2020/2021 at a glance

Professor Maggie Chen (Cardiff University) kick-started our PiWORKS seminar series this October with a talk about her experiences and research in financial modelling and FinTech. Chaired by Tasarla Deadman (Cardiff’s Women in Mathematics Society lead, Piscopia representative at Cardiff University), Professor Chen gave an astoundingly honest account of the hardships she faced getting where she is today, recalling financial troubles, personal doubts and judgement over her role as a woman as she left mainland China to embark on a PhD. As a woman in the early years of research in statistics, I found her resilience inspiring.

In the past year of our initiative’s events, speakers and participants alike have recounted that they wouldn’t be at the current stage of their career unless “by chance, person X told me I was good enough”. Their self-belief did not coincide with their ability, nor was it self-induced. The reality is that self-confidence is a real barrier to entry into postgraduate study for women and non-binary students. However, for those who do not believe that they are good enough for mathematics postgraduate research, seeing or communicating with successful people not dissimilar to them can make a huge difference to their self-efficacy. This academic year, the Piscopia Initiative is continuing to showcase women and non-binary researchers in mathematics through our UK-wide PiWORKS seminars (piscopia.co.uk/piworks-seminar-series/).

… and there’s more! Last month we founded societies at 11 UK universities (piscopia.co.uk/the-piscopia-society/). Their role is to inform students, build awareness of the ‘PhD option’, and create a community of women and non-binary people at their university. The first events were held very successfully by the Piscopia Societies at Heriot-Watt University and UCL this month, with PhD events from the committees at the Universities of Bath, Edinburgh, Manchester, Reading, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Strathclyde and Warwick to follow in the next couple of months.

The societies remove the mystery of PhDs to undergraduate and MSc students and are part of a UK-wide community of inspiring and supportive women and non-binary mathematicians. Primarily, the campus-based societies are an approachable point-of-contact for students, and their presence and activities target students who had not considered the PhD path before as a result of the difficulties they face as women or non-binary students in mathematics. Students who have questions about doing a PhD can reach out to any displayed member on the landing page, and chat to women and non-binary people across the UK in fields they may want to enter.

Going forward: this is an exciting year for the Piscopia Initiative. We have gone UK-wide and have 125 women and non-binary people from across the UK signed up to our communications. If you’re a woman or non-binary person who is interested in mathematics, we’d love for you to join our community:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc-FZJdwpj408GP1rohoC9z6-fNNv–WCP52_vC6gWIte5-bw/viewform