Professor and member of the research group on Stochastic Processes at Barcelona University, Marta Sanz Solé was recently elected as president of the European Mathematical Society (EMS) for the 2011-2014 period. It is the first time both that a Spanish person and a woman hold the position.
What does it mean to you to be the first woman holding this position (if something?)
It means the challenge implicit in a position of responsibility. I live the fact of being a woman with naturalness, maybe because even if inside the profession women are not the majority at all at the high levels, they are though well represented at middle and students levels, at least in Barcelona, where they are almost 50% of the total. I don’t focus it as much in what the position represents as a woman but in what it does as a math professional.
But I guess being the first one in doing something might give a special feeling, isn’t it so?
Well, yes, it is undoubtedly a differential element and although I don’t perceive gender discrimination in my environment (I have always gained the same salary as my male colleagues) where this is true, it might be an example that I guess can help to show things can get much better. Anyway I don’t like to put myself as a paradigm, probably because I am a discreet person, but yes, the fact that I am a woman can be useful as a counter example.
What does the position consist of?
The organization includes all the European countries from a geographical point of view and it represents the voice of the mathematicians in Europe. There are many issues transcending local and state sphere of action, such as infrastructures needed for carrying out research or the incorporation of young professionals around the continent and the entity has more legitimacy than single countries to be addressed to by politicians.
What are the problems young European mathematicians leaving university have to face?
Basically the possibility to find a more or less stable situation in a reasonable life time period. The incorporation arrives very late. When you finish your PhD thesis you have to become independent from your research advisor and at the same time you have to produce enough to become attractive for the labour market. This is happening in a situation made of unattractive postdoctoral contracts and where, moreover, mobility is required for scientists in a period of their lives when many would like to build a family.