College’s ‘Women In Math’ Panel Features Only Male Speakers

Who thought this was a good idea?

Ever wanted to learn about women in math, but from an entirely male perspective? Then look no further than Brigham Young University.

That’s the gist of a hilarious (and cringeworthy) flyer that an organization at the university in Utah distributed for its “Women in Math” student-led math club featuring only male professors.

BYU student Stephanie Driggs posted an image of the flyer to Twitter on Tuesday. It invites “all women who love math” to “come learn about research done in data science, topology, number theory, and dynamical systems from four BYU math professors.”

Driggs’ viral tweet, since deleted, included the question: “Is this satire?”

The panel is one of several that the student-led organization puts on throughout the year, the club’s adviser, Martha Kilpack, told Fox 13 Salt Lake City. The flyer, she said, was just an unfortunate placement of words next to photos.

A screenshot of Driggs' deleted tweet.
A screenshot of Driggs' deleted tweet.

As of Wednesday afternoon, her Twitter post had received over 9,000 retweets and 24,000 likes.

“The alternative all female panel can discuss ‘Men in Maths’. I’d go to that!” one Twitter user responded. Another user added that BYU definitely has women faculty in the math department, calling the flyer a “gross oversight.”

BYU’s math department posted a statement to Facebook on Wednesday, clarifying that the flyer is not satire and was simply “poor judgement.”

“The poster featured the pictures of four of our department faculty. It was done with good intentions but with poor judgment and was not meant to be satire, though we did all get a good laugh here at the department,” the department’s statement reads. “The posters have been replaced with a more appropriate message. We very much value the Women in Math organization.”

Some current and former BYU students, however, were not satisfied.

“I’m confused,” Driggs tweeted in response to BYU’s statement. “Do they really think that the poster was the main issue here?”

At least two other students emailed the college to complain about the department’s lapse in judgement. BYU student Talia Ruth tweeted a screenshot of the email she sent the math department.

“It was a shock to see a poster advertising a conference of sorts regarding women in math showing only male faculty,” she wrote. “Women should be represented by women. Please note this error reflects poorly on this department and consider how this will impact the department and university in the future.”

A BYU alum identified as Daxson also shared his email on Twitter, calling the all-male panel a “colossally bad idea.”

“Bad for you, bad for BYU, bad for BYU alumni in the working force,” he wrote, adding: “And most importantly, bad for women who want and need representation in STEM fields.”

Kilpack told Fox 13 on Wednesday evening that she had taken down the posters from campus.

“It was an honest mistake kind of poster,” Kilpack said. “It wasn’t meant to be a political statement. It wasn’t meant to be anything other than encourage female students to come to an activity.”

She added that the club often hosts panels and, this time around, they chose all men. In the past, Kilpack noted, they’ve had many women speakers.

“It’s a chance to see different research that they do, and we let the students pick the presenters,” Kilpack said. “This time, they happened to pick four male presenters.”

This article has been updated to include comments from the BYU math club adviser and to clarify the name of the student-led club.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated the flyer was created by BYU’s math department. In fact, a student-run math club created it.

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