We often find ourselves reporting on the gender disparity and sexism that prevails in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but this week was made more positive by some recent good news: Maryam Mirzakhani has been awarded the 2014 Fields Medal. The Fields Medal, which is officially known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, is an incredibly prestigious honor and is widely regarded as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics.” Mirzakhani is the first woman to win the esteemed prize.
Since 1936 when the annual Fields Medal was first established, 56 men have been awarded with this honor, but no woman was ever recognized. This is a glaring example of the way that women are so often excluded from STEM careers, academic pursuits, and prestigious honors. Happily Mirzakhani, who was born and raised in Iran, disrupted this sexist pattern when she became the first female to win the Fields Medal for mathematics.
Mirzakhani is currently a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, and her impressive, innovative work “could have impacts concerning the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” explains a report from Stanford. The University explains that Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal for her “sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems.”
Of being awarded with such a prestigious honor Mirzakhani says, “This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians.” She is also confident that her win will pave the way for more women to be honored for their contributions to STEM. She says, “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.”
When Maryam Mirzakhani earned the Fields Medal earlier this month, she changed history for the better, and has undoubtedly inspired many other women and girls to pursue math and science. Learn more about her work by visiting news.stanford.edu.