Conversations with Women of Color in STEM

I online-met Williams College mathematician Pamela Harris last year through Lathisms, a Hispanic Heritage Month project that highlights Latinx and Hispanic mathematicians. She was one of the organizers of the effort, and I spoke with her and another organizer, Gabriel Sosa, for a post about it. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I learned more about her background via an interview for the Vanguard STEM blog. Unusually for a professional mathematician, she started college in intermediate algebra and worked up to a Ph.D. from there. It got me thinking about how mathematicians could help more students excel in math after coming to it relatively late in their academic careers. I also enjoyed reading about her childhood encounters with infinity and one of her hobbies, jiu jitsu.

Just a week later, Vanguard STEM published an interview with Alicia Prieto Langarica, a mathematical biologist at Youngstown State University in Ohio, who was one of my colleagues in the Project NExT class of 2013. (Go Brown 13s!)

Seeing two math friends in a row featured on the site convinced me that I really needed to add Vanguard STEM to my blogroll. Vanguard STEM was launched a few years ago by Jedidah Isler, an astrophysicist at Vanderbilt and TED Fellow. She created it as a place to facilitate conversations between established and up-and-coming women of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, particularly African American and Hispanic/Latina women. The site has monthly Google Hangouts in which women of color discuss different aspects of their lives and careers in STEM in addition to articles with advice for people considering or working in STEM careers. But my favorite is the weekly #WCWinSTEM series where I read the interviews with Harris and Prieto Langarica. WCW stands for “women crush Wednesday,” and #WCWinSTEM is a great series of interviews and articles about STEM professionals in many different jobs and stages of their careers.

Vanguard STEM has featured mathematics and mathematicians several times on the site. Last winter when Hidden Figures fever was gripping the world, the site had several articles about the black women who worked for NASA as “human computers.” It was great to see Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson portrayed by movie stars on the big screen, but there’s something very special about seeing their real faces, too, even if they weren’t quite as glamorous as Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. I especially enjoyed the Vanguard STEM article about Christine Darden, one of the heroes of the Hidden Figures book whose story was not included in the movie.

In the past, the Blog on Math Blogs has featured several other websites that provide information about and/or resources for women and people of color in math and other STEM careers. Check out our recommendations. (Warning: there’s a lot of celebrating going on.)

Celebrating the Grandmothers of STEM
Celebrating our Sisters in STEM
Beyond Banneker: Resources for Learning about Black Mathematicians
Celebrating Latin@s and Hispanics in Mathematics
Celebrating Black Mathematicians
They Answered the Call of Numbers
Diversify Your Blogfolio
Adding to the Faces of Mathematics on Wikipedia

You can also subscribe to the AMS inclusion/exclusion blog, which covers diversity and inclusion in mathematics.

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