The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction
Bulletin No. 48
Report by IOWME
The International Organization of
Women and Mathematics Education
IOWME Activities 1996-2000
These past four years have not been easy ones for IOWME. Indeed, that has been true for the past eight years. IOWME is an organisation of those, internationally, concerned with issues that relate gender to mathematics education. It is open to membership organised and maintained by national coordinators currently in 44 countries, membership bringing with it twice a year a copy of the IOWME Newsletter in which is listed information from activities around the world, reviews of recent publications, outlines of recent research results, and so on. To receive this Newsletter, IOWME members are supposed to make a minimal contribution to the costs of reproduction and postage locally although with the spread of electronic communication this is becoming less urgent. The Newsletter is put together and sent out, electronically, by a Newsletter Editor with the support and help of the International Coordinator and these are the only two elected office bearers of the organisation. A grant from UNESCO helps with the Newsletter preparation and circulation. IOWME also maintains a website at
From this brief outline, it can be seen that IOWME exists on the back of the commitment and motivation of those colleagues who engage with it and otherwise has no resources on which to draw. National Coordinators and members very often only come together once in four years at the ICME meetings. At these meetings, IOWME has a presence as an Affiliated Study Group of ICMI and, at a business meeting, the International Convenor and the Newsletter Editor are elected for the coming four years.
Under these extremely minimal conditions, IOWME has managed to maintain a considerable presence in two ways. At every ICME since its formation, a series of meetings has been held organised and managed by IOWME office bearers and members. Every one of these meetings has resulted in a book being commercially published, the first (after Budapest) being
Gender and Mathematics: An International Perspective, edited by Leone Burton and published by Cassell Educational, 1990 (ISBN 0 304 32279 2),
the second (after ICME-7 in Québec City) being
Equity in Mathematics Education: Influences of Feminism and Culture, edited by Pat Rogers and Gabriele Kaiser and published by The Falmer Press, 1995, (ISBN 0 7507 0400 4)
and the last (after Seville), being
Social Justice and Mathematics Education: Gender, Class, Ethnicity and the Politics of Schooling, edited by Christine Keitel and published by the Freie Universität Berlin (ISBN 3 929 968 12 6).
It is anticipated that this pattern will be maintained after the IOWME meeting in Japan which promises to be as interesting and stimulating as previous meetings have been.
Difficulties arise when colleagues are elected to be office-bearers for IOWME, afterwards finding that their lives simply do not permit them to give it the time that it requires. In 1992-1996 this happened with the Newsletter Editor which meant that the Newsletter was at risk and the then International Convenor had a difficult time maintaining the organisation. It happened again in 1996-2000 when the International Convenor resigned half way through her term and Leone Burton, a previous International Convenor, was persuaded to take on this role again. Under each of these conditions, the organisation is put in jeopardy, depending as it does on the regularity of contact maintained through the activities of both the International Convenor and the Newsletter Editor. It is to be hoped that in the forthcoming four years, the organisation will be in safe hands and can move on to maintain and increase its visibility both in those 44 countries where it already has a presence (although sometimes this is very nominal) and in many more countries where concerns about gender and mathematics education are present.
Leone Burton, International Convenor
Professor of Education (Mathematics and Science)
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT UK