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Tokyo Metropolitan University
Associate professor at Department of Mathematics and Information Sciences

Asuka Takatsu

My life as a Woman Mathematician

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My life as a woman mathematician is exciting and wonderful, full of eye-catching glorious events, yet graceful and calm. On weekday mornings, I wake up to the singing of elegant tiny birds, and then enjoy breakfast of French toast, which is one of my favorite foods. Then I leave for work in my beloved red Porsche, listening to classical music of my choice. And when I arrive at the University… just kidding, it is not at all like this. In reality, I wake up to the alarm set on my mobile phone. (During the summertime, I do sometimes wake up to the sounds of the cicadas.) My breakfast consists of plain toast and some fruits, but I definitely do not make French toasts, for that would be too much of a hassle. I take the train to work, listening to 90’s J-pop songs. (I used to bicycle to work for a while, but have never commuted by car.) I am often asked by others, “What’s the life of a mathematician like?”, but as far as my life goes, I lead a very ordinary life. By the way, when people with other professions are asked a similar question, we get a wide variety of answers, but it seems that everyone thinks that their own lives are typical and ordinary. It looks as though everyone has their own definition of “ordinary”, and that it would be meaningless to see if one’s life is “ordinary” or not, and I do not think that my life is “unordinary” just because I am a woman mathematician. Objectively looking, I doubt that my life seems glorious, graceful, or even exciting, but I can definitely say that I am very satisfied with my current life. Of course my life is not just filled with fun and happy things, totally worry free with nothing to complain about, but I believe that it is the perfect environment to do what I enjoy doing the most, mathematics.

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Thus, for those worried and undecided about which field of study they want to pursue, I believe that the best way to decide which path to take is to think hard and well about what you want to do in the future. Especially for girls who are having second thoughts about pursuing in the STEM fields because they have been told that STEM fields are not for girls, why are you feeling unsure about girls in the STEM fields? I think we will all be feeling somewhat unsure in any field we pursue, and as far as I know, there is no firm evidence or reason to question girls pursuing in the STEM fields. I must, however admit, that I would be lying had I said I had no worries or troubles due to the fact that I was a woman, studying at the department of mathematics. But those troubles were minor, such as that there were not many women in my classes and I sometimes felt a bit lonely for having only few women friends, and also that it stood out when one of us girls would cut class. Of course there were other worries about majoring in mathematics, but those were not particular to women. I am now working as a mathematician, but I have not yet encountered any incident where someone has said or done anything unreasonable to me just because I was a woman. As described above, my actual life as a mathematician is ordinary but pleasant, and goes on regardless of whether I am a man or a woman.

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*The information in this article is as of the time it was written, and may have changed since.

 

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