The 58th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO 2017) will debut a special award for women, which is to become part of the event's permanent schedule. With representatives from 110 countries, the competition will take place from July 17 to 23, in Rio de Janeiro.
Suggested by the National Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), the IMPA Trophy for Olympic Girls will award the five female students who contribute most significantly to the performance of their teams. The award aims to encourage the presence of women in the championship.
IMPA Director Marcelo Viana estimates that some 10% of participants are women, a percentage close to that of 2016, when 71 of the 602 contestants were female. In Brazil's 2017 delegation, for instance, there were no women, and the last competitor representing the country was Maria Clara Mendes Silva, in 2011 and 2012.
Marcelo Viana said efforts should be made to redress this discrepancy. “It's a process sure to take some while to change, but we must take action, because it's a vicious circle. Girls have few examples to draw inspiration from. They think it's not meant for them,” he said.
Viana believes there is a cultural force pulling women away from Mathematics, which stems from a mistaken belief that they are naturally inclined towards human sciences. “It's an ever-spreading misconception, so we have to work hard and bear in mind it's a process to work on the medium and long runs.”
The number of women in the event was stabilized between 2011 and 2016, when it floated from 57 to 51 contestants. The presence of 71 women in 2016 was a record high in the competition, which saw the highest number of participants in its history last year. The figure brings the percentage of women to 11.8% of the people competing for a medal.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira