MATH+ as as research object

Project Heads

Anina Mischau, Heike Solga

Project Members

Julia Bersch (WZB, 04/2021 – 12/2023), Sophie Hofmeister (WZB, since 03/2021), Johannes Lindenau (WZB, 08/2019 – 12/2023), Kiymet Orhan (FU Berlin, since 08/2019), Anna Ransiek (FU Berlin, since 08/2019)

Project Duration

07/2019 – 12/2025

Located at

FU Berlin, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB)


Up to now, equality between women and men in mathematics in science and academia in Germany has not been achieved. The proportion of women, although almost on a parity basis among first-year students for years, decreases steadily with each academic career level – a phenomenon that is also known as the leaky pipeline. This means: The existing recruitment potential for the next scientific qualification and status level in mathematics is still not being exhausted. As a result, female mathematicians continue to be underrepresented at the level of professorships and in other scientific leadership positions. This is despite the implementation of various equality measures aimed at addressing gender disparities in career paths and overcoming the leaky-pipeline phenomenon.

The reasons discussed include gendered gatekeeping, gender biases in appointment practices and in recognition and support cultures on the one hand, and gender differences with regard to career knowledge and actions among researchers in early career phases on the other. Identification with the subject and the diverse correlations between the image of mathematics and gender stereotypes are also mentioned as significant.

This project examines mechanisms and processes that reproduce gender disparities in mathematics, and may (still) work even in excellent working environments such as MATH+. MATH+ offers a unique opportunity to examine both access to an excellent research environment at different career levels and status transitions in academia. The aim of the project is to highlight potentially existing gender disparities in MATH+ and give scientific advice for overcoming these disparities. In addition, the project should contribute to the scientific discourse in gender studies as well as higher education research and science studies – on gender disparities for mathematics in particular but also for STEM subjects in general. The project is oriented towards a mixed-method design combining qualitative and quantitative research.

Quantitative part

Standardized online surveys (panel) were conducted with doctoral students and postdocs in the MATH+ cluster (summer/autumn 2020 and spring 2022). 239 people took part in the survey at least once (this corresponds to a response rate of 42%). The goal was to identify gender disparities in career goals, attitudes, knowledge and actions among these early career researchers.

Qualitative part

In the first phase semi-structured interviews with 44 male and female scientists in leadership positions (PIs, AIs and Co-AIs) in the cluster were conducted (spring/summer 2020). One goal was to approach the gendered practices and interpretations of recruitment and support processes and to identify the implicit gender stereotypes and their effects on the reproduction mechanisms of gender disparities.
In the second phase semi-structured interviews with 21 male and female doctoral students and postdocs in the cluster were conducted (summer/autumn 2022). One goal was to examine their self-image as mathematicians, their perspectives on the field and their career paths.

Related Publications

Refereed Publications

  • Ransiek, A. & Mischau, A. (in resubmission). Being a Woman or being a Mathematician: Self and External Perceptions of Female PhD Students and Postdoctoral Graduates in a Mathematical Cluster of Excellence. Current Sociology.
  • Mischau, A. & Ransiek, A. (2024). Gendered Gatekeeping in the Recruitment and Support of (Prospective) PhDs and Postdocs in a Mathematical Cluster of Excellence. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 16(1), pp. 71-99.

Unrefereed Publications

  • Hofmeister, S. (April 8, 2022). Leaky Pipeline im Exzellenzcluster MATH+? Geschlechter*Gerecht – Blog der Zentralen Frauenbeauftragten der Freien Universität Berlin.
  • Hofmeister, S., Lindenau, J., Mischau, A., Ransiek, A. & Solga, H. (2021). Erste Befunde aus dem Projekt ‘MATH+ as a Research Object’. Karriereziele, -wissen und -handeln, Nachwuchsförderung und Rekrutierung. WZB Discussion Paper P I 2021-501, WZB.

Talks and Posters

Selected Talks

  • Ransiek, A. (April 11, 2024). Women’s need for Optimization im Spannungsfeld von Gatekeeping und Gleichstellungspolitik. Workshop Women in Optimization, SFB Transregio 154, Erlangen.
  • Ransiek, A. (January 25, 2024). Does gender still matter? Perspektiven von Gatekeeper*innen und Nachwuchswissenschaftler*innen eines mathematischen Exzellenzclusters auf wissenschaftliche Karrieren. Ringvorlesung: Vielfalt schafft Wissenschaft – Wissenschaft schafft Vielfalt. Gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen im Blick der Gender- und Diversityforschung in MINT, Berlin.
  • Ransiek, A. (October 6, 2023). Picture a Mathematician. Perspektiven von (weiblichen) Doktorand*innen und Postdocs eines mathematischen Exzellenzclusters auf sich, das mathematische Feld und ihre Karrieren. Jahrestreffen des Arbeitskreises Frauen, Gender & Diversity und Mathematik, Siegen (online).
  • Ransiek, A. (September 26, 2023). Picture a Mathematician. Erklärungen für bestehende Geschlechterdisparitäten in einem mathematischen Exzellenzcluster. inisymposium: Soziale Dimensionen der Mathematik, DMV Meeting, Illmenau.
  • Ransiek, A. & Mischau, A. (June 28, 2023). Being a Woman or Being a Mathematician? (Self-)Perceptions of Female Early-Stage Researchers in an Excellent Mathematical Research Environment. RC 23: Sociology of Science and Technology, XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne.
  • Ransiek, A. & Mischau, A. (June 29, 2023). (Gendered) Gatekeeping in the Recruitment and Support of (Female) Early-Stage Researchers in a Mathematical Cluster of Excellence. RC52: Sociology of Professional Groups, XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne.
  • Ransiek, A. (February 9, 2023). Geschlechterdisparitäten in der Mathematik. Befunde aus einer exzellenten Forschungsumgebung. Meet and Math, Arbeitskreis Gleichstellung des Fachbereiches Mathematik, Darmstadt.
  • Ransiek, A. & Mischau, A. (July 21, 2022). Gendered gatekeeping in the recruitment of early-stage researchers in a mathematical cluster of excellence. 6th Network Gender & STEM Conference, München.
  • Hofmeister, S. (May, 21, 2021). The „Leaky Pipeline“ in Mathematics – Studying the MATH+ Cluster of Excellence. Konferenz des Forschungsschwerpunktes Dynamiken sozialer Ungleichheiten, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Berlin.


  • Hofmeister, S., Mischau, A., Ransiek, A., Solga, H. (October 20, 2023). Gender Disparities in Career Paths in Math. MATH+ Day, Berlin. More
  • Hofmeister, S., Mischau, A., Ransiek, A., Solga, H. (August 23, 2022). Gender Disparities in Career Paths in Math: Findings from a Mixed-Method Approach. EWM General Meeting 2022, Helsinki. More
  • Hofmeister, S., Rusconi, A., Solga H. (July 6, 2022). Examining Gender Biases in Appointment Standards for W1-Professors in Disciplinary Comparison. ECSR Annual Conference, Amsterdam. More