Women in Maths (Part 1)

The image shows a forest with hues of purple lighting. There are streaks of white and pinkness lighting weaving through the trees.

Women in Maths Day (12 May) celebrates female mathematicians around the world. Throughout the month of May, events around the globe are planned to shine a spotlight on maths.

We have interviewed six women for whom maths is at the core of their job. Whether it is statistics, bridges or budgets these women rely on maths every single day. We caught up with them whilst they are working at home to find out about their jobs, how they got into them and why they love them.

We will be releasing the videos throughout May and also want to hear from you! Share a picture of yourself at work telling us how you use maths in your role, or create your own videos. If you have kids at home perhaps get them to interview you!

Kids (and adults!) often struggle to identify why maths is useful unless they want to be a maths teacher or banker. Talking to kids about the maths you use at work can help them build a positive relationship with maths and relate their schoolwork to their future.

Share on Twitter @ MathsWeekScot or email us info@mathsweek.scot

#ShowYourWorking #WomenInMaths #MathsWeekScot

Our first two videos are women for whom maths has a very practical application in their work, and may not be who first comes to mind when you think of women in maths! Rachel Wood is a Civil Engineer and Kate Bonney is a Lighting Designer.

Rachel Wood

Civil Engineer at Forth Road Bridge

Rachel delivers maintenance and improvement projects to the bridge, surrounding road network and structures.

What do you love about your job?

I love the variety of my job. I love working in a team to deliver a goal. Sometimes that is in the office coming up with new ideas and designs, or out on site putting those ideas into action.

I have travelled all over Scotland and get to see sights not many people get to see, like the view from the top of the Forth Road Bridge or inside old railway tunnels

Your favourite moment of your job so far

There’s been a few highlights.

Learning to use roped access techniques to inspect bridges by abseiling was a real achievement for me.

Being part of the team to deliver the successful repair works to the cracked Truss End Link on the Forth Road Bridge.

Standing on a platform that I had designed was a proud moment, to see something that you’ve worked hard to develop be created and used is a great feeling.

Rope access at Forth Road Bridge

How does my work impact others?

Looking after the bridge and surrounding road network keeps the roads open and safe for people to travel. A lot of the maintenance work we do goes on behind the scenes but without proper maintenance there could be travel disruption, potholes or anything up to bridge collapse.

What is one thing people assume about your job that isn’t true?

Quite often people assume my job must be really hard or I must be really clever. Whilst it can be challenging you are part of a team and there are roles to suit everybody's strengths. We’re also all constantly learning!

What originally got me interested in maths?

I enjoyed maths at school and got a sense of satisfaction from solving problems. Doing further study in maths and physics, I enjoyed finding out the practical ways we use maths.

How did you get into your career?

When I was at school and considering what to do next, I looked at different courses and what entry requirements matched the subjects I enjoyed. This lead me to look at civil engineering. After studying for my Masters in Civil Environment Engineering I applied for a graduate training job to continue my professional development.

In what ways is maths important in society?

Maths is all around us. Sometimes it is obvious and complex like when we’re studying engineering or physics. Sometimes it is as simple as making sure we get the correct change at the shops or keeping score at a sports game.

We can’t really avoid maths and that is why it is important we have a positive engagement with maths and that is achievable for everybody.

Where can people go for more information on becoming a civil engineer?

Forth Road Bridge website is ideal for people looking to pursue related careers. There’s many routes into engineering- modern apprenticeships, study at college or university.

Lots of companies offer work experience which can be a great way to see what the industry is really like and https://www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/ has a lot of good resources.

Kate Bonney

Lighting Designer

Kate designs lighting for theatre and opera and dance and large outdoor events. She uses light and lighting equipment to create different moods atmospheres and to help tell stories.


What do you love about your job?

I love being a small part of a bigger team. I love making an audience feels something and seeing an audience reacting in the way that we hoped. It is fantastic when we make people happy, react to a spectacle we created or draw attention to stories that people need to hear.

How does my work impact others?

My work is entirely about impacting the audience. Sometimes that is about making people have a really good night out, other times it is about creating an atmosphere that is scary as part of a theatre production. Sometimes it just about trying to tell people about what time of day it is, such as morning sunlight shining through a window.

What is one thing people assume about your job that isn’t true?

Biggest thing people assume about my job is that it is glamorous. It isn’t glamorous! When we are working outdoors we have to work when it is dark so we often have to work overnight in the rain and cold. When we are working in theatres it is dusty and we have to spend a lot of time up ladders. Not glamorous at all....

Enchanted Forest

What originally got me interested in maths?

Truth be told I didn’t realise I was interested in maths until I was using it! At school I struggled with maths and physics, they were the two subjects I found most difficult and yet they are the two subjects I rely most heavily on in my work today.

I didn’t realise until I was using it how much maths is in everything we do. In my work maths is used in

  • Power calculations for working out how many lights we can plug into one socket
  • Wavelengths of colour when mixing colours
  • Calculating angles to make light hit from different directions
  • Calculating weights to work out how many lights we can hang on

I really got interested in maths when I started using it practically and had a practical application.

How did you get into your career?

At school I was good at all the creative subjects, but not so good at maths. I knew I wanted to work in design. I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer and I would design posters for local gigs and plays that people put on. Through that I met lots of people who work in lighting and realised I was much more suited to the variable hours and changing circumstances that working in lighting offered.

In what ways is maths important in society?

I think is important because it helps us understand the world that we live and in my case I get to use it to create fun.

Huge thank you to the stars of our videos for filming themselves at home during lockdown and sharing their jobs with us.

Videos by Heehaw

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