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A bold equation for change

8 March 2017
Esteemed mathematician Nalini Joshi provides a bold call to action

International Women’s Day provides the platform for celebration, reflection, direction and action. 

Professor Joshi speaking at the International Women's Day event in MacLaurin Hall.

Addressing a full house in the hall where she ‘discovered herself’, Professor Nalini Joshi imparted a very personal account of her professional journey for International Women’s Day.

Nalini was in love with science and studied science in her undergraduate years, “but a special thing happened to me in these cool, dark, meditative spaces at Sydney. I came to realise that the best way I could understand the universe was by using mathematics and I decided to become a mathematician.”

Female mentors were few and far between during Professor Joshi’s early career.

“It felt like the universe lit up when I read about there being other brilliant female mathematicians.”

And for the brilliant young minds that Nalini now mentors, their universe lights up. 

Talent is blind to gender, sexuality, identity, background and race. Encouraging and supporting diverse talent encourages and supports everyone.
Professor Nalini Joshi

Nalini Joshi became the first female Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics and in addition to her excellence in research and teaching, she is putting words into action and making a difference for future academic leaders.  

“In 2016, only eight percent of mathematics professors in Australia were women.”

Professor Joshi is determined to encourage and retain the many talented, capable, strong female researchers she encounters at the University of Sydney and at institutions around the world.

“Talent is blind to gender, sexuality, identity, background and race. Encouraging and supporting diverse talent encourages and supports everyone.

"Part of encouragement is to acknowledge and celebrate that diversity.

"Attracting and keeping the best talent lifts everyone’s game: whether it is the scholarly level of your discipline or the standard of education we can offer to our amazing students,” Professor Joshi said.

Professor Joshi is calling for action to carry out a nuanced gender-based data analysis of our workforce in the STEMM areas; to genuinely reflect on the causes of the holes and deficiencies pointed out by this data; and propose an action plan to address these holes.

“It’s not enough to think ‘oh good, someone is looking into this’. Take a look at what the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program is doing, the data that is being gathered and make comments on the actions being proposed,” Professor Joshi said.

Professor Nalini Joshi's portrait, painted by acclaimed Celeste Chandler

Also unveiled today was a reverent, authentic, ‘at work’ portrait of Professor Joshi to hang alongside many other esteemed professors of days past. As the audience took in the scene around MacLaurin Hall, it became evident that every portrait in the room depicts a notable male figure.

The artwork, crafted by highly regarded, multiple award-winning artist, Celeste Chandler, is an intervention and will work to change the University’s representation of our revered researchers. It will inspire and create a direction for things to come. 

While sitting for the portrait, Professor Joshi thought she should try to look like the other subjects of portraits adorning the walls of MacLaurin Hall.

“I failed miserably,” she laughed.

Professor Joshi came to understand that the portrait captured all angles of view and all directions of light to come alive as an entity on its own.

“I am incredibly pleased at the way my work and my history have come together so powerfully in the composition of the painting. It is a mirror of the diversity of what is in this university now and what it could be,” said Professor Nalini Joshi.   

Today’s discussion was part of a suite of events held at the University of Sydney as part of International Women’s Day.