Every woman knows these realities: Power imbalances in workplaces, a lack of recognition for work, an almost laughable gap between the salaries that women and men earn for doing the same job, a sitting president that seems almost willfully to disrespect women at every opportunity.... the list goes on and on. If you thought you'd seen it all, though, you're wrong: This is seeing it all. A photo of a flyer for a "Women In Math" event at Brigham Young University featuring only male speakers has caused an uproar on Twitter, and after looking at it, I can confirm it is enough to send any woman over the edge.
Here's the deal: On Feb. 20, Brigham Young University student Stephanie Driggs tweeted a photo of a flyer advertising a "Women In Math" panel event, according to Huffington Post. At first glance, it looks a lot like any other flyer you'd see hanging on a bulletin board in a college student union or residence hall, but it requires only a fast second glance — actually, only half a second glance — to notice that there's something very wrong with it. While it claims to be reaching out to "all women who love math," the flyer features headshots of four men who are being advertised as speakers at the event. Considering mathematics has historically been a field where women's talents have been recognized less than men's talents, this misstep is... more than a little glaring. It's worth noting that Brigham Young University's Math Department has released an official statement regarding the response to the flyer, saying, "[The poster] was done by a club member with good intentions. It was not meant to demean women or be satirical. We value women in mathematics and their contributions, and work to promote opportunities for women to succeed in mathematics."
This is the poster, in full:
It didn't take long for people both within and outside of the BYU community to share in Driggs' confusion. As of this writing just two days after the tweet went live, it's been liked over 55,000 times, and commented on over a thousand times. The response has mostly shared in Driggs' confusion over the lack of women featured on the flyer, and comments on how not including women in a panel for an event about women in math isn't exactly furthering women in the field of mathematics.
While some college students may have relished the experience of launching such social media fervor, Driggs noted that she actually attended the event which took place on Feb. 21, and said she had a conversation with a few of the organizers "which helped clear up a lot of misconceptions."
BYU Math also posted a response to the controversy on their official Facebook, stating: "Many of you have probably seen a poster circulating around the Internet from our Women in Math Organization! The poster featured the pictures of four of our department faculty. It was done with good intentions. It was not meant to demean women or be satirical. We value women in mathematics and their contributions, and work to promote opportunities for women to succeed in mathematics."
Speaking to Fox 13 Salt Lake City, Women in Math club adviser Martha Kilpack also commented on the poster. "It was an honest mistake kind of poster. It wasn't meant to be a political statement. It wasn't meant to be anything other than to encourage female students to come to an activity."
BYU's Math Department has acknowledged the mistake, which is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the response this flyer has garnered on Twitter will give everyone some food for thought as they continue encouraging young women to get involved in STEM-related fields moving forward.