individuals to programs of potential interest to them. Individuals elect to participate and provide information about their research interests. AWM has sent an announcement to its members informing them of the existence of this resource.
AWM also takes an active role in advocating policies favorable to increasing participation of women in the sciences. On two separate occasions, in 2010 at an NSF retreat and in 2011 at an NSF seminar of program officers, Georgia Benkart spoke on career-life and diversity issues as AWM President. In her talks at NSF, she encouraged NSF to have more openness concerning their policy for taking time off or requesting a grant extension because of family leave, and she encouraged them to consider supplemental grant funds to be used for child care at conferences. Her testimony helped to inform a new NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative.
The AWM also represents the interests of women in the mathematical sciences through its participation in the Conference Board on Mathematical Sciences (CBMS). This is an umbrella organization representing 16 professional societies.
Challenges and Policy Recommendations
The initiatives described above point to several possible strategies for increasing the participation of women of color in the mathematical sciences.
• Conferences and workshops aimed at women in the mathematical and physical sciences, or specifically at women of color, including both research and mentoring components.
• Prizes and Distinguished Lecture series aimed at celebrating accomplishments of women of color.
• A database and diversity committees to assure appropriate representation of women of color in major research conferences, prize nominations, etc.
• Advocacy for policies addressing work-life balance issues.
The nature of the funding for such programs is also crucial. Many women in the mathematical sciences express the opinion that they are asked to perform more than their share of service. While there are many women eager to help organize events such as those described above, it can take a serious toll on their time and their research. Thus, funding for conferences and workshops should include, in addition to travel money for participants, funding for extra staff support and/or teaching release for organizers.
AWM has a minimal staff. Most of the work within AWM is done by active mathematicians on a purely volunteer basis. AWM could have more programs, increase its visibility and that of its members, and support the productivity of some of its most active volunteers if AWM had the resources to hire more paid staff.
A perennial problem for women is the need for child care. There is little doubt that young women would attend more conferences and special programs and travel more frequently to work with collaborators if adequate child care were available. Directors of NSF Mathematics Institutes report that the percentage of women declining invitations to participate in institutes programs is much higher than that of their male counterparts. More attention and more funding should be directed toward this problem.
Most of the programs we have discussed here focus on women at the graduate level or above. Recent data shows that the percentage of mathematics Ph.D.’s awarded to U.S. women is declining, from a high of nearly 33 percent to 25 percent (2011). In the case of women of color, however, the percentages are very small; thus, additional attention to attracting more women of color at the high school and undergraduate levels is critical. AWM recognizes the need to