Women in Mathematics

Women in Mathematics

This SAMS division (established at the 2022 AGM) is headed by Prof. Karin-Therese Howell.


For historical reasons, the participation of women in sciences is low. Mathematics is one such science. While statistics relating to the exact numbers and positions (junior lecturer, senior lecturer, associate professor, professor) of women in mathematics are difficult to obtain, a survey of previous editions of the SAMS Congress reveals significantly fewer women mathematicians giving talks, and the recent article by Eder Kikianty and Loyiso Nongxa on the National Research Rating System in South Africa highlights, among other issues, the low number of women who achieve ratings.


Our aim through our activities is to increase the proportion of women in research mathematics (pure and applied mathematics) in South Africa to approximately 50%, to reflect the proportion of women in society.

We aim to:

1. Create a platform for women mathematicians to share their research and experience in a supportive environment.

2. Increase the visibility of South African women mathematicians, both past and present.

3. Establish a network of women mathematicians to assist with:

(a) linking women in mathematics in new collaborative research projects;

(b) linking early career mathematicians with established women mentors;

(c) finding peer support for women in mathematics in challenges they face.

4. Advise the South African mathematical community on challenges that are affecting women in mathematics in South Africa and how to address them effectively,

5. Network with women mathematicians from other mathematical societies and mathematical initiatives.

6. Offer career and personal development training opportunities for mathematicians.

● an annual WiM activity at the annual SAMS Congress;
● subject specific seminars and short courses;
● panel discussions where established women mathematicians share and reflect on some of their experiences/insights with regards to building their careers;
● promotional activities which share and preserve the history of South African women mathematicians.

Founding Division members:
Dr Thama Duba, Dr Belinda Huntley, Prof Karin-Therese Howell, Prof Eunice Mphako-Banda, Dr Lienke Potgieter, Prof Paran Pillay, Dr Cerene Rathilal, Dr Sarah Selkirk

The initial proposal for the creation of the Division of Women in Mathematics was prepared by Ms S Selkirk and Prof. K-T Howell and approved at the SAMS AGM in 2022.

For more information, please contact Karin-Therese Howell (howell@aims.ac.za)

Bio’s of Division members:

Dr Sarah Selkirk is a combinatorialist working as a postdoc in automata theory at the University of Warwick in the UK. She is passionate about making mathematical spaces more inclusive for underrepresented groups. Originally from East London, South Africa, she did her undergraduate and master’s studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and her doctoral studies at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria.

Dr Linke Potgieter, a biomathematician and operations researcher by training, is a senior lecturer in operations research at the Department of Logistics, Stellenbosch University. She lectures in decision modelling, agent-based simulation modelling and nonlinear optimisation. In her research, she enjoys working on interdisciplinary problems in the context of healthcare, epidemiology and ecology. She uses mathematical optimisation, differential equation modelling, and agent-based simulation modelling to model and analyse complex and dynamical systems and provide corresponding decision support in the practical real world context.

Dr Cerene Rathilal is an early career mathematician and holds a PhD in Pure mathematics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She specialises in Pointfree Topology but has interests broadly in Algebra and Topology. She is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UKZN. Cerene founded STEM MentHER in 2022, which is a programme that supports female students pursuing careers in STEM. She also runs various mathematics outreach activities.

Dr Thama Duba is a lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research interests are in waves and mixing processes in the planetary oceans and atmosphere. Her current studies are in Rossby and Kelvin waves in both the Earth and in stellar interiors such as the Sun. She is the recipient of the Early Careers Academic Development and a fellow of the Female Academic Leaders Fellowship- a flagship of the university chancellor at Wits University. She has a passion for mentorship of female postgraduate students and early career female academics. She obtained her PhD from the University of Kwazulu-Natal.

Prof Eunice Gogo Mphako-Banda journey in mathematics started at the University of Malawi where she graduated (BedSc) in 1992. Followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Mathematics from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, in 1994, MSc in Mathematics from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom in 1995 and PhD in Discrete Mathematics from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand in 2001. Her academic career started at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Malawi in 1993 as Associate Lecturer where she eventually rose to the rank of Senior Lecturer and in 2003 became the Head of School. She joined the University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Mathematical Sciences in 2007 as a Lecturer. In September 2008, she joined the University of the Witwatersrand, School of Mathematics as a Lecturer, became a Senior Lecturer in December 2011, Associate Professor in December 2013 and Professor in March 2019. Her current research interests include Matroid Theory, Low- Dimension Topology-Knot Theory, Combinatorics and Graph Theory. Her research in Matroid Theory is focused on matroid construction and polynomials. In Knot Theory, her interests vary from knot invariants to knot construction. She uses Combinatorics and Graph Theory as tools to solve problems in Matroid Theory and Knot Theory. Prof Mphako-Banda is a member of the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS), Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA) and South Africa Women in Science and Engineering (SAWISE).

Prof Paranjothi Pillay is an associate professor in mathematics, based at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).  Prior to being at UWC she served at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for 35 years.  Her research interests are in Point-Free Topology, Metric Geometry and Fixed-Point Theory.  She has a passion for teaching and interacting with students.  She is deeply concerned about the food security of students and about the sustainability of the planet.

Dr Belinda Huntley holds a PhD in Mathematics and Science Education. She has over 40 years teaching experience in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, in both contact and distance environments. During her teaching career, she was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Convocation Distinguished Teacher Award at Wits University, Golden Key International Award, Department of Science and Technology ‘Women in Science’ Fellowship Award and a nomination in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at UNISA for the Tuition Award. Belinda is a member of several professional associations and currently holds the Education portfolio on the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS) Council. She also holds the position of Chair of the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) Advisory Committee on Mathematics (ACM). Dr Huntley is a member of the SAMS Women in Mathematics (WiM) division.

Belinda has written study material for undergraduate mathematics and mathematics teaching modules, for contact and distance universities. She has presented at several conferences, both nationally and internationally. In 2018, she was invited as a plenary speaker to the AMESA conference. She also presented a paper at the 3rd BRICS Mathematics Conference in Kazan, hosted by Russia in 2019. Dr Huntley has supervised and mentored several postgraduate students. Her publications include 19 short papers and 13 journal articles in accredited journals. Belinda is currently the Director of Mathematics at St Declan’s School for Boys and Grace Trinity School for Girls. Her responsibilities include mentorship of teaching interns, staff development, in-service teacher training and moderation of all mathematics assessments from Grade 4 to Grade 12.

Belinda was recently invited as a SAMS representative by The Wiseman Nkuhlu Trust to participate in a Media Panel Discussion on the topic “Mathematics in SA: Navigating the Crisis, Charting the Future”. This was the first of many Conversations for Change out of which the Mathematical Sciences Strategic Alliance was established.

Prof Karin-Therese Howell is the Academic Director for Mathematical Sciences at AIMS South Africa. As a scholar, she has published in international peer reviewed journals. Her area of specialisation is in abstract algebra, with a focus on structures called near-vector spaces. Her current research interests also include Algebraic Biology, where biological problems are analysed through an algebraic lens. She is passionate about teaching mathematics and during her fifteen years at Stellenbosch University she was awarded fifteen Vice-Rector’s Awards for Excellence in First-year Teaching. Long term her goals include contributing to the development of mathematics in Africa, supporting women in mathematics and raising awareness around inclusivity for neurodiversity.