Interview of the Month: femmes et mathématiques (12/2015)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here


Our Member for December 2015 is the French association

femmes et mathématiques

logo fetm

For femmes et mathématiques, Laurence Broze, president, has accepted to answer the EPWS questionnaire.

Association website:

Contact this association:


Laurence Broze, president of femmes et mathématiques, who was just awarded the medal of Knight of the Legion of Honour in 2014, with several board members of the association and with Marie-Hélène Therre (Honorary president and vice-president of Femmes Ingénieurs)


EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

L.B.: The French association femmes et mathématiques (Women and Mathematics) unites women mathematicians in academia, in the private sector and in secondary education.

EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

L.B: The main objectives of femmes et mathématiques are

– to encourage girls to study mathematics, and more generally, to study science and technology;

– to act for gender equality in mathematics jobs and for the recruitment of more women mathematicians among university faculty;

– to promote the participation of women in the mathematics community;

– to sensitize the education and scientific communities to the question of gender equality;

– to be a meeting place for women mathematicians.

EPWS: What is the history of femmes et mathématiques, in a few words?

L.B: In the 1980’s, mathematics was not highly regarded in French society. At about the same time, people started to recognize that mixed-gender schools do not necessarily lead to educational equality between girls and boys. In addition, in the US as well as in Europe, there were very few women mathematicians and their research was not well recognized.

The association femmes et mathématiques was created in 1987 by women mathematicians, some of them were part of the round table about women mathematicians organized by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) during the 1986 International Congress of Mathematicians in Berkeley. The European Women in Mathematics association was created in 1986 in Paris .

The creation that year of the association femmes et mathématiques is also due to a unique aspect of French higher education.

Besides universities, France has competitive advanced schools for training future university researchers and teachers (the well-known “écoles normales supérieures”). Up until 1986, there were separate such schools for men and women, from 1986 they have become mixed-gender and admission became gender-blind. The result has been a drastic decrease in the proportion of women admitted to these schools in mathematics.

In 2000, the association femmes et mathématiques was a founding member of the association Femmes & Sciences , which concerns mainly exact and natural sciences. The association femmes et mathématiques decided to stay an autonomous association because of the very particular status of mathematics in general or scientific education.

Over the nearly 30 years of its existence, the activities of femmes et mathématiques have increased and become more diverse, involving the general public, elementary, secondary and university students, academia and other scientific institutions. They take different forms such as conferences, meetings with young people, publications, exhibitions, production and analysis of statistical data, partnerships with other French or international associations.

EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?

L.B.: The head office is in Paris at the Institute Henri Poincaré (IHP), a prestigious institute for mathematics and theoretical physics, in the same place where other French associations of mathematicians and statisticians have their head offices, and also where the Centre Emile Borel is located.

The association femmes et mathématiques is national and has members all over France.

Numerous activities are organized by local coordinators in the different regions or cities of France, such as going into classes in elementary and secondary schools. Other actions, such as the Forum des jeunes mathématicien-ne-s (Forum for young female and male mathematicians) are organized alternatively in Paris at IHP or outside of the Parisian area in universities which volunteer to host them on a theme according to the specialties of the mathematicians there.

The association edits a newsletter 3 times a year.

Many activities are organized in collaboration with other French associations, such as Femmes & Sciences (Women & Science) and Femmes Ingénieurs (Women Engineers), with learned societies for mathematicians such as the Société mathématique de France (French Mathematical Society), the Société de mathématiques appliquées et industrielles (French Society for Applied and Industrial Mathematics) and the Société française de statistiques (French Statistics Society), and with international associations such as European Women in Mathematics and the African Women in Mathematics Association.

EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

L.B.: Together with the French association Animath, one-day conferences named « Girls and Mathematics: an Enlightening Equation » are organized for female students, from middle school through the university levels. Having started in 2009, these special conferences are now being held in many universities in France. In October 2015, we organized a meeting at IHP in order to review the progress made after 33 of these special one-day conferences had been held over a period of 6 years.

On May 30, 2015, the association organized a conference on « Mathematics and women in Africa », the aim of which was to reinforce the cooperation between women mathematicians in France and in Africa. For example, the association lends support to the prize « Miss Maths » for Ivory Coast high school girls, whose purpose is to help them to study mathematics in France after their high school degree.

The 2015 Forum for young female and male mathematicians is organized in Lille in November, on the theme « Probability and Statistics ». It is an occasion for young women researchers in mathematics to talk about their own work in front of a non-specialist audience, to learn about stereotypes they will be facing (or are already facing) and also to provide information to help them obtain an academic position in a male dominated environment.

The association has participated in the realization of a MOOC in French « Être en responsabilité demain: se former à l’égalité femmes – hommes » (Managers of tomorrow: become educated about gender equality), which opened in June 2015 ( .

Booklets are published in collaboration with different partners : « Zoom sur les métiers des mathématiques et de l’informatique » (Zoom about jobs in mathematics and computer science) , a booklet to help high school students, women and men, to choose advanced studies in mathematics, statistics and computer science; « Femmes et Sciences : au delà des idées reçues » (Women in Science: beyond popular belief) , the 3rd edition of a brochure updated in 2013; the « Dictionnaire universel des femmes créatrices » (Universal Dictionary of Creative Women), published on paper in 2013, and very soon in the electronic form .

femmes et mathématiques is a member of CFEM, the French component of ICMI (International Conference for Mathematics Instruction). This group has organized the « Forum mathématiques vivantes, de l’école au monde » (Living Mathematics Forum: from School to the World), which was held in March 2015 in Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. Its objective was to show to the public that mathematics are alive and beautiful, and exist in all domains of the society, and to show all the initiatives held inside or outside classes to help students succeed in their mathematics studies and encourage the choice of mathematically oriented careers.

EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming year?

L.B.: Our plans for 2016 include about 15 one-day conferences « Filles et mathématiques : une équation lumineuse » (Girls and Mathematics: an Enlightening Equation ). Our annual meeting in March will feature talks by women mathematicians. In addition, the association will participate in several national and international mathematical and scientific events: a meeting in March at IHP to honor the French mathematician Sophie Germain (1776-1831); a meeting (in Paris next July) about gender equality in mathematics, and more generally in science; the EWM meeting in Berlin just before the European Mathematical Society (EMS) conference. At the EMS meeting there will be an exhibition of portraits of living women mathematicians, which will be later shown in France. At the end of July the association will be represented at the International Conference on Mathematics Education in Hamburg. We also participate in the writing of articles on women mathematicians in the French Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?

L.B.: As already mentioned, our association is acting in close collaboration with two French members of EPWS, Femmes & Sciences, and Femmes Ingénieurs. We are looking forward to more collaborations with EPWS members, especially French members.

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

L.B.: We are looking forward to networking with other members of EPWS, especially with European members working on the subject of women in mathematics, and more generally women in science. We also expect to participate, through EPWS, in the lobbying at the European level about women in science.

EPWS makes it possible to exchange ideas about good practices and to compare the diverse situations of women in science in European countries. We are interested in understanding how discrimination against scientific women operates in the different European countries: this is a problem which is experienced in all European countries, but discrimination takes different forms. We hope that by working together, the problem of gender discrimination in mathematics, and more generally in science, will be more effectively combatted.



Theatre show during a “Girls and Mathematics” day in University Paris 13
Discussion during the theatre show at a “Girls and Mathematics” day at Institut Henri Poincaré, in Paris


femmes et mathématiques



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