Susie Foley, BMath ’07, MACC ‘07 and Lauren Hartman,
Senior Advancement Officer, Faculty of Mathematics
Math alumna and family mark inaugural Celebrating Women in Mathematics Day by removing barriers for future female mathematicians
Susie Foley (BMath ’06, MAcc ‘07) has extra reason to celebrate her birthday this year, as May 12th has been designated by World Meeting for Women in Mathematics as the international day to Celebrate Women In Mathematics.
The date was selected to honour Maryam Mirzakhani, who to date is the only woman to receive a Fields Medal. Sadly, only three short years after receiving the award, and at age 40, Mirzakhani lost her fight with cancer. She was a mathematics professor at Stanford University and considered one of the greatest mathematicians of her generation.
The Day is a welcome one by women across the globe. “I think only great things can come of celebrating our successes,” says Foley.
“As women, we tend to down-play our achievements and often we don't recognize that we can in fact be the strongest candidate for a position or the smartest person in the room. By celebrating women in mathematics, recognizing Maryam and her incredible achievements, we raise awareness of the fact that being strong, confident, and intelligent is a great thing. And, as a female, is certainly something that is worthy of recognition.”
And what better way to mark this important day than to open doors for future generations of women in the exciting world of mathematics!
Dean Stephen M. Watt, Ann Coughlin, and J. Alan George
Foley’s mother, Ann Coughlin, has launched the Cecilia Downing Linton Memorial Award for Women in Math in honour of their dear family friend who felt strongly about encouraging women to pursue careers in untraditional fields such as mathematics and computer science. The award is valued at up to $4,500.
“Having a student award available advertises that there is in fact a place for girls in Math”, says Foley. “It also encourages, even celebrates, their role. That they have more than just financial support in following their passions.”
Foley feels that the award is only one example of how alumna can support the next generation of mathematical talent.
“As alumnae, we need to pave the way for female students in mathematics and computer science. We need to continue to level the playing field and break down barriers in the world outside of UWaterloo so female students can see there are endless opportunities after graduation.”
Foley counts herself lucky to have experienced support by the men and women in her career, and most recent in her role as a senior manager in Advisory Services - Valuations at KPMG. The accounting firm offers a number of formal initiatives and groups in support of women at all levels of their ranks. They take gender equality and inclusiveness seriously, Foley shares. In fact, Foley’s Regional Managing Partner is currently being honoured by The Association of Women in Finance with the 2019 PEAK Award in the category of Champion.
“I have personally received support in the form of mentorship, irrespective of my gender, in recognition of my hard work and the value I can bring to the team. I think the role I see alumna playing in the success of females in math is fostering that recognition of hard work and the encouragement to succeed, acting as mentors and making that investment in females. To lead by example.”
Foley has a special message for young women currently studying math.
“There are going to be various points in your life at which you feel completely overwhelmed and you don't have what it takes, and the first year can definitely be one of those times, let this be fuel to your fire. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and look at every challenge as an opportunity to exceed expectations and impress. You learn the most when you are out of your comfort zone. Just take it one step at a time, you will be surprised how far you get.”
The Cecilia Downing Linton Memorial Award for Women in Math will be available for a female student in Fall 2019. To learn more about the opportunities available to support women in mathematics and computer science, contact Christina Proctor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I really do consider my math background to be a big part of my identity, my birthday and such an important day for women in math falling on the same day gives me something to really celebrate each year. It will be a great reminder to keep doing what I can to help other women follow a similar rewarding path.”