The Crucial Work of the AWM Policy and Advocacy Committee

Gail Letzter and Marie A. Vitulli

Abstract We describe the history and charge of the Policy and Advocacy Committee and discuss the major undertakings of the committee during our two terms. Major initiatives during our terms included a response to the PCAST Report “Engage to Excel,” creation of and revisiting a Welcoming Environment/Anti-Harassment Statement, the initiation of Hill Visits, and a Diversity and Inclusion Statement. We end with our ideas for future challenges that the committee will face.

Key words: advocacy, sexual harassment, diversity

This was submitted to an upcoming volume aimed at a general audience. Below is the current draft.


The Charge and History of the Committee

The portfolio structure of AWM was approved as a “work in progress” by the AWM Executive Committee (EC) in January 2006 after a two year strategic planning process in 2004 – 2005. The portfolios were announced in the March- April 2005 Newsletter. Originally there were 4 portfolios: Programs, Meetings, and Awards; Policy and Advocacy; Membership and Community; and Fundraising and Development. Currently there are 5 portfolios: Awards, Meetings, Membership, Policy and Advocacy, and Programs.

Each member of the Executive Committee holds a portfolio of responsibilities. For some officers, the responsibilities are inherent in the title of their position. Ideally each portfolio was to be held by two members-at-large of the Executive Committee, one continuing member and one new member. The portfolios were to make annual reports to the EC at the January meeting.

The strategic plan envisioned a Policy and Advocacy Committee that would create new strategies to support women through institutional policy development and advocacy. To achieve this objective the plan called for the committee to:

The initial charge of the Policy and Advocacy Portfolio was “oversight of AWM’s activities and policy development in the area of public affairs, including statements on behalf of AWM. (All policy statements or white papers must be approved by the Executive Committee.)” The original responsibilities of the Policy and Advocacy Portfolio were to: [provide a] chair of the AWM Policy and Advocacy Committee; [provide an] AWM representative to the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF); respond to queries from the community that related to policy/advocacy; and seek opportunities to collaborate with other societies on issues involving advocacy.


The Policy and Advocacy committee currently consists of five to seven members with staggered terms, one of whom is the chair of the Government Advocacy Committee. The chair will be a member of the AWM Executive Committee, except in extenuating circumstances.

Today the responsibilities of the Policy and Advocacy Portfolio include:

Although it is not included in the charge of the portfolio as described in the EC Handbook, the chair of the Government Advocacy Committee manages Hill Visits (see subsection 5 below).

The initial 2006 portfolio was held by co-chairs Helen Moore and Alice Silverberg; they were the sole members of the committee for the first two years. In 2008 Helen dropped out and Carolyn Gordon, Sarah Greenwald, and Anne Leggett joined the committee. Alice continued as chair until 2010 when Sarah Greenwald took over. In these early days the committee recommended publicizing legislation in the form of educational statements, which were published in the Newsletter. There was concern that lobbying might jeopardize the tax exempt status of AWM. They recommended to the EC in December of 2008 that AWM endorse the AMS Policy Statement on Supportive Practices and Ethics in the Employment of Young People in the Mathematical Sciences; this was an update of a previous policy statement of AMS and endorsement by AWM. The EC voted to endorse this statement at the January 2009 meeting. P&A recommended that President Cathy Kessel send a letter of support to Oregon Public Broadcasting for their plans to produce a four hour primetime documentary for PBS with web-based outreach components to “impact girls and excite them about mathematics.” Efforts to put policy statements, endorsements, and related material were initiated in light of the discussion to update the AWM website. The committee recommended and the EC approved that the AWM Presidents, past, current, and President-elect, sign on the “NSF budget letter to Congress FY09” that was circulated to the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.

The Vitulli Years: 2012 – 2016

I was elected as an At-Large Member of the Executive Committee (EC) in 2009 with my term beginning on February 1, 2010 and ending January 31, 2014. At the beginning of my tenure on the Executive Committee AWM President Georgia Benkart asked me to indicate which portfolios/ committees I was interested in and my first choice was Policy and Advocacy. Under Sarah Greenwald, my predecessor and the committee chair during my first 2 years on the EC, the committee was very active and I knew about and appreciated their work. I became chair of the portfolio and committee beginning in February of 2012. When my term on the EC was coming to an end in 2014, I was asked to stay on an additional two years and continue as chair of Policy and Advocacy; I accepted this reappointment.

During my first two years on the committee we discussed and took action on several issues. We talked about the pros and cons of indicating gender on Putnam Exam envelopes. At the time women were asked to self identify by putting a red dot on the envelope to indicate their gender. We worried that marking gender at the beginning of the exam might negatively impact exam results; there were studies and reports in the psychology literature to suggest this. One possible reason to add the red dot was to qualify for the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize, named after William Lowell Putnam’s wife; this award, initiated in 1992, is to be “awarded periodically to a woman whose performance on the Competition has been deemed particularly meritorious.” This possibility didn’t outweigh the negative consequences we considered. In December of 2010, AWM President Georgia Benkart sent a letter to the Putnam Exam Committee summarizing our concerns and urging that gender information needed to award the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize be gathered when participants pre-register for the exam or after the exam is taken for walk-in test takers. In March of 2011 the P&A Committee sent the AWM Statement on Fairness in Testing to the Executive Committee and the EC endorsed this statement. It appears on the subpage on policy statements[Fairness(2011)] of the page on Policy and Advocacy on our current website.

During this period the committee worked on extensive updates to the page on the AWM website for Policy and Advocacy. I spearheaded this initiative with assistance of the full committee. The original AWM website went live on March 19, 1998. A team from Google helped Web Editor Holly Gaff and her crew create a new site at which launched in late 2010. With the kickoff of the Google site, the Newsletter also made its first appearance online with the November/December 2010 issue. Policy and Advocacy created its own page for the Google site and it appeared early in 2011; at that time our page was a subpage of the page for Resources. In 2012 we started a substantial revision of the P&A page and by late 2014 the page had moved out from Resources into a prominent position on the AWM home page just under the link to the AWM Newsletter.

Another issue we discussed was Berkeley mathematics prof Edward Frenkel’s suggestive film “Rites of Love and Math,” in which Frenkel appeared and a tattoo of the “mathematical formula for love” was imprinted on a the body of a naked woman.[Ness(2010)] MSRI originally posted information about the screening and a link to a trailer for the 26 minute movie on their website. P&A decided not to react to this as a committee but various members wrote to MSRI Director Robert Bryant expressing their concern about how the movie depicted women. Bryant withdrew MSRI’s support of the movie and posted a letter explaining his stance.

In 2011 Cathy Kessel and I co-authored a critique of the article “Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science”[Ceci(2011)] by husband and wife team Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams who were professors in the psych department at Cornell University. The critique appears on the current AWM website AWM Policy and Advocacy:Endorsements and was picked up by AWIS. Cathy wasn’t an official member of Policy and Advocacy but she was a consultant on this and many other issues that we considered.

We reviewed several other resolutions from the 1990s in 2011; we made sure they all appeared on the Policy and Advocacy page. We decided a few needed major revisions; I will discuss the most important of these in the third section.

Response to the PCAST Report “Engage to Excel”

The first major undertaking of P&A during my term as chair was our response to the report “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates With Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” which was a product of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and was published online on February 7, 2012 during Barack Obama’s presidency[Engage to Excel(2012)]. AWM learned about this report when P&A member and CNSF rep Rebecca Golden emailed AWM President Jill Pipher on February 24, 2012. Jill asked P&A to draft a statement of concern and submit it to the EC for approval. AWM was deeply concerned about the effect the report might have on federal funding for mathematics; this concern was shared by many other math societies.

We were dismayed to discover that not a single mathematician was on the Council and were deeply troubled by a couple of statements in the report. The first appeared on the bottom of page 27 and asserted

Discipline-based education on effective undergraduate mathematics teaching also appears less developed when compared with other STEM fields.

The second point was a pair of recommended actions on page 29 of the report.

  1. college mathematics teaching and curricula developed and taught by faculty from mathematics-intensive disciplines other than mathematics, including physics, engineering, and computer science; and

  2. a new pathway for producing K-12 mathematics teachers from undergraduate and graduate programs in mathematics-intensive fields other than mathematics.

We refuted these points in our statement. Rebecca spoke at length to Deborah Stine, the Executive Director of PCAST, to learn about the process that led to the report and the involvement of mathematicians in the process. Ms. Stine objected to our contention that not a single mathematician was on the Council and pointed out that the co-chair, Eric Lander, who is a systems biologist got his PhD in mathematics from Oxford. Ms. Stine advised Rebecca that giving public comment and handing out a document summarizing our concerns to PCAST members would be our most effective course of action. Subsequently, Rebecca requested a 2 minute time slot to present public comment at the next meetings of PCAST, which was on March 9, 2020.

With Cathy Kessel’s help, we drafted a statement for Rebecca to present during the public comment period. Cathy was much more up on the math education research than any of the members of P&A at that time. She helped us refute the statement about discipline-based education on effective mathematics teaching and provided us with a long list of references on effective teaching methods and ways to measure them. During the week preceding Rebecca’s public comments Jill Pipher was out of the country and we didn’t have ample time to get EC approval for our statement. The entire Policy and Advocacy Committee and Cathy Kessel approved the final statement and were named as authors of the statement that Rebecca handed out during the March 9th PCAST meeting. Rebecca reported that AWIS also handed out a statement at that meeting.

After Jill was back in touch with our committee we sent the statement we prepared to the Executive Committee for their consideration at the March meeting. Marie also contacted MAA, AWIS, and AMS to advise them about our activities in response to the report and to ask them if they wanted to collaborate on a joint response to the report. We were persuaded by several parties to make our response to “Engage to Excel” more positive and we did so. Policy and Advocacy worked with Cathy Kessel and Tara Holm who was involved with AMS at the time to edit the statement yet again. After 16 versions, the EC approved the final version of our statement and we posted it on the P&A website; we notified MAA and AWIS that the final version was available. AMS was kept in the loop by Tara Holm. In the end the other societies wrote their own responses and agreed to link to our response. A link to our final statement as well as other responses to “Engage to Excel” appear on the page for Archived Endorsements and Response Statements on

Sexual Harassment and The Welcoming Environment Statement

The earliest AWM policy on sexual harassment was drafted by the Executive Committee (before the Policy and Advocacy Committee was formed) appeared in November-December 1993. The statement included 8 main points: sexual harassment is extremely serious; sexual harassment has many forms; sexual harassment must be taken seriously; sexual harassment must be dealt with promptly; sexual harassment charges must be dealt with fairly; sexual harassment must be dealt with effectively; and sexual harassment must not be tolerated. This early statement provided guidelines for institutions to deal with sexual harassment. The statement was updated by the Policy and Advocacy Committee and approved by the EC in July of 2011. Once again, Cathy Kessel assisted us in writing the update to the “AWM Statement on Sexual Harassment,” which can be found on the Policy and Advocacy subpage Policy Statements. The policy appeared in the September-October issue of the AWM Newsletter, which can be found in the online archive[AWM News Sept-Oct(2011)]. At that time we endorsed the AAUP guidelines for academic institutions “Sexual Harassment:Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints.”

In the fall of 2012 P&A (Goldin, Greenwald, Leggett, and Vitulli) started discussions about a significant update to this policy. Various members of AWM including President Jill Pipher had been notified about incidents of sexual harassment at conferences, workshops, and institutes. These incidents caused great distress to the alleged victims and some people who reported incidents to conference organizers got icy responses from those organizers. Frankly we were shocked by some of the stories that were shared with us. We were asked to urge conference organizers to adopt anti-harassment policies and train permanent staff on how to deal with these situations. We were informed that there was already a push to make this happen in tech conferences. There was a suggestion that AWM create a repository of formal complaints.

During these early discussions, we contacted AAUP, the Joint Committee on Women, and NSF. We asked JCW to conduct a survey to see how many members of the AMS, MAA, SIAM, ASA, IMS, and NCTM have been victims of or have witnessed sexual harassment at a math conferences and workshops and what the nature of the harassment was. One member we contacted wanted more information about the nature of the complaints we heard about. We were reluctant to put any details in email for fear that it might be passed around and would violate confidentiality. We decided it was best to have Marie speak to this person on the phone. Marie spoke to a former AAUP General Counsel about AAUP’s policies. This person thought our best bet was to have associations adopt sexual harassment policies that cover workshops and conferences. She saw no problem with organizations keeping files of complaints. She made other suggestions that Marie related to the full committee.

Members of the P&A Committee were asked to talk to their Affirmative Action Offices to learn the details of their institution’s sexual harassment policy. Even though one affirmative action officer said that their institution is responsible for an employees actions even if away from campus there was nothing like this on the books. Another member reported her affirmative action office told her that if an employee of their institution was engaged in sexual harassment or in some other inappropriate behavior and the person impacted was not a student or employee, the alleged victim could not file a complaint, formal or informal, through the institution’s grievance process. Another member reported her office told her pretty much the same thing. We complied data on our own and other institutions. Our conclusion was that even if complaint processes included off campus behavior it would be difficult to get an institution to seriously investigate and/or follow through on complaints. One person who we were corresponding with remarked the following via email.

“Our correspondence convinced me that the University’s sexual harassment policies were put in place to protect the University and not the harassed. Does the Clery Act require reporting of sexual harassment?”

A member of the JCW contacted a program officer at NSF and was told the following via email.

“The NSF policy on sexual harassment (at conferences or otherwise) is to follow Federal law. If a complaint were made by an individual against an NSF-funded PI, the matter would be referred immediately to the NSF Office of the Inspector General, which would conduct an investigation and recommend any punitive actions. The latter might involve reporting the case to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. We Program Officers are told to stay clear of such matters beyond reporting them to the IG.”

I made inquiries at NSF as well and was largely unsuccessful getting a timely reply or much useful information from them.

By December of 2012 the P&A committee unanimously recommended that AWM adopt its own Sexual Harassment Policy that would govern AWM Workshops, Conferences, and Activities. We reviewed the American Astronomical Society (AAS) policy on their website on Sexual Harassment created by the AAS Committee on the Status of Women. We heard about the Modern Language Association (MLA) Policy but could not find a copy online so I contacted their executive director and head of governance. The Director of Operations responded to me and sent a copy of their statement of policies against discrimination and harassment, which was available at various tables at their annual meeting. The policy was brief and primarily referred to the behavior of employees of MLA. Problems at the annual MLA conference were reported in the news and circulated on the web. This led us to consider their policy.

We were impressed by the scope and thoroughness of the AAS Policy and decided to use the AAS document as model for the AWM statement.(?) Their policy was brought to our attention by someone at AWIS who thought it was up to individual societies to adopt policies. We came up with a first draft policy and discussed it at our December 2012 meeting. The initial draft was a “Statement of Anti-Discrimination Policy.” The 2011 update to the original 1993 policy was called “Statement on Sexual Harassment,” so the title for the 2012 statement followed what had been approved previously. This initial draft called for a complaint form to be placed on the Policy and Advocacy web page and for alleged victims to use that form to report incidents. The policy covered AWM events. Some of the language in the AAS Policy was replaced by language from the Equal Rights Advocate website. We made many edits to the initial draft and then sent it to the full EC for discussion at the January 2013 meeting at JMM in San Diego. The JCW was also meeting in San Diego at JMM so JCW member Jerry Porter used the AAS Policy to draft something that he took to the JCW meeting with the hope that JCW would send a policy draft to all of its member societies and ask them to adopt their own policies. Jerry also sent a copy of his “Anti-Harassment Policy” draft to leadership at MAA. It was my preference that Jerry wait for the EC to approve our policy draft but he wanted to have something to discuss at the 2013 JMM meeting. I was in contact with Carol Wood, a past AWM President and then chair of the newly formed AMS Committee on Women in Mathematics (CoWIM); AWM Treasurer Ellen Kirkman was also on that committee and was interested in pursuing a policy statement. I was invited by Cathy Kessel to attend the MAA Committee on the Participation of Women (CPW) meeting at JMM to discuss AWM’s work on a policy; I attended the meeting and was given an opportunity to speak.

When AWM leadership reviewed our policy draft before the January EC Meeting they were concerned that if AWM instituted a complaint process then it would put AWM at some legal risk. The original statement advised that AWM would report an alleged incident of harassment to the alleged perpetrator’s home institution. Mary Gray, the first AWM President who also holds a law degree, had a problem with this because it assumes harassment without any chance for the accused to defend herself/himself. Mary said she helped draft a similar policy for Amnesty International several years ago. She thought that reporting to an institution that a complaint was made could lead to legal liability for AWM. After discussion at the January EC meeting and email from Mary Gray the statement went back to the P&A Committee for edits.

Mary Gray expressed additional concerns about our initial statement, particularly the part that said we would help an alleged victim investigate the complaint process at his or her home institution. Mary pointed out that an institution wouldn’t be able to investigate an incident that occurs off campus. AWM personnel might not to able to access the faculty handbook or other personnel material from an email address off campus. If the home institution doesn’t investigate but places a letter in the alleged harasser’s file and that letter is brought up down the road in a tenure, promotion, or merit raise review, the alleged harasser may sue the institution and AWM for their role in having the letter placed in the alleged harasser’s file. Mary shared my feeling that AWM should make investigations of complaints part of our policy and suggested that we might create a pool of volunteer ombudspersons/investigators, one designated for each AWM event. The ombudsperson would decided whether to refer the complainant to the management of the venue, the police if s/he feels the incident is potentially criminal, or to investigate.

By late February 2013 it looked doubtful that AWM leadership and the EC would approve a policy that included a complaint process. We thought that if we adopted a policy that didn’t include a complaint process that it would be best to adopt a welcoming environment statement of expected behavior at AWM events. I contacted Joan T. Schmelz, the chair of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women (CSWA). The AAS was the only scientific organization that had a policy dealing with harassment at activities sponsored by the organization. Joan told me that their policy was drafted by CSWA and approved by the AAS Council at its January 2008 meeting. She couldn’t share any information about complaints filed and actions taken because that information was confidential. She did make the following remarks.

The AWM should not be in this alone. The professional organization running the meeting should be doing the heavy lifting.

The EC held a special meeting in April of 2013 to discuss the new proposal that was endorsed by the P&A Committee. It did not include a complaint process or mention of AWM helping an alleged victim file a complaint with his or her home institution. The EC felt that we should develop a statement rather than a policy. In late April, P&A unanimously approved a Statement of Non-Discrimination at AWM Activities and on May 1, 2013 it was sent to AWM President Ruth Charney and ED Magnhild Lien for a vote by the EC. At the May 2013 EC Meeting the amended AWM Statement on Non Discrimination was approved subject to Mary Gray’s approval. Mary still had some concerns and some minor edits were made. I went back and forth with Mary a few times and on June 24, 2013 I sent Ruth a yet again revised “Statement of Non-Discrimination at AWM Activities.” Ruth thought it looked excellent and we didn’t need to go back to the EC for approval. She also said we could post the statement on the Policy and Advocacy web page. The statement appeared online in late June of 2013. I also developed a detailed page of resources for dealing with sexual or other forms of harassment for the Policy and Advocacy web page. When originally posted, when you clicked on the “Statement of Non-Discrimination at AWM Activities” you were brought to a page with the running title “Harassment Policy.” The running title was changed to “Welcoming Environment Statement” in October of 2013.

Jerry Porter repeatedly asked me for a draft of the AWM statement but we felt that we couldn’t provide him with anything until the statement was actually approved by the EC. In the spring of 2013 Jerry circulated a draft of a “Welcoming Environment Policy” that he created using the AAS Policy as a model to MAA and JCW.

As soon as the AWM statement was posted I notified the other societies and provided them with a link to the policy. We urged AMS to adopt and support a full blown policy that included complaint and investigation processes more on the lines of the AAS policy and linked to that policy in the email. We suggested to JCW that they recommend that the other professional math societies adopt either a non-discrimination statement or a full blown policy if resources permitted this. JCW co-chair Tanya Leise replied that they had sent a similar statement, which they called a “Welcoming Environment Policy,” to the boards of each society involved in JCW. They promised to press for action on this by the other societies and advised me that someone would get back to me after JCW’s annual meeting in September.

Susanna Epp, the AWM rep to JCW reported back to me after their September meeting with the following welcome news.

NCTM is reviewing all policies and may have a policy in place soon. AMS Council on Profession is discussing this issue. ASA is working on it, may tweak [it] somewhat. AMATYC has adopted. MAA is reviewing its personnel manual and this may be part of that effort; issue has been forwarded to the MAA Council on Meetings. IMS has discussed it and drafted its own policy but would like to see what other societies are doing before sending back to council for approval (they want the document to be more explicit). IMS says incidents should be reported to Executive Committee.

At the January 2014 EC meeting at JMM I announced that the nondiscrimination statement had been edited and was posted on the P&A web page. We decided that AWM would not respond to specific complaints. We would send our statement to conference organizers who were requesting “In Cooperation” status. We came up with a briefer statement that was suitable for including on conference handouts. This appeared in the AWM program for JMM 2014. I advised the EC about the actions JCW had taken on this issue and what the other societies were doing. At the 2014 JMM the MAA Council on the Profession, chaired by Amy Cohen, passed a resolution to MAA leadership asking them to adopt a statement. The AMS Council gave the task of drafting their statement to a subcommittee. Mary Gray announced that ASA approved a statement and would let us know when it was posted on their website.

In February of 2014 Policy and Advocacy gained three new members: Tara Holm, Bryna Kra, and Katrin Wehrheim. In that month AMATYC approved a Welcoming Environment Statement, which appeared as an attachment to their board minutes and later was posted online. JCW posted a Welcoming Environment page with link to the statements/policies of AWM and AMATYC as well as a link to the AAS Policy. (JCW2014) The ASA “Conduct Policy” would soon be posted on their website. Today their policy includes the following paragraph.

“Violations should be reported to the organizer of the activity. In ASA’s sole discretion, unacceptable behavior may result in removal or denial of access to meeting facilities or activities, and other penalties, without refund of any applicable registration fees or costs. In addition, violations may be reported to the individual’s employer. Repeat offenders may be banned from future ASA activities.”

The AMATYC “Policy on a Welcoming Environment” includes the following sentences.

Violations of this policy should be reported to the President of AMATYC. Individuals violating these standards may be asked to leave the activity without refund of registration fees and may have their behavior reported to their employer. Repeat offenders may be banned from future AMATYC activities. Retaliation against individuals who file a complaint will not be tolerated and will be treated in a manner similar to harassment.

In March 2014 AMS produced a draft of a policy that was shorter but much in the same spirit as the policy proposed by JCW with one major difference; AMS proposed a reporting option involving an 800 number, so that the person lodging the complaint would have as much anonymity as possible and AMS could act quickly. The AMS lawyers were vetting the policy draft. A joint subcommittee with members from CoWIM, CoPROF, and COMC came up with the draft proposal. The policy was ready to go to AMS Council by November 2014 and was to be discussed at their January 2015 meeting at JMM. It was approved by the AMS Council in January 2015 and they were working on its implementation.

In May 2014 a resolution on “Welcoming Environment” was presented to the MAA Executive Committee. By January 2015 MAA had a brief statement on Welcoming Environment on their website on the page containing the MAA Code of Ethics and the Whistle Blower Protection Policy. The MAA Executive Committee discussed the longer welcoming environment statement/resolution and decided to modify their Code of Ethics to cover the welcoming environment statement. They reported that they were working on an update to what was posted. I went back and forth with MAA about what was posted. Today the statement on Welcoming Environment includes the following sentences.

Violations may be reported directly to the Executive Director or the Compliance Officer (Vice President). For immediate concerns at a meeting, proceed to the registration area or hotel/convention center security office.

It is a huge disappointment to me that the AWM statement passed in 2013 and the updated statement make no mention of reporting violations or a complaint process. On the current web page containing the Statement of Welcoming Environment under the toggle “What to Do If You Experience Sexual Harassment” the following sentences appear.

If you experience harassment or are aware of harassment incidents at an AWM event, you are welcome to reach out to AWM organizers of the event and/or other AWM members for advice on how to proceed. AWM members can help guide you to an appropriate venue for filing a complaint. You are not expected to discuss details of the harassment, but if you choose to do so, the AWM members you speak to will keep this information confidential to the extent that is legally possible.

AWM was the first math society to adopt a welcoming environment statement; when the statement was adopted it was agreed that we would revisit it in 2 years. In June of 2016, under Gail Letzter’s leadership, the P&A committee began their review of the policy; I attended an early meeting as a guest. In 2017 I was informed that the National Academies of Science formed a committee to examine “Sexual Harassment in Academia,” and began holding public educational meetings that could be attended (remotely, via webcast) for free. AWM currently sends a liaison to the Societies Consortium on Harassment in STEMM. My own interest in sexual harassment in academia continues to this day; I have a page on Sexual Harassment in STEM on my personal Women in Math Project website, which is an archive of articles and studies on sexual harassment in the sciences.(WomenInMath1997)

Endorsements and Letters of Support

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) representative and I, as P&A chair, and Magnhild Lien, as AWM Executive Director, received frequent communications from CNSF asking us to endorse various statements on funding for the National Science Foundation in federal budget requests and other related statements. The letters we felt were important to our community were brought to the full P&A for discussion. We then recommended to the President that she co-sign or not co-sign the letter. In 2012–13 P&A recommended co-signing several letters that CNSF co-sponsored: letters to the House and Senate expressing concern about the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (these acts place restrictions on government employees’ abilities to attend meetings and conferences), a letter to the Senate in reference to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, and a couple of letters decrying the effect that sequestration would have on the U.S. scientific community. In 2014–15 we recommended that AWM co-sign letters: to the Commerce, Justice Science (CJS) staff in the House and Senate requesting an exemption for scientific and engineering conferences from international restrictions in the draft FY15 omnibus; protesting the elimination of American Community Survey Question 12 (undergraduate major) from the U.S. Census; NDD United letter to stop sequestration; a CNSF Letter regarding the FY15 Omnibus Appropriations Bill; a letter circulated by AAU in April to Close the Innovation Deficit; a letter to Senators Carper and Coburn expressing the concerns of the scientific community about current and proposed restrictions on the ability of federal and contractor scientists and engineers to participate in scientific and technical conferences (S 1347); and a CNSF letter on the FIRST Act in March. Finally, we recommended co-signing additional letters against sequestration and the innovation deficit protesting the effort to authorize NSF funding by directorate.

An archive of the letters sent by CNSF can be found on the CNSF website.

Shortly after I took over as chair of Policy and Advocacy in 2012 we prepared a statement for then President Jill Pipher to send the Eames office urging them to include more women on the update of the poster “Men of Modern Mathematics” and in their app Minds of Modern Mathematics, which was renamed after complaints about the initial title, which was the same as the poster. Charles and Ray Eames were important designers of the 20th century whose office designed the 12-foot timeline in 1966 for IBM, who distributed the poster to schools across the nation for many years. Emmy Noether was the only woman included in the original poster. Regrettably, the app is no longer available on the Apple App Store and the old version doesn’t run on modern operating systems. The statement that Pipher sent appears on our current website at AWM Policy and Advocacy Endorsements.

During the August 2015 meeting of P&A we brought the following action item to the EC.

P&A recommends that P&A should review legislation and make recommendations on what bills to support for future Hill visits.

This was discussed by the EC during the November WebEx call and sent back to the committee. President Kristin Lauter wanted P&A to make organizing future Hill visits part of the committee’s charge. Kristin and past President Ruth Charney wanted to keep flexibility in the Hill visits so that whoever is making the visits can react to changes in legislation and new legislation and not wait for P&A to review and make recommendations. There was support for joining forces with AWIS in their participation in STEM on the Hill/Congressional Visit Days 2016. P&A members thought that the EC should clarify what the goals of the Hill visits are. For example are we trying to: encourage more support for women in math; elimination of sexual harassment/sexism in academy; more funding for women; more diversity impact in funding decisions? We felt that it is more important to advocate for women in math (or more generally, for women in STEM), than for math in general. P&A brought another action item to the EC, namely our recommendation that AWM file federal Form 5768 and the appropriate accompanying forms to elect to have AWM’s lobbying efforts judged by the “expenditure test.” The discussion was continued during Gail’s term as P&A chair as you can read in her section on Hill Visits.

Related Work

During my years on the P&A Committee it became clear to me that we needed to highlight both the work of AWM and of women mathematicians. I became a Wikipedia editor in 2013 after I attended an Edit-a-thon at the University of Oregon led by Sarah Stierch, a prominent member of Wikipedia community. My goal was to increase the number and quality of articles on women mathematicians. At that time there was a scarcity of both women editors and pages on women mathematicians on Wikipedia. The first page that I created was on AWM-AMS Noether Lecturer Susan Montgomery. Almost immediately after the page went live it was proposed for deletion but Stierch responded to the editor who proposed this and removed the deletion tag. Since then I have created several more pages on women mathematicians and have updated and expanded numerous pages. I wrote articles for the AWM Newsletter and the Notices of the AMS on Writing Women in Mathematics into Wikipedia. AWM partnered with the Wiki Education to create the AWM-Wikipedia Visiting Scholars Program. At the 2017 AWM Research Symposium at UCLA Ursula Whitcher organized the very first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon that was held during an AWM event; I assisted Ursula as did Jami Mathewson of the Wiki Education Foundation. Several AWM members, including the current AWM Media Coordinator, Denise Rangel Tracy, and AWM member Sean Sather-Wagstaff participated in the Wikipedia Fellows Programs in which the participants attended a series of weekly online lectures to learn the fine points of creating pages on Wikipedia. There were 3 different cohorts of Wikipedia Fellows in the summer of 2018: Communicating Science,

General Cohort, and Women in Science. There was again a cohort for Women in Science in Fall of 2018. Denise organized AWM Edit-a-thons at the 2019 AWM Research Symposium and the 2020 JMM in Denver, CO; I assisted at the latter as did Sean Sather-Wagstaff. At Sean’s invitation, I organized an Edit-a-thon at Clemson University in January of 2019 at which he assisted. Denise and Sean have submitted a grant proposal to lead several more Edit-a-thons. I am happy to report that today there are many more pages on women mathematicians on Wikipedia and that we have trained several new editors.

To highlight the work of AWM, I became active with the AWM Task Force on Media and Web Presence, which was formed after discussions at JMM 2015. President Kristin Lauter wanted to greatly increase our web and media presence and set up the task force to do so. After a few months the task force morphed into the AWM Media Committee. AWM had a Facebook page as early as January 2011 and a Twitter account was created by Anna Haensch in March of 2015. In 2016 the AWM Bylaws were updated and the Web Editor position was replaced by the Media Coordinator position; the person who held this position was a member of the EC. After informally acting as AWM Media Coordinator for several months I formally took over this role early in 2019. Shortly after JMM 2019 in Baltimore, Kim Ayers created an Instagram account for us, which I linked to our Facebook page. I have made almost daily Facebook posts announcing both AWM events and things I think would be of interest to the AWM community since 2015. I linked our Twitter account to our Facebook account so that posts made on Facebook would automatically push to Twitter. Unfortunately, Facebook no longer allows pushing of Facebook posts to Twitter accounts but posts on our Instagram account can still push to our Facebook page. Denise Rangel Tracy became an active poster on Facebook in 2019. Karen Saxe created an AWM Group on LinkedIn in July 2015. This group currently has 56 members. The Media Committee is discussing how to best use this group.

We totally revamped the AWM website starting in the spring of 2018. Our old Google website, created in 2010, seem dated and was cumbersome to maintain. We were without a web editor for several years after Holly Gaff resigned in 2012. I chaired a committee to find a new web editor in 2014. At that time we also were exploring the idea of a new website. I solicited a proposal from someone I knew who developed websites for nonprofits. In early 2015 Adriana Salerno took over as our new web editor. Our current website is a Wordpress website and is a much more modern site with many photos and graphics. I joined the website team in the fall of 2018 and helped launch the new site in December of 2018. I maintained the site until the end of my term as AWM Media Coordinator in late March 2020. At that time Denise Rangel Tracy took over as AWM Media Coordinator and Michelle Snider, who was involved in creating the new website, took over as the web editor.

The Letzter Years: 2016 – 2020

When the AWM nominating committee approached me about running to be a member-at-large on the Executive Committee, I was told that I would spend the first two years on one of the major committees with portfolio and then spend the final two years of my term as committee chair. This sounded great to me. It would give me a chance to get to know well one of the important AWM committees first before taking on a leadership role. I remember looking at the portfolios and thinking, should I join the Membership Committee? Would I be better suited for the Meetings Committee? And then AWM President Kristin Lauter took me aside and convinced me to both join and serve as chair of one of the committees I hadn’t even considered, the AWM P&A Committee.

Shortly after the 2016 January AWM Executive Committee at the JMM, I met individually with AWM President Kristin Lauter and she provided me with an overview of the P&A Committee and some of her vision for new projects we could pursue. One of her central goals was to formalize the new AWM Hill Visit Program she had started and asked that the P&A oversee and expand this new initiative. Kristin was also keen on getting student chapters involved in any way possible. After speaking with Kristin, I reached out to the outgoing P&A Chair and co-author of this article, Marie Vitulli, to get her perspective on the committee. In her view, the two most pressing items were the new Hill visit initiatives and reviewing and updating the AWM Welcoming Environment/Non-Discrimination Statement. It had been more than two years since the AWM had adopted this statement and it was time to give it a thorough review and update it. So I began my term as chair of the P&A committee with two main thrusts on the agenda: Hill Visits and Welcoming Environment review; both efforts played a dominant role during my time on the committee.

I served as P&A chair for three years, from February 2016 to February 2019. In addition to me, there were three new committee members, Karen Saxe, Julie Sutton, and Sara Billey, and two returning members Katrin Wehrheim and Bryna Kra. After one year, Katrin rotated off and Karoline Pershell filled the open position. The next year, Bryna finished her appointment and Karoline Pershell became the new AWM Executive Director. The two open positions were filled by Courtney Gibbons and Pamela Harris and the first Government Advocacy Committee chair, Michelle Snider, also automatically became a P&A Committee member. After stepping down as chair, I remained on the P&A Committee for one more year. Talia Fernós took over as chair in February 2020 with Karen Saxe and Pamela Harris stepping down and Caroline Klivans and Autumn Kent joining the group. Soon after, Courtney Gibbons became co-chair with Talia and then Courtney took over as committee chair in 2020.

During my tenure as chair of the Committee, we delved into all sorts of issues affecting the mathematics community. Sometimes, we brainstormed about various topics of concern including issues related to gender identity, racial diversity, awards, childcare and more and passed on recommendations to the Executive Committee and/or the AWM President. Other times, we discussed how best to support individual committee members pursing programs designed to aid women and girls in mathematics. We gave suggestions to Bryna Kra in support of the October 2016 “Summit Meeting on the Gender Imbalance in Mathematics." We discussed in detail problems Julie Sutton was having with respect to Title IX rules in relation to a special program she was organizing for high school girls. We also took some steps related to social media bullying, though that is an issue that AWM has yet to fully address (see the section on Future Directions) and also discussed other forms of online information. Just like Marie Vitulli, we were disturbed about the few numbers of women mathematician with Wikipedia pages. Sara Billey led us in making a small change to the Wikipedia page on Isomorphism theorems so that Emmy Noether was given her proper credit. I am pleased to see that after an initial strong pushback from Wikipedia, the theorems are now recognized in the opening line of this page as Noether’s Isomorphism Theorems.

In addition to these smaller efforts, the P&A Committee undertook a number of big tasks during my term as chair. We turned AWM Hill Visits into regular occurring trips and even established a P&A subcommittee, the Government Advocacy Committee to manage these visits. The P&A Committee updated the Welcoming Environment Statement and created a new Diversity and Inclusion Statement. In addition, we handled a steady stream of statements in response to current events. These larger tasks are described in detail in the next few sections.

During my final year on the AWM P&A Committee, I was tapped by my office leadership to serve on SIRE, the federal government-wide Safe and Inclusive Research Environment Committee, a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council Committee JCORE (Joint Committee on Research Environments) hosted by the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). The SIRE Committee addresses many of the same issues as the AWM P&A Committee – harassment and discrimination, diversity and inclusion, etc. – with a focus on a unified federal response to ensuring safe and inclusive research environments in the U.S. scientific community. At these meetings, I often find myself wearing two hats, one as a government employee and the other as a mathematician with deep connections to both AWM and AMS. I keep both the AMS and the AWM in the loop when possible and have been able to inform the SIRE Committee on actions these professional societies have taken to support an inclusive discrimination/harrassment-free environment for scientific research. I also encouraged the AWM Hill Visit contingent to stop by the OSTP in order to learn more about SIRE, and one of the groups did. The AWM Hill volunteers had productive conversations with both Senior Policy Advisor Tracie Lattimore, chair of the SIRE Committee and Deputy Director of STEM Education Marlene Kaplan (see the article "Capital Hill Days" in [AWM News May-June(2020)].

Looking back, I view my four years on the AWM P&A Committee as extremely rewarding. My time on the AWM P&A Committee has helped me serve as a more effective champion for diversity, inclusion, anti-discrimination and anti- harassment in both the larger mathematics community and at my own workplace. Moreover, I felt that as a committee and, just as important, as an integral part of AWM, that we could have an impact. We couldn’t completely change the world, but we could take small steps that improved the environment for women, for underrepresented groups, and for the broader mathematics community. Looking forward, I know that I am now much more attuned to so many aspects of the issues we tackled. And I am confident that others will follow Marie and me in refining and updating our efforts and taking on new challenges.

Hill Visits

The first major item on the agenda for the 2016 P&A committee was Hill Visits, a brand new initiative started by AWM President Kristin Lauter. Two visits had already occurred, both planned around major math conferences in the DC area. The first took place immediately after the 2015 AWM Research Symposium at the University of Maryland. Kristin and EC member Talitha Washington discussed issues concerning the mathematical community with a number

of members of Congress and their staff. The second Hill Visit followed the 2015 MAA MathFest in Washington DC with a somewhat larger group consisting of both AWM officials and student leaders from various AWM chapters. AWM participants came away energized from these day-long events. It was clear that Hill visits opened up a new way for AWM members to impact the mathematical lives of women and girls. The P&A Committee’s charge was to build on the excitement of these initial trips and figure out how to turn AWM Hill Visits into regularly occurring events.

Karen Saxe, an AWM member with a long history of advocacy and former AMS/AAAS Congressional fellow, was a behind-the-scenes force in getting the new AWM Hill Visit initiative off the ground. She helped prep the AWM teams on how to talk to members of Congress and prepared a one page document highlighting AWM’s legislative priorities for the groups to leave behind with the Congressional members. I personally was very grateful to have Karen on board as a new member of the P&A Committee as we figured out how to establish AWM’s ongoing Hill Visits program. We were also fortunate to have another new committee member, Julie Sutton, who had a real pulse on how to engage students and, as a finishing graduate student, had joined the 2015 AWM Hill Visit following MathFest.

Whenever one sets up a new program, perhaps the first natural question is: what is the goal? Or, put another way, what do you hope to accomplish? AWM is a great but small professional society. Even with a group of enthusiastic volunteers, AWM is not big enough to become an effective lobbying force with constant calls to members of Congress in order to influence passage of specific bills. And even if we were a larger organization, there are complicated legal issues concerning what percentage of time a non-profit organization can spend on lobbying. The P&A Committee decided the purpose of these visits was to offer AWM services as a resource so that members of Congress know that they can turn to us for information on issues of importance to women and girls in math and related fields.

With a purpose set to guide us, we turned to fashioning the documents for AWM participants to give to members of Congress and their staff. For the initial visits, participants handed out a one-page legislative wish list prepared by Karen Saxe and a standard brochure on AWM’s mission and activities. The latter was easy to tweak – it merely needed a few updates which the committee enacted such as including a paragraph on the AWM Research Symposiums and a description of AWM’s new 2015 NSF Advance Grant. Both of these additions illustrated NSF funded successes, something that members of Congress are always interested in hearing.

The original one-pager presented the problem – too few women in STEM – and solutions in the form of specific current legislation that could easily change over time. Karen urged the committee to prepare a more enduring one-pager that focused on broad themes, instead of actual bills. We settled on the following themes that continue to be used in very similar form since 2016 and can also be found on the AWM website:

We also decided to elaborate on the problem of too few women in STEM as well as make it more math oriented. Pouring through statistics from the 2015 American Mathematical Society studies, we were able to clearly illustrate the leaky pipeline: in the mathematical sciences, women make up

We also included statistics for computer science majors, noting the drop from 37% women in 1985 to 18% in 2012 with similar percentages for women in the tech industry. To draw attention to the challenge these numbers represented, we added a few sentences:

"In this era of big data and fast-paced technological changes - both of which require mathematical expertise and sophistication - we cannot afford to leave so much of the population behind. The deficit of women in STEM and, particularly, women in math is not just a women’s issue. Diverse perspectives are necessary for scientific advances and technical innovations that benefit all."

Eventually, Karoline Pershell replaced the list of statistics with a row of eye-catching pie charts (see for example AWM’s Priorities at

In addition to preparing documents, we discussed how to establish a regular cycle of visits. Should we join forces with other professional societies? When should the Hill Visits take place? The consensus of the committee was to go solo on the Hill Visits. We felt that this would be a more effective way to get our voices heard, our issues promoted, and our organization, AWM, known among members of Congress in connection to the issues we value. Once this was settled, it was clear we needed to take in to consideration what schedule works best for AWM members, especially if we wanted non-local AWM leaders involved. Kristin Lauter proposed coordinating Hill Visits with CBMS (Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences) twice-a-year meetings in Washington DC. This would permit the AWM President, who typically attends the CMBS meetings, to participate in the Hill Visits. Though we considered other possible times that might be better in terms of Congress’s schedule, ultimately, we decided that Hill Visits scheduled around CBMS meetings so that AWM leadership could participate was the best choice.

And so we were set, or more precisely the dates were set. The next AWM Hill Visit would take place in early May, the day before the spring CBMS meeting. The one after that would take place in December, coinciding with the winter CBMS meeting, and so on. But just knowing the timing wasn’t enough. We needed to make a lot of arrangements and, just as important, we needed to start keeping records so that planning would become a process and follow-up would flow naturally. We created a list of potential Hill Visit participants that included both professors and local mathematicians in industry. We also set up a system for recording highlights from each trip including a summary of Congressional offices visited and what issues, bills, and initiatives were discussed. This way, there was continuity between visits, AWM volunteers could easily be prepared to follow up on various topics, and, as an organization, AWM had the framework for building relationships with individual members of Congress.

We had just put the finishing touches on the one-pager, updated the AWM mission document, and laid the groundwork for record keeping, when we realized that the 2016 May Hill trip was just a short time away. AWM President Kristin Lauter was definitely on board as participant. Two Executive Committee members, Talithia Williams and Talitha Washington, joined Kristin Lauter. We reached out to a few additional people – some who eventually participated in other Hill Visits – but it was too short notice for them to arrange their schedule so that they could attend. But even though this was a small group, it was a dynamite one. Kristin and Talitha had already participated in the 2015 AWM Hill Visit following MathFest and Karen Saxe had discussed the new Hill Visit initiative at length with Talithia. An article Karen and Talitha co-authored for the July/August 2016 AWM newsletter summed up the trip well:

Talitha, Talithia, and Kristin met with several Senate and House members and discussed everything from Title IX implementation, to equal pay issues, to the new Computer Science for All initiative recently unveiled by the White House.

Upon reading the article, a number of local DC AWM Members contacted Executive Director Magnhild Lien and put their name on the AWM Hill Visit volunteer list. One of the people who responded, Michelle Snider, has since become a central player in the AWM Hill Visit enterprise.

For the next visit, scheduled in December 2016, we had time to attract a much larger AWM contingent, and, moreover, realize Kristin’s vision of involving AWM student chapters. In August, I sent out invites to a slew of local AWM mathematicians based on suggestions of Kristin and Karen. Perhaps, the most exciting response came from Beth Malmskog, faculty advisor for Villanova University’s new AWM student chapter: yes, she and the student chapter would participate! In addition to the Villanova contingent of nine students, we assembled a great team of ten faculty and industry mathematicians.

Anybody who has planned a program knows that there is a lot of behind the scenes organization needed in order to achieve success. Large AWM Hill visits are no exception! The December 2016 Hill visit trip involved significant advanced preparation, some of which was being done for the first time. Karen Saxe kicked off the process by giving us a number of extremely valuable tips:

Drawing upon this advice, I gathered information from each participant about their home state senators and home district representatives, as well as any other representatives or senators to which the participant had a connection. Using this information, I created a list of senators and representatives to visit and then supplemented the list with members of Congress known for their support of issues related to AWM’s mission including Representative Barbara Lee, a sponsor of the Computer Science for all Initiative; Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, an introducer of the STEM Opportunities Act; and Representative Jackie Speier, a proponent of legislation addressing sexual harassment in STEM fields. I then divided up the group of participants into small teams and decided which senators and representatives each team should arrange to visit.

After the teams and their assigned members of Congress were set, I was able to delegate both the scheduling of appointments and the logistics for the day to the group of volunteers. Beth Malmskog arranged a van so that the Villanova group could all travel to DC together from Philadelphia. Originally, it was suggested that the students take the lead in making the appointments. But that turned out to be very difficult – the students were being put on frustratingly long holds. Fortunately, the professional mathematicians stepped forwarded and finished the calls, putting together an amazing schedule that included visits to more than 20 congressional offices.

On top of logistics, the group of participants needed to be prepped appropriately. Karen Saxe had prepared a basic instruction sheet with instructions such as “dress for a business meeting” and “show up 5 minutes early and expect 15-30 minutes for your visit” and a description of the different types of congressional staff members including Chief of Staff, Legislature Director, Legislative Assistant and more. Based on input from Karen and Julie Sutton on the importance of making things personal when connecting to members of Congress, I urged the professional mathematicians to consider sharing “individual stories, especially those that relate to what is happening in the member of Congress’s district and/or state." I passed on similar advice to the students, suggesting that “each student write down her ‘journey’; to mathematics (including if possible anything that harks back to their home district) and practice telling this story to others before making the Hill visit.” We were also very fortunate to have Karoline Pershell, who had just completed a stint as AAAS/AMS Science and Technology Policy fellow, join the AWM Hill visit team. She prepared a list of current initiatives and bills for the AWM volunteers to bring up in discussions with members of Congress and their staff and emailed it to all the participants before the trip. So from knowing how to dress to knowing what to discuss, the team was ready to go. Nowadays, prepping for AWM Hill visits is more formal and usually includes a training session (see for example visit information at Hill Day Visits.)

Wrap-up afterwards included thank-you notes from participants to congressional offices, counting the number of volunteer hours spent on the visit for AWM tax forms, written records of offices visited and issues discussed, and other similar records. Beth Malmskog also wrote a wonderful AMS blog entitled "DC or Bust: AWM and Villanova Visit Capital Hill" that captured the excitement of the day. Her closing remarks in this blog summed up not only what the trip meant to her, but the impact it had on the students:

This trip was a meaningful experience for me as well. Not only did I get to talk to legislators and make my voice heard on issues I care deeply about, but I met so many awesome math women and had the chance to see my students really shine as awesome math women (and one awesome math man) themselves. I was proud of them, and also glad that they wouldn’t have to wait as long as I did to realize that a trip like this was possible. They will carry this knowledge with them into whatever they decide to do.

With the December 2016 visit over, I knew that planning the next trip, scheduled for May, would have to begin soon. The first letters to faculty advisors of potential AWM student chapter participants went out the week after the December 2016 trip. Thus a regular cycle of AWM Hill Visits was officially launched. The AWM Hood College student chapter participated in the May 2017 AWM Hill Visit. A combined group of students from AWM chapters at George Mason University and Trinity College took part in the December 2017 AWM Hill Visit. The impact was immediately clear as members of Congress and their staff reached out to the AWM for endorsements of various bills and initiatives. The AWM was becoming a known quantity on the Hill and other math societies were looking to us on how to approach similar efforts. I was incredibly pleased when Karen Saxe held up the AWM Hill Visits as a model for advocacy with respect to Congress during the AMS Committee on Science Policy Panel Discussion at the 2018 JMM.

Though the P&A Committee now had a much better grasp of the arrangements for visits, it was clear that each trip required a significant amount of work. In February 2017, Karoline Pershell became a P&A Committee member and the point person for the Hill Visits. This greatly eased my burden as chair, enabling me to focus on so many of the other important tasks on the dock for the P&A Committee. But then, Karoline was appointed AWM Executive Director and I knew that something had to be done in order to keep the AWM Hill Visit program going without overburdening the P&A Committee and its chair, both me and future ones. Thus I decided it was time to form a new committee, the AWM Government Advocacy Committee (GAC), responsible for AWM Hill Visits and other AWM advocacy efforts on the local and state level. The chair of the committee would be a regular member of the P&A Committee and the P&A Committee would provide oversight for the GAC. The formation of the GAC was developed by the P&A Committee and then approved by the AWM Executive Committee in early 2018. The first GAC chair was Michele Snider, an active AWM Hill volunteer. She has done a tremendous job in continuing the AWM Hill Visit initiative and I refer the reader to her article in this volume [Snider(2021)] about the amazing visits she has organized.

Welcoming Environment Revisited

The environment surrounding sexual harassment had evolved quite a bit since the AWM first started working on the 2013 Welcoming Environment Statement. AWM was the first professional math society and one of the few professional societies within STEM fields to develop such a policy at that time. In contrast, by 2016, the major math societies, some universities, some math departments, and many math research institutes had official anti-discrimination/harassment policies. The external environment continued to evolve in other ways over the course of our review. When we began, NSF still had in place a policy that placed all responsibility for addressing harassment complaints with the host institution. In 2017, the #MeToo movement exploded into national view. A year later, NSF and other grant institutions such as NIH, decided to put processes in place to deal directly with harassment that involved funded investigators.

In June 2016, Marie attended the AWM P&A Committee and gave us an overview of the Welcoming Environment Statement, its original motivation, and some of the difficulties in developing this especially in regards to establishing a complaint process. Marie further explained that the anti-harassment/anti-discrimination/welcoming environment statements of other math societies were in part inspired by the AWM version. But a number of them had some sort of complaint process – something that the AWM P&A Committee wanted but was unable to accomplish in the 2013 version. From that point forward, every discussion on how to update the Welcoming Environment Statement included a lot of back and forth about setting up a complaint process. The committee was torn about this. On the one hand, without a complaint process, the document had no “teeth.” On the other hand, the legal and resource issues were substantial. And even if we could take complaints, it was unclear we could follow-up with any action, punitive or otherwise. In August 2017, when we begun in earnest to work on updates, the AWM P&A Committee decided on a two track approach:

Updating the statement: The 2013 Welcoming Environment Statement had five sections: An opening paragraph, a section “Sexual Harassment" defining sexual harassment, a section “Other Types of Harassment” with descriptions of other forms of harassment, a portion “Scope of Policy” that explained who was covered by the policy, and a section entitled “Further Resources” with a link to a page including pointers for those who experienced harassment and links to relevant documents. Before the last P&A meeting of 2017, I sent around two proposed updates for the committee to consider. The first including minor changes to the opening paragraph and the scope of policy section, leaving the rest, as well as the resource page the same. The second proposed option included these minor changes, left the two sections on “Sexual Harassment” and “Other Types of Harassment" untouched, and contained two new sections “What to Do If You Experience Harassment" and ‘Filing a Complaint’ that were designed to give more advice, pointers and instructions to victims of harassment, especially given the fact that AWM did not yet have a complaint process in place. Part of these instructions were taken directly from the resource page, which in turn would be made shorter so that it really was just a link to resources. The committee preferred the second option.

The opening paragraph of the 2013 Welcoming Environment Statement can be viewed as a broad anti-discrimination declaration that ends with a list of categories “not related to scientific merit" such as ‘gender, gender identity or expression, race’ (and more) that should in no way influence the treatment of individuals at AWM events. In the 2018 revision, the AWM P&A committee decided to leave most of this exactly the same with only a few minor tweaks, both which came from AWM’s response to the January 2017 Travel Ban (executive order 13769). Working with the AWM P&A Committee, the AWM President put together a travel ban statement, entitled ‘AWM reaffirms its commitment to a welcoming, inclusive environment.&rsquot; The statement’s first paragraph is a shortened version of the first paragraph of the AWM Welcoming Environment Statement with the addition “immigration status” which we decided to keep in our update of the Welcoming Environment statement. We also decided that we liked the addition of the word ‘inclusive’ in AWM’s travel ban response so we kept this as well in the opening paragraph.

During our review of this statement, we studied a number of similar policies from other professional societies. Upon examination of MAA’s Welcoming Environment, Code of Ethics, and Whistleblower Policy, it became clear to us that MAA’s policy is designed for MAA employees as well as members. Should the same hold for AWM? Or, more generally, what is the focus of the AWM policy? Are we primarily concerned about harassment of members or are there significant potential problems with staff in the AWM office? During the AWM P&A discussions on this topic,

Executive Director Magnhild Lien chimed in, stating that the AWM staff size was very small, so the real focus was participants of AWM conferences and sponsored activities. Although, the 2013 AWM statement is broad, one can see from examining the Scope of Policy section that the focus on employees is minimal:

Scope of Policy: This policy applies to all attendees at AWM activities, including mathematicians, students, guests, staff, contractors, and exhibitors, participating in the scientific sessions and social events of any AWM meeting or other activity.

Furthermore, the original motivation of the AWM Welcoming Environment Statement had to do with sexual harassment issues raised by members attending professional meetings. The updated 2018 version is only slightly different:

Scope of Policy: This policy applies to all attendees at AWM activities, including mathematicians, students, guests, staff, contractors, and exhibitors, participating in the scientific sessions and social events of any AWM meeting, any AWM student chapter event, or any other AWM sponsored activity.

P&A Committee member Sara Billey, the faculty sponsor for the University of Washington AWM student chapter, wanted to make sure that the policy applied to AWM student chapter meetings. This was an important issue. More than one of us on the committee had heard of incidents where students did not feel completely comfortable for one reason or another at these chapter meetings. Also, the number of AWM student chapters had grown extensively under Kristin Lauter’s leadership. So we decided to explicitly call out AWM student chapter events in the updated statement.

The new section “What to Do If You Experience Harassment” included tips originally found on the resource page such as “If you believe you are a victim of harassment, write everything down.” In addition, we included a paragraph that advised someone who experiences harassment at an AWM sponsored event “to reach out to AWM organizers of the event and/or other AWM members for advice on how to proceed.” This paragraph, mentioned in full in Marie Vitulli’s section above on the Welcoming Environment, has a hesitant aspect to it and this is because of legal issues. In particular, it ends with the assertion that if someone confides in an AWM member, they “will keep this information confidential to the extent that is legally possible." I cannot emphasize enough the legal minefields behind all of this. Some of the same problems came up in discussions regarding an official AWM ombudsmen (see below). And there were even more difficulties for issues at universities that fell under Title IX rules. At one point, we wanted to suggest that students who experience harassment at AWM student chapter events turn to their faculty advisors. It turns out that any such discussion would immediately trigger reporting requirements under Title IX regulations for the faculty member and confidentiality would be thrown out the window. Needless to say, the final statement did not include this suggestion.

The added section “Filing a Complaint” outlines a number of avenues for filing complaints given that AWM does not have a complaint process in place at this time. Two possibilities are taken directly from the resource page of the 2013 document: (i) Title VII and Title IX, both of which prohibit discrimination – the first in the workplace and the second at universities and (ii) federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In addition to reiterating this information, this new section of the 2017 Welcoming Environment policy addresses AWM events “cosponsored by other societies” that might have a complaint process in place with pointers to these organizations’ policies.

Exploring complaint processes: The first complaint process we looked at was the one adopted by the AMS. The AMS used a phone number and website for confidential anonymous reporting of incidents. The underlying system for recording complaints with the AMS is called EthicsPoint and is provided by the company NAVEX Global. In our August 2017 meeting, Karen Saxe, who was now the AMS Director of the Washington DC office, described AMS’s complaint process using EthicsPoint in detail for the committee. She explained that the costs included an initial startup fee as well as ongoing annual fees. Karen also noted that several AMS staff were involved in the initial setup of the system and a number of AMS staff are in charge of following up on the complaints.

After listening to Karen’s introduction to the AMS complaint process, members of the committee expressed doubts as to whether AWM had the funds and personnel to support a similar reporting system. Nevertheless, we decided to talk directly to NAVEX to find out more information. Karoline Pershell, AWM President Ami Radunskaya, and I participated in a NAVEX conference call where we learned that NAVEX could store and compile data from calls, but AWM would be responsible for responding to and deciding on actions with regards to complaints. This reinforced our concerns about personnel requirements – the system would definitely require dedicated AWM staff. In addition, even though all calls would be anonymous, there could still be privacy and legal issues related to the details of a complaint and AWM, not NAVEX, would be responsible for addressing them. After hearing the details of costs both in terms of money and personnel, and the potential privacy and legal issues, we were not at all convinced that AWM was large enough to support such a service. Other reporting mechanisms, such as the newer Callisto system, posed similar problems: too expensive in terms of cost and personnel.

We also discussed the option of appointing a dedicated AWM person, perhaps officially an ombudsman, to handle complaints as suggested by Marie and discussed in the context of setting up the earlier 2013 policy. Indeed, MAA has such a position called a Compliance Officer as delineated in their Welcoming Environment, Code of Ethics, and Whistleblower Policy:

The MAA’s Compliance Officer is responsible for ensuring that all reported complaints and allegations concerning violations of the Code of Ethics have been properly investigated and resolved and, at his or her discretion, shall advise the Executive Director and/or the Audit Committee.

Again, we were hesitant. Such a person could end up caught up in a complicated process and possibly face legal challenges.

Although I ended my term as chair of the AWM P&A Committee without a complaint process in place, I am hopeful that this issue will be resolved in the near future. Despite the legal, financial and personnel issues involved, there is also a lot of outside motivating forces at play and there are serious efforts among professional societies to band together to create tools, including formal complaint processes, that address harassment and the environment that permits it. Indeed, in June 2018, the National Academies of Science published its seminal study on sexual harassment of women in academic STEM fields. In response to this report, a group of professional societies came together to form a new consortium, the Societies Consortium for Sexual Harassment in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine), set up to address sexual harassment. AWM leaders, especially AWM Executive Director Karoline Pershell and AWM President Ami Radunskaya, were there from the start of establishing this new consortium and, as a result, AWM is one of the inaugural members and a member of its Leadership Council. As can be seen from the June 2019 AWM E-Communication, this consortium is committed to developing tools for its member societies:

This consortium’s work will focus on (1) creating model policies, guidance and practical tools to address short-term needs of societies and their fields (2) advancing key strategic foundations for mid- and long-term change in conduct, climate and culture that is critical for meaningful impact. The foundational goals include building communities of peers in STEMM societies and their fields

– and building bridges among societies, their members and home institutions – to collectively embrace a climate and culture actively intolerant of sexual harassment and other unethical conduct, and committed to inclusion of all talent for excellence. AWM intends to serve as a conduit for information that can be adopted and adapted by our members many institutions.

Diversity and Inclusion

The conversation about achieving diversity in the mathematical profession and more generally in the workplace has evolved overtime. I remember the push for affirmative action to increase women and the other underrepresented groups using special targeted hiring. But there was less talk of supporting people beyond the initial hire. In other words, hiring a diverse workforce was considered enough to achieve – or at least to attempt to achieve – diversity. The realization that one needs to worry beyond the initial hiring and talk about inclusion and belonging is more recent.

Of course, professional societies are not in the business of hiring, but they do play a critical role in career development and the professional lives of scholars. Recently, many societies have taken diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups, especially in STEM fields, more seriously. In her co-authored article “The Role of Professional Societies in STEM Diversity” [Washington(2017)], EC member Talitha Washington points out the important role that professional societies such as AWM play in career development and discusses ways that ‘professional societies can directly impact the broadening of participation as well as the persistence of racial groups in the STEM fields."

Around the time that her article appeared, Talitha requested that the AWM P&A develop a policy that would “advocate racial and ethnic diversity” for AWM committees, speakers, and prize winners. Shortly afterwards, P&A member Karoline Pershell raised the possibility of AWM’s participation in University of Michigan’s STEM Inclusion study [UMich(2018)] with plans to “examine the experience of women, racial and ethnic minorities, person with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals working in the science technology, engineering and math workforce.” These two items were put on the agenda for the August 2017 meeting and began AWM P&A Committee’s discussions on diversity and inclusion.

Our discussions took on even greater urgency after the sparcity of AWM award winners from racial/ethnic minorities was poignantly pointed out to AWM leadership. In response, AWM President Ami Radunskaya, with the full backing of the Executive Committee, established an Inclusion Task Force whose main job was to prepare a report with recommendations for promoting inclusivity. Moreover, Ami urged each of the Portfolio Committees to come up with methods of increasing representation of traditionally marginalized populations in all aspects of AWM life including prominent roles such as awardees, speakers, officers, and committee members. Ami brought these diversity issues to the entire membership in her heartfelt President’s report of January-February 2018 [AWM News Jan-Feb(2018)]:

[We] live in a complicated society that has historically disadvantaged certain groups. It makes sense that challenges faced by a gender in the minority are experienced differently, more acutely, by members who also belong to other underrepresented groups. Awareness of this intersectionality can help us develop more equitable programs that promote inclusion. Shifting our attention from diversity to inclusion means acknowledging the dynamics of difference in our jobs, labs and classrooms. In the past months, the AWM has renewed its commitment to creating a more inclusive community, and we continue to push for positive change.

This broader attention by AWM leaders on diversity and inclusion certainly had an impact on the nascent efforts just started by the P&A Committee. Our work took on both greater meaning and sharper focus. For the remainder of my tenure as chair of the P&A Committee, diversity and inclusion topics became a high priority on meeting agendas. In December 2017, the committee prepared a list of suggested actions, including providing more oversight to the award and honor selection process, which I passed on to AWM President Ami Radunskaya. Change, even for a small and primarily volunteer organization like AWM, can be frustratingly slow. Two years later, there is finally some movement along these lines as AWM President Ruth Haas, along with EC member Pam Harris, Past President Ami Radunskaya, and Executive Director Karoline Pershell, have “started the process of change" by taking “concrete step[s] ... to provide much more guidance and oversight to all AWM individual selection committees” [AWM News Jan-Feb(2020)].

The P&A Committee decided to formulate an official AWM diversity and inclusion statement. Many professional organizations already had such statements. Some were broad commitments to diversity; others were more narrow with a focus on awards and honors. The P&A Committee decided on a broad statement, viewing it as a way to express diversity and inclusion as essential AWM values. It should be noted that this committee was in no way naive. As a group, we certainly understood that putting out a public diversity and inclusion statement was not going to directly fix inclusivity issues within the AWM. Nevertheless, we felt it was important to create such a value statement, posting it to our website for all to see, both as a big step in setting the right tone for the organization and as a small baby step in moving the organization in the right direction.

Over the next few months, the P&A Committee crafted the new diversity and inclusion statement. Early on in the process, the University of Michigan study was completed and a few months, later, the AWM’s Inclusion Task Force finished its report. We received a copies of both reports and poured over their conclusions and recommendations. Both studies emphasized the need to address inclusion of ethnic/racial minorities as well as other marginalized subgroups. Our discussions on these reports helped us focus in on important issues as we developed AWM’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement.

In creating the AWM statement, we used as a guide diversity statements from the American Meteorological Society, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM). The overall format was based on the AWIS document which has an opening paragraph followed by a list of “guiding principles.” The final version of the opening paragraph of AWM’s new statement harkens back to that of the AWM Welcoming Environment Statement. Both start with a commitment to the kind of environment AWM aims to create and each end with a list of sub-populations that are marginalized in the mathematical world. But the message of the two statements are different. The Welcoming Environment Statement emphasizes a harassment/discrimination-free place for all AWM participants regardless of their different identities while the Diversity and Inclusion Statement celebrates and recognizes these different identities within the mathematical community.

The motivation for the Diversity and Inclusion Statement was the extremely low numbers of ethnic and racial minorities among AWM award and prize winners. So it was extremely important to the committee that the new AWM diversity statement specifically called attention to historically underrepresented ethnic/racial groups. To achieve this, the AWM Diversity and Inclusion Statement includes an endorsement of the NSF’s goal of increasing “participation from underrepresented groups" in mathematics along with a link to NSF’s description of these groups. The committee also wanted to strongly convey that all mathematicians should care about “diversity." To get this message across, we decided on the following sentence as part of the opening paragraph:

Any type of underrepresentation is a problem for the entire mathematical community: it inevitably leads to missed opportunities and the loss of mathematical talent.

In setting the guiding principles, we wanted to make sure that we were stating our commitment to increasing the representation of underrepresented groups within AWM and, more generally, in the mathematics community. The first and third principles directly address this:

A full copy of AWM’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement can be found at environment/.

Endorsements and Letters of Support

During my time as chair, AWM endorsements and letters of support fell into three categories: (1) Signing on to letters that came under the auspices of the CNSF (2) Endorsing national bills and initiatives strongly related to AWM’s mission and (3) Statements in response to current events. The first category tends to be routine. The vast majority of these letters are in support of healthy budgets for funding scientific research through the National Science Foundation.

The second category is a natural outcome of AWM’s Hill Visit program. Indeed, as a result of AWM’s Hill Visits, members of Congress began reaching out to the AWM for legislative endorsements. Since 2016, AWM has endorsed bills and actions in support of STEM education such the “Computer Science for All Initiative,” the “STEM Opportunities Act” and the “STEM Booster Act of 2017" as well as anti-harassment legislation such as the “Federal funding for Sexual Harassers Act.” AWM representatives were invited to attend the Congressional celebration in honor of the real-life “Hidden Figures” African American mathematicians in appreciation of AWM’s endorsement of the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act,” passed in 2019.

Towards the end of 2016, the committee spent time reviewing the AWM website section on policy and advocacy. One of the things the committee immediately noticed is that there was nothing recent in the section for category 3, the “responses to events of interest." In the final report for 2016, I relayed the committee’s recommendation “to work on items that fit into this section in 2017.” What I and the committee didn’t realize was that the mix of changing national and international environments combined with a strong commitment to taking a stand in support of our values by AWM leadership would supercharge our efforts in this regard. In the course of two years, we wrote a response to the 2017 travel ban, endorsed the 2017 March for Science, protested Turkey’s arrest of a prominent mathematician, posted a statement on the AWM Facebook page condemning degrading remarks about women in physics made at an international conference, expressed concern for Transgender Civil Rights in light of U.S. proposals to "narrow the definition of gender," submitted comments in regards to proposed changes for Title IX rules, and sent a letter to the ICM organizers about safety concerns in regards to the location choice.

At times, the request for statements and endorsements seemed to be coming in at a furious pace. AWM President Ami Radunskaya decided we needed official standardized endorsement guidelines that laid out exactly the responsibilities of the P&A Committee, the AWM President, and the AWM Executive Committee. In some sense, the guidelines made explicit what AWM had already been doing, but they were much more detailed. For example, the guidelines made it clear which routine items could simply be handled by the AWM P&A Committee and/or the AWM President and the process for more involved items to be passed on for approval by the entire EC Committee. The guidelines themselves were approved by the EC during the July 2017 meeting.

For the remainder of this section, I will focus on two themes which illustrate well the work of the committee and, at the same time, highlight some of the complex issues we tackled: Title IX and support to our LGBTQ colleagues.

Title IX: Title IX is U.S. federal law that addresses sex discrimination, which covers sexual harassment, in federally funded education programs including higher education as well as K-12. The actual content of Title IX is short and straightforward:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

However, the implementation of Title IX is complicated and has changed – and continues to change – over time. The P&A Committee had many discussions on aspects of Title IX regulations.

Two issues came up early in our discussions. One had to do with Title IX’s automatic triggering process. Indeed, we decided not to suggest students turn to their AWM chapter faculty advisor with harassment complaints because this would likely trigger a Title IX harassment report (see the section on “Welcoming Environment Revisited” for more on this). The second was the frustrating fact that Title IX was frequently interpreted as prohibiting girls-only programs. So, on the one hand, Title IX is supposed to provide equal educational opportunities to girls, something that is very important in STEM fields. On the other hand, girls-only programs aimed at encouraging girls to pursue a STEM field can be viewed as violating Title IX prohibition on sex-discrimination because such programs exclude boys. One of the committee members, Julie Sutton, ran in to this very problem at her university. She had to modify a federally-funded program aimed at encouraging high-school girls to pursue mathematics so that all students at the designated high schools were invited to attend.

Despite some of the difficulties of Title IX, it is the federal law that handles sexual harassment, and, more generally, sex-discrimination incidents at colleges and universities. So Title IX and its implementation is important for our members, colleagues, and students. When the U.S. Secretary of Education announced extensive changes to Title IX regulations and draft revisions began circulating via various media outlets, AWM leaders were quite concerned. Working with the AWM P&A committee, AWM President Ami Radunskaya issued an initial statement expressing AWM’s concerns that the proposed changes to Title IX regulations would greatly weaken protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses. (See &ldquo:Statement Regarding Proposed Changes to Title IX” on AWM’s website AWM Policy and Advocacy:Endorsements. The actual proposed Title IX rules were released in November 2018 with a 60 days time period for public comments. Seeing the rule changes in print confirmed many of the fears of AWM leaders. There were a number of disturbing changes such as a the fact that Title IX would ‘no longer apply to many off-campus incidents’ and that a ‘higher standard of proof" including ’cross examinations" of witnesses (both alleged victims and harassers). We knew that we needed to issue a formal comment as well as a statement to our membership and that this had to be done quickly. The committee outlined a response in our December 2018 meeting and then worked intensely via email with AWM President Ami Radunskaya to prepare AWM’s official comments. The final version was done just two weeks later, submitted to the register, posted to the AWM website (AWM Policy and Advocacy:Endorsements and emailed to the AWM membership in early January 2019. As a result of the AWM’s thoughtfully written response to the proposed changes, Ami was interviewed for an article that appeared in Nature magazine (see

The final Title IX regulations were released in early May of 2020. In response, the AWM issued a statement (which can also be found on the same section of the AWM website) reaffirming its concerns about the changes and highlighting the same issues as in the original statement.

Support to our LGBTQ colleagues: In 2018, the International Mathematics Union announced the next location for the International Congress of Mathematicians: Saint Petersburg, Russia 2022. Moreover, George Poltavchenko, co-chair of the 2022 ICM Executive Organizing Committee and former governor of Saint Petersburg, was responsible for the city’s 2012 anti-gay legislation banning “homosexual propaganda.” Similar legislation was passed on the national level the following year and these bills have led to discrimination of and violence against members of the LGBTQ community. Spectra, the Association of LGBT Mathematicians, reached out to AWM President Ami Radunskaya about making a formal response to the choice of ICM location and co-chair.

In formulating a response, we discussed a number of possibilities. Should we encourage AWM members to boycott the event? Should we take the opposite track and show our support of our fellow LGBTQ mathematicians by arranging for a special reception at the ICM? We decided against both these approaches. Some of us on the committee felt uncomfortable about boycotts especially since trends in the U.S. might lead to members of other countries boycotting meetings held in this country. A reception on face value sounded good, but could attract negative attention and put the people we were trying to protect as well as their allies at even greater risk. Ultimately, we settled on a letter to the ICM Organizing Committee expressing our concerns about the choices for the 2022 ICM.

As often happens in cases like this, the issues might appear to be completely clear cut and yet, there can still be subtleties. A number of people mentioned how it was difficult to be Russian in the U.S. given the current political climate. Somehow, in this letter of protest, we needed to convey support for our Russian colleagues here and abroad. Thus, after an initial paragraph with a brief overview of our concerns, the next paragraph acknowledges Russian mathematical contributions: “Russia has a long, distinguished history of mathematics and we applaud Russian mathematicians’ contributions to the existing mathematical canon.” The rest of the letter focuses on the dangerous consequences of the anti-gay bills of 2012 and 2013 for the LGBTQ community. In this letter, AWM President Ami Radunskaya implores the IMU to take “safety and inclusion of every mathematician wishing to attend the ICM” when in the future ‘determining the venue for such an important gathering." AWM further urged the organizing committee to reconsider the choice of location for the 2022 and, if unable to do so, “publish information specifically addressing the particular dangers” facing LGBTQ participants so that they could be prepared and the organizers of the ICM could better protect them.

A few short months after completing the AWM letter, it was pointed out that AWM had its own similar problem with the upcoming 2019 AWM Research Symposium. The venue was Rice University in Houston, Texas. California has a law that prohibits state-funded travel to states that have passed anti-LGBTQ legislation and Texas had made their list. AWM’s initial response, offering help in finding other sources of travel money for Californian mathematicians who wished to come to the symposium, yielded cries that AWM was attempting to get around California law. As we sorted out how to respond, committee member and Texas resident Julie Sutton, pointed out that, in contrast to the state level, Texas universities were extremely sensitive to LGBTQ rights. So, we did our best to address the issue without taking a hard-line that would potentially commit AWM to not hold meetings in states with anti-LGBTQ legislation – even if the local university was inclusive. Ultimately, our response attempted to take the middle road, acknowledging the “complexities of the issue” and included AWM’s promise to make a donation to a specific Houston organization that “supported LGBT individuals and their families.”

Future Challenges

The issues the AWM P&A Committee has addressed over the years – and continues to address – are hard, complex, and ongoing. They often can’t be solved by creating a new policy or by issuing a statement, even though these steps are very, very important. Going forward, policies have to be maintained and updated. In addition, the P&A Committee needs to be constantly prepared in order to respond in a timely fashion to “events of interest.”

In this section, we highlight three major issues that we see facing the AWM and that will likely need to be addressed by the AWM P&A Committee. The first two are items that build on previous work described earlier in this article: reviewing AWM’s policy concerning sexual harassment as set forth in the Welcoming Environment Statement and addressing diversity and inclusion issues that are still problematic for the AWM.

The third issue, social media bullying is something that has come up repeatedly in the past few years. It is actually part of a larger theme: how best to function in the online world. The positive part of this is taking advantage of web presences such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, websites, and Wikipedia in order to best advertise AWM’s events, celebrate female mathematicians, and get out AWM’s messages to its membership and beyond. The flip side, which is the negative part, is how quickly an article that attacks an individual can go viral online. We discuss this in the final part of this section.

Revisiting the Welcoming Environment Statement

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is still a problem in the academy, in general, and in STEMM, in particular. This is a stubborn problem that has recently gained a lot of attention in the larger society via the #MeToo movement. In 2018, the National Academy of Sciences issued its report “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine” [National Academy of Sciences(2018)] making it abundantly clear that sexual harassment remains a significant problem for women in STEMM fields.

It is important that as the environment evolves and new approaches are developed to address harassment that the AWM P&A Committee periodically revisits and updates the AWM Welcoming Environment Statement. More importantly, AWM needs to continue to explore ways of implementing a complaint process to accompany our Welcoming Environment/Anti-Harassment Policy. It might not be possible for a small organization to devote the resources to develop such a process but perhaps we could join with other societies to pool the financial and personnel resources necessary. JCW was involved when we first announced a policy in 2013. They are in a good position to bring together various societies to do this.

As of June 12, 2020 the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM had 127 members including AMS, ASA, AWIS, AWM, Caucus for Women in Statistics, MAA, and SIAM. AWM was an inaugural member and is currently part of the eight member Leadership Council for the Consortium. There is a plethora of information on their website some of which is only available to members via a login process. In May of 2020 the Consortium released a new resource “Roadmap Towards Excellence & Integrity in STEMM,” which provides a three-phase approach to supporting efforts to create a more inclusive STEMM field; the resource is intended for members of the Consortium. From the 2020 Work Plan Priorities of the Consortium “How to investigate incidents and conduct concerns” is a high priority of the Consortium as are a matrix regarding misconduct and traditional and alternative/restorative remedies and a society survey instrument for collecting data focusing on the type/frequency of harassment experienced by members and participants at events.” The Resources now available include a Model Ethics Conduct Guide, an Ethics Conduct Participant Guide, and a Model Investigation, Resolution, and Consequences Policy Guide. These model guides are very detailed and should be very helpful if AWM decides to pursue a complaint process. They include customizable policy statements to assist member societies implement their own policies. The Consortium also has model Meeting Policies for both face-to-face and virtual meetings.

Increasing Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Both the University of Michigan Inclusion Study and the report from AWM’s own Inclusion Task Force came up with specific recommendations for how AWM can improve its inclusion efforts. But, these issues are not going to go away overnight. It is clear that AWM has a lot more to do on this front and AWM P&A can and should continue to play an important role in terms of timely responses to current events, developing long term policies, and gathering resources. As we were writing this article, protests began in response to systemic racism in the United States that came in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The P&A Committee was called to duty again to formulate the official AWM response in the form of the statement “Solidarity with the National Association of Mathematicians (6/1/20)” in which they announced that AWM stands “in solidarity with those protesting systemic racism in the United States, racism that includes police brutality and killing that disproportionately affects Black Americans" posted to various social media channels of AWM (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our website). In addition, in order to take a small positive concrete step, Marie and the Social Media Committee posted a sequence of biographies of Black women mathematicians on the AWM Facebook page. We tweeted shorter versions of the bios and linked to lengthier bios on Mathematically Gifted and Black and Wikipedia. These bios were well received with over 1400 views each and the posts were shared and the tweets were retweeted by many people.

Despite these statements of support and small positive steps, AWM still has serious issues in regards to diversity and inclusion. Representation of ethnic/racial minorities and other marginalized populations in AWM awards and honors remains very low. As mentioned earlier, AWM and the Awards Committee instituted new procedures aimed at addressing this issue. But AWM as an organization needs to remain vigilant in this regard and continue to monitor he representation of ethnic and racial (and perhaps, sexual) minorities on our committees and among the winners of our prizes, awards, and named lectures. What role should P&A play in this effort? Are there natural policies that the P&A Committee could develop to help here? One possibility, as suggested by Talitha Washington when she initially reached out to the P&A committee, is to create a Best Practices for Awards Policy along the lines of what AMS has adopted (see AMS Prize Committee Best Practices). In developing such a policy, the P&A Committee might also think of how best to vet award winners so as to avoid cancellations as happened with the 2021 Noether Lecture (see [Castel(2020)] and Re:2021 Noether Lecture). Another avenue for the P&A Committee to explore is the collection of resources for unconscious bias training along with a policy requiring some training along these lines for AWM leaders and committee members so that the organization as a whole can become more sensitive to inclusivity issues.

Social Media Bullying

According to,

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

There is no federal law prohibiting this sort of bullying, but individual states have enacted legislation; you can see if your own state has enacted legislation at This sort of bullying existed before the web and before the internet became popular. In the late sixties and early seventies what we now call chat rooms were being developed at Xerox Parc in Palo Alto, CA. The developers realized that they needed moderators for these virtual rooms after someone reported a virtual rape.

In the past, AWM’s Facebook page has been bombarded by hateful comments after a contentious post. We can exclude some of the comments by creating a list of prohibited words. Our Facebook Engagement Policy is as follows.

We, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), will do our best to ensure that the posts on our page are in line with the mission of AWM, viewed in a broad sense. Our intention is to inform and to facilitate respectful interaction. We welcome comments and feedback but we reserve the right to remove content unrelated to the mission of the AWM, viewed in a broad sense.

The views and opinions expressed in the comments that users submit are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Association for Women in Mathematics. User comments are not edited for accuracy or safety. However to ensure a positive experience for our community, we may report or remove content unrelated to the mission of the AWM or containing spam, profanity, or otherwise objectionable or prohibited material subject to the Facebook Code of Conduct and Terms of Use. We may also block posters of such content.

It is also possible to make a post to the Community section of our Facebook page. These posts must be approved by an administrator of our page before they appear in the Community section. Thus there is a moderator for these posts.

In 2017 AWM President Ami Radunskaya requested that P&A consider whether or not to issue a statement of support for a math educator who was the subject of cyberbullying. There was a second incident of a mathematician being cyberbullied in 2017. After articles that appeared in Campus Reform were picked up by Fox News, numerous hate messages appeared on social media. In that year P&A decided against a public statement but suggested that it might be wise to develop an anti-bullying framework that would help deal with similar situations in the future. This came up again in 2018 but P&A did not have time to work on a policy. The 2018 P&A Report stated that:

Responding to these attacks and supporting the victims often requires a very quick response and also care so that the AWM does not become a target for attacks as well (i.e., it might be necessary to close down or simply not allow comments for a Facebook posting). Although there were no incidents of this kind of bullying that came to the committee’s attention in 2018, it is likely to happen again. Developing a well-thought out process on how to address incidents in a timely manner is something for the AWM P&A Committee to consider doing.

The question of a Anti-Cyberbullying Statement did not come up in the 2019 year end P&A report. As of this writing, P&A has not revisited this topic. We hope that there will be time to work on this in the future.


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