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What is the hardest part about being an African-Ameican woman and becoming a mathematician?

I am asking this because I know it is very hard for an African-American woman to major in mathematics and work in this field. In addition, I am curious about how these mathematicians overcome the obstacles that they face.

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Winnie’s Answer

I am personally not in mathematics but I have been in accounting for several years. Going through school, there were very few black students pursuing accounting and I never came to understand why. Being black and considering mathematics is a great idea and I know that there are numerous opportunities just the fact that there are no many black people in the field.

My advice is to take every challenge as an opportunity to learn. You will feel like you are in the wrong place especially if there are no people that you can identify with directly. Use this challenge to prove yourself to those that are doubting you and set your standard high. I always felt like I had to prove myself among my peers for them to know that I am capable and exceptional. I took this positively and always had it as an expectation and it has paid off.

I have also found that in many companies, most people are actually accepting and sometimes we are the ones that put the limits on ourselves and assume worse than how everything is. Again, I would say that you take the opportunity and have an open mind to venture out and take advantage of the opportunities that arise while bringing diversity to the company.

Don't limit yourself just because there are no other black people in the field that you want to pursue. Follow your dream with an open mind.
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Jacob’s Answer

To be quite frank as a minority scientist who has worked with quite a bit of women you should not expect things to be completely fair or for people to give you the same respect they give other students more privileged students from different levels of social stratification. That is still not a good reason to not do it though or to ever give up if that's what you desire for yourself. We need more women in mathematics and science.
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Nailah’s Answer

While I do not work in math, the world of accounting has many similarities. As a black woman, first off I would like to agree with Jacob that you should not let your race stop you from your dreams. It can be challenging to be the only one, especially as a black woman where being both black and a woman can be a minority. If possible, try to join organizations and groups with people that can relate and help you feel like you are not alone.

I think one of the most difficult parts about being a minority at your work is that on top of your everyday work - you can often feel tasked with helping your firm's diversity efforts. This may be recruiting diversity hires, mentoring them as they work with you, and/or teaching your colleagues about your background. Quite frankly, you may be doing may work than your other peers due to your personal connection to driving these changes.

On the other hand, being diverse does provide an opportunity to open doors. Often people of color look out for each other because they want them to succeed. In addition, today companies are looking for more perspectives - being diverse can help with that. Don't get me wrong, that's not always the case and you still have to put in the same hard work. However, I wouldn't be where I am today without the many diversity and inclusion programs and internships I have attended. We are finally getting a seat at the table, take the invite and find a way to bring others.

Once again, don't be afraid to be the most authentic version of yourself and bring your whole self to whatever you do. Best of luck!
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Shelley’s Answer

I can't really answer this personally. However, I offer the following links that I hope will be useful.


This is a link to the Association for Women in Mathematics. There is a link for students and a link for careers with a lot of great information.

https://sites.google.com/site/awmmath/info/departments-institutes


Historical information: "Mathematicians of the African Diaspora."

http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/


More history:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_mathematicians


More history:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpID36hRhWE


Here is an article on encouraging black women to join mathematics.

https://www.theroot.com/how-can-we-raise-future-black-female-mathematicians-st-1791134182


Please join us in STEM. :)

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