Foundation, American Mathematical Society, and the Society of Actuaries.

The second component of the research deals with what can be done to recruit more women into math-related careers by looking at the factors that encourage or dissuade women from this choice. Mathematical stereotypes, mathematical skill levels of women, female patterns of knowing, and social factors which influence academic and professional choices of women are investigated. Additional focus is given to summer math intervention programs since they are so successful in persuading women to continue with graduate studies in mathematics.

The research indicates, that although the gap on mathematical Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics standardized tests between males and females is getting smaller and enrollment in high school and undergraduate mathematics is on par with the number of women in the general population, the number of women choosing math careers in academia and graduate studies in mathematics is much lower than the number of men and is increasing at a lower rate.