Looking back at the conference by Catherine Goldstein and Clémence Perronnet - IHES

Looking back at the conference by Catherine Goldstein and Clémence Perronnet

On Thursday, April 4th, IHES welcomed over a hundred participants, including a large number of students from Université Paris-Saclay and École polytechnique, for a conference by Catherine Goldstein and Clémence Perronnet on female models in science, and particularly in mathematics. This event marked the inauguration of the “Just Do Maths” exhibition at IHES.

Following words of welcome by Emmanuel Ullmo, Director of IHES, and Pierre Pansu, Director of Université Paris-Saclay’s Graduate School in Mathematics, Audrey Antoine, a Master’s student in Applied Algebra and moderator of the event, shared her own experience as a woman in STEM and reflected on the importance of mentors such as Susanna Zimmermann, a mathematician at Orsay, whose guidance helped her envision a career in mathematics for herself.

Catherine Goldstein then started the conference by providing her perspective as a historian of mathematics on often-cited female role models in science, such as Hypatia or Sophie Germain. With only very few historical sources for Hypatia, and an often-romanticized story for Sophie Germain, these examples of role models in fact contribute to the dissemination of false, at best stereotyped images of women in science. Catherine Goldstein, therefore, emphasized the importance of authentic testimonies from female scientists to provide young students with real-life examples of possible scientific careers.

Clémence Perronnet’s talk was based on the chapter “Models – Do female models create vocations among girls?” from the book “Matheuses”, of which she is a co-author, and which was just published by CNRS Éditions. In this sociological study, she drew on the testimonies of 45 high school girls participating in a mathematics workshop at CIRM to analyze the influence that female models can have on creating vocations among girls with a firm interest in mathematics. Echoing Catherine Goldstein’s remarks, Clémence Perronnet argued that the existence of female role models is not a sufficient condition to inspire young girls to pursue studies, and eventually a career in science and mathematics. She emphasized the importance of not only highlighting the pathways of female scientists but also ensuring diversity of profiles to allow as many people as possible to find models to identify with.

The event ended with an engaging Q&A session that continued during the cocktail.

The recording of the event is now available on the Institute’s YouTube channel.


The Just Do Maths! Exhibition

Just Do Maths!” is a portrait exhibition of female mathematicians conceived by Université Paris-Saclay’s Graduate School Mathematics, Université Paris-Saclay’s Communications and Branding Department (DirMarC), and the UFR Sciences of Université Paris-Saclay. After being displayed at IHES in April and May, the exhibition will continue to travel to other University campuses (AgroParisTech, CentraleSupélec, ENS Paris-Saclay, Évry, Orsay, and Versailles).