WiMSoCal Brings Mathematical Empowerment to the Claremont Colleges


Ella Young ’24
Staff Writer

The Symposium for Women and Gender Minorities in Mathematics, known as WiMSoCal (pronounced “whimsical”), was hosted at The Claremont Colleges on Feb. 24. The event took place at Pomona’s Estella Laboratory and hosted a variety of mathematics students, faculty, and researchers from across Southern California to celebrate and encourage the presence of women and gender minorities in math.

“WiMSoCal, being a local, welcoming conference, creates a space for students to easily attend and engage with mathematics, the community, and general fun,” said Scripps math professor and one of the organizers for this year’s event, Christina Edholm. “Having a conference which focuses on research and community building while celebrating the participants creates a community that invites more people in — something we need in mathematics.”

The day included several research talks on pure and applied math, which students were free to attend, and talks on adjacent fields, such as the history of math and math education. Talks were given by professors and graduate students from various colleges and universities across Southern California, including University of Southern California (USC), University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and The Claremont Colleges. The event also featured several poster presentations, which gave current students the opportunity to present their original research in a welcoming environment.

In line with the mission of inclusivity, this year’s keynote presentation, given by Harvey Mudd professor Talithia Williams, centered on how to engage the public in mathematics. During her presentation, Williams led the audience in a candid conversation about the ways the field tends to be exclusive and why that is the case. Throughout the talk, Williams wove in anecdotes of her personal experience as a Black woman in mathematics to further illustrate the importance of accessibility in math.

The talk was well-received among attendees. “Learning about new mathematical research was amazing,” Natalie Burton ’24 said. “I’m grateful to have heard Professor Williams share her story.”

In addition to the keynote speaker, the other main event of WiMSoCal was the career development panel. The panel featured four women mathematicians from various areas of expertise and careers. The speakers discussed topics such as math research, careers in academia versus industry, and the challenges of being a woman in such a male-dominated field.

“It was helpful to hear from a variety of speakers and get advice based on their experiences,” Burton said. The event centered empowerment, including combatting impostor syndrome and challenging societal expectations of women’s roles in mathematics.

“For me, math is a universal language which we all can use to communicate ideas with, so ensuring access and encouraging participation is key,” Edholm said. “There are groups of individuals who have been historically underrepresented in mathematics, and it is important we reach out and create pathways to engage and incorporate. Hopefully, WiMSoCal creates an event where all are welcome and celebrate, breaking down any barriers and allowing for math to be more accessible and highlight those who usually aren’t spotlighted.”

Closer to home, the Scripps math department is working to develop the community here. “In the department, we focus on sharing opportunities, connecting with students, and building a community,” Edholm said. “One of our plans going forward is working more on building community. We have started with some events, but the hope is to do more. Part of this community building will be driven by faculty and students combined — building a space at Scripps to allow for conversation, research, and general fun surrounding mathematics.”

Events like WiMSoCal, as well as organizations like the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), which hosts several smaller networking and research events for female mathematicians, are a stepping stone for increasing women and gender minority engagement in math. Although gender diversity in math is far from where it needs to be, such events serve to stimulate and encourage mathematical growth in members of groups who are usually pushed away from the field.

Edholm hopes to hold more of these events at Scripps soon. “[The Scripps math faculty] have also been working to engage more with AWM,” she said. “Any students wanting to become more involved or help foster a community are encouraged to reach out to me and other members of our department.”

Math majors, minors, or otherwise math-interested students can reach out to Edholm at cedholm@scrippscollege.edu to engage with the mathematics community at Scripps and keep updated on future department events.

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