Barriers to female achievement in the field of mathematics

Essay by malinkayanushaHigh School, 10th gradeA+, May 2004

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What were the barriers to women's achievement in mathematics in the past? How did some women manage to overcome them? To what extent do these barriers still exist today?

Mathematical achievements throughout the ages have been well recognised and held in high esteem. However, the names of Ada Lovelace, Emmy Noether or Sonya Kovalevskaya are rarely highlighted and brought out for public attention, consideration, and admiration. These outstanding mathematicians seem to have been hidden from the public view and all for one simple fact - these talented mathematicians are all women.

Throughout history society did not accept females as academic minds. Society viewed females as 'visions' - to be seen, not heard. To aspire to be good at mathematics was considered completely 'unlady- like'. This view influenced treatment of girls in the family, with lack of expectation of any interest or talent in this field. Female's interested in pursuing math's as a career option were frowned upon

If a girl went to school, similar lack of expectation persisted on behalf of the educators and larger school community.

As a rule, no provision to develop girls' interest and/or talent in the area of mathematics was ever made.

Until the 19th century women were not allowed into university. In fact, even if a woman did manage to brave the extra tough conditions and get into University, she found it near impossible to get work upon receiving qualifications or a degree. The broader mathematical community rarely accepted women colleagues. If a woman ever was to manage to acquire a job in the mathematical field - which in itself was a near impossibility as none of the universities were prepared to go against tradition and employ a female academic- they, with rare exception, would be constantly subjected to an extremely hostile atmosphere. Women...