These 10 most famous female mathematicians in the 21st century are working on research that will thoroughly change the way we observe not just mathematics, but the world itself.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and is one of the last fields in academia that women are trying to reach parity with their male colleagues. The reasons for STEM gender gap are many and often chosen based on political views, rather than scientific ones. According to the National Science Board Science and Engineering Indicators, in 2013, despite earning 53.7 percent of all bachelor degrees, women receive only 17.9 percent of degrees in computer sciences and 19.3 percent in engineering. The situation is a bit better in physical sciences, where women get 39 percent, and especially mathematics, where 43.1 percent are earned by women. The situation is more favorable in K-12 education, where 22 percent of girls apply for advanced science classes, compared to 18 percent of boys. Unfortunately, by the time they get to choose a college, many of them change their minds and give up on STEM.
One of the possible reasons for this may be the lack of female role models. In an interview with the Associated Press, Facebook director of engineering Jocelyn Goldfein puts it simply: “The reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is because there aren’t more women computer scientists.” It seems like a circle that will be hard to break out from. But there are measures that can be taken to improve male-female ratio and Forbes suggests some of them here. Creating programs that will help girls enroll, encouraging young girls at the K-12 level to be more engaged in STEM activities like science fairs, and combatting stereotypes that present STEM as a male field are just some steps that can ensure more women participation in these vital scientific disciplines.
When it comes to mathematics, the situation is a bit more favorable. Although there aren’t many women among the Greatest Mathematicians of All Time, some have managed to leave their mark on the history of math. Starting from Hypatia, women have made major contributions to mathematics, including the works of Ada Lovelace, Mary Somerville, Florence Nightingale, and many others. That trend continues today, as many female mathematicians are hard at work in the 21st century.
In order to rank them, we used several sources, like Discover Magazine’s list of the 50 Most Important Women in Science and Huffington Post’s article on 12 Women in STEM Who Just Broke the Glass Ceiling. But mainly, we used Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics winners list as our primary source on most famous female mathematicians in the 21st century. Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize is awarded by the American Mathematical Society, to female mathematicians for “an outstanding contribution to mathematics research by a woman in the previous six years.” The award is given biannually and recipients are some of the most influential female mathematicians in the 21st century.
10. Ingrid Daubechies
Born in 1954, Ingrid Daubechies spent 16 years teaching mathematics at Princeton before moving to Duke. She was the first female president of International Mathematical Union.
9. Bernadette Perrin-Riou
Bernadette Perrin-Riou was born in 1955 in France. She got her Satter Prize for her work in number theoretical research on p-adic L-functions.
8. Svetlana Jitomirskaya
Born in Ukraine in 1966, Svetlana Jitomirskaya, one of the most famous female mathematicians in the 21st century, studied mathematics at Moscow University. She is a professor at the University of California. Her ticket to fame was solving the ten martini problem with her colleague Artur Avila.
7. Karen Smith
Currently a professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan, Karen Smith was awarded Satter Prize for work in commutative algebra.
6. Sijue Wu
Sijue Wu was born 1964. She holds the position of Robert W. and Lynne H. Browne Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan.
5. Claire Voisin
The second French woman on our list of the most famous female mathematicians in the 21st century, Claire Voisin received the Satter Prize for solving two math problems, the Kodaira problem and Green’s conjecture.
4. Amie Wilkinson
Born in 1968, Amie Wilkinson is a professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago. She is also a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
3. Hee Oh
Hee Oh is the Abraham Robinson Professor of Mathematics at Yale University. The South Korean mathematician is known for her work in connecting dynamics and number theory.
2. Laura DeMarco
Laura DeMarco is one of the youngest female mathematicians on our list. A professor of mathematics at Northwestern University, she already won several distinguished awards, including the Satter Prize and Sloan Fellowship. She is also a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
1. Maryam Mirzakhani
The top spot among the 10 most famous female mathematicians in the 21st century deservedly goes to Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian expat currently working as a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. Mirzakhani was the first women ever to win Fields Medal, AKA the mathematician’s “Nobel Prize,” in 2014.