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Women in Statistics

Read all about our amazing alumnae


Women in Statistics: Success Stories

Victoria Cairns


I received my MSc and PhD in Statistics at LSE in the late 1970s. Before that, I achieved a bachelor’s degree with a major in Mathematics at Smith College in the United States. My brother suggested that I should study Statistics as he thought there was a need for medical statisticians, and knowing that LSE is an excellent university, I then chose LSE.

After receiving those degrees, I then worked in various research institutes as a medical statistician in London, Munich and Miami. I joined the pharmaceutical company Hoechst in Frankfurt where I first worked as project statistician on the drug ramipril collaborating with others on the design of clinical trials and the evaluation of the results. I then became head of the group of statisticians and later head of the Department of Biostatistics, Programming, and Data Management. 

In 1989 I caught Lyme disease and was ill for several years, and had to give up my job, although afterwards I was able to start working freelance as a consultant statistician. Whilst ill, I decided to do a metanalysis on what is now known as post treatment Lyme disease syndrome. At the time it was a hotly debated topic with many people thinking that the patients’ symptoms had nothing to do with Lyme disease. Individually the studies on this were not conclusive, but together the picture was clear. The paper was published in 2005 in the International Journal of Epidemiology with the title “Post-Lyme borreliosis syndrome: a meta-analysis of reported symptoms”.

Some years ago, knowing that there was little information available on the number of Lyme disease cases diagnosed in the UK, some colleagues and I decided to do a study based on data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a database of GP data that covers around 8% of the UK population. We found an estimated number of Lyme disease cases in the UK that was about three times higher than previous official estimates. The study “Incidence of Lyme disease in the UK: a population-based cohort study” was published in 2019 in the BMJ Open.

Many people have completely misjudged what proportion of Lyme disease cases have the erythema migrans rash, because they have failed to take into account the study designs. I therefore published a letter in 2020 in the Lancet infectious diseases covering this topic in reply to an editorial written about our incidence paper. My letter is called: “Scrutinising Lyme disease in the UK”.

I have written two other articles on Lyme disease:” Lyme disease: implications for general practice” published in 2020 in the British Journal of General Practice and “Supporting patients with long-term problems after Lyme disease” in press with the BJGP Open. Those two articles are not based on numbers, but on information collected from what other people have published.  


Helen Chang

I love Mathematics and have been comfortable with numbers since I was a child.  I am most proud of my determination to do mental calculation whenever I can, I feel that there are some special connections between me and the numbers. My passion in Mathematics led me to do Double Mathematics, Computing Science and Physics for my A levels and I challenged myself with Special papers in Further Mathematics. I wanted Applied Mathematics for my degree and I read Actuarial Science at The LSE.

I had my best years at LSE – I enjoyed my studies and have made many life long friendships there. I was introduced to Investment Banking when I was at LSE. There are many areas within banking which require quite different skill sets. After a lot of research I was drawn to become a trader or a structurer due to my analytical abilities. I have been a financial engineer in Investment Banking for 16 years now and I still enjoy my work every day. Being a trader and manager is not just a science but my problem solving and logical mind helps me to dissect complicated matters and keep my feet on the ground.

Sandrine Foldvari 



Since I was 11, I remember having been interested in mathematics, especially math puzzles. My math teacher at that time started to give us some fun math/logical puzzles to solve at home (like the three prisoners puzzle). If we got it right we could get some more.  I actually found mathematics really fun to start with. Then as I progressed in my studies, I found it comforting: maths are right or wrong when we learn it in high school and I had three amazing female math teachers that made me like it even more and made me feel comfortable and confident in learning mathematics.When I started my undergraduate studies I had a primary focus in mathematics.

I graduated from ESSEC Business School (where I majored the entrance exam thanks to a full top mark in mathematics) with a focus on financial mathematics, but I also followed in parallel a master's degree in applied mathematics at University Paris VI Jussieu in Paris.

I also graduated from ENSAE, one of the top French schools of applied mathematics in Paris. I then moved to London where I started a career in financial mathematics (Statistical Arbitrage) at Goldman Sachs while I also completed a MSc in Statistics and a PhD in financial mathematics at the London School of Economics.  The reason why I actually pursued a PhD was because I met with an inspiring professor that supported me all the way (a part time PhD while working full time was not always easy...). At that stage I simply found mathematics beautiful. For instance, I found that the way number theory can transport problems into other spaces to make them easier to solve was just almost magical! The versatile aspect of mathematics, the fact it can be applied to so many areas of our day to day life make it really appealing to me.

However, mathematics and in particular financial mathematics remains a very masculine area. If the ratio male/female was pretty even at the business school I attended, for my master we were only 8 girls out of 88 students. And again, at the statistical school I went to, the male/female ratio was pretty even, but girls preferred largely a major in Sociology or Economy and I was one of the only women majoring in Statistics.

Ever since I started to work in Finance I only had male managers and I still find it challenging to be a woman in such a men dominated world: at first men are often condescending and patronizing and then when you prove you can stand up to them, some often consider (explicitly or implicitly) that when you speak up you are being aggressive or pushy or bossy, which is more rarely seen as a weakness than a strength when men are themselves concerned. I had the great chance to meet with a fantastic mentor early in my career who gave me the opportunity to become partner in a start-up hedge fund. I now work as a project manager for a complex project on the border of data management/quantitative analysis and technology.  

I  also apply my quantitative skills to medical research on a voluntary basis, having co-authored three papers on early detection and treatment of Congenital Heart Disease, a condition affecting almost 1% of children in the UK, including my son.   

I would not qualify my career path as exceptional or even particularly successful. However it is true there seem to be less and less women around me as I progress.There is still a long way to go before we get to a fair gender balance...


Mai Sherif Hafez


Mai Hafez_photo

“But why Statistics ?!!”…this is a question I have been asked hundreds of times…almost every time I introduce myself and my background to anyone new J The answer has always been simple and has always been the same: “…because I love it!”

I have always been passionate about Statistics and I have really always enjoyed studying it...starting with my undergraduate studies at Cairo University where the class of Statistics never exceeded twenty students. 

After I graduated, I decided to apply for an MSc in Statistics at LSE, and I was lucky enough to get admitted and to secure funding too. That was one of the best years of my life! I got it all…London, LSE, and Statistics! Spending a year away from my family and my home country (Egypt) seemed a bit scary at first, but soon I realised it was a real eye-opener to lots of experiences, a wide variety of new things and diverse friends and cultures. I will always be grateful for my loving family for encouraging me to make such a step.

By the end of that year, I relaised I haven’t had enough…not enough of London, not enough of LSE and definitely not enough of Statistics. So, I applied for a Phd, but didn’t have funding at the time so I returned to Egypt. Three weeks later I met with my husband…a year later we got married! So after all, everything does happen for a reason! 

One year later, I went back to London to start my PhD at LSE, this time with my husband who was super supportive and decided to leave his great job in Cairo to accompany me through my academic journey. Again, London was so welcoming to both of us. We had the time of our lives…with its challenges, ups and downs…but we did enjoy every single day. It turned out that studying for a PhD is quite a challenge. It needs a lot of effort, patience, and support. But thanks to my amazing supervisor, colleagues, friends and staff at the Department of Statistics at LSE who made it a genuine life experience. 

After three years of the course, I had my first baby girl. And it does not come as a surprise that a PhD with a baby is even much more challenging…Finally, I was granted my PhD in Summer 2015 with a cute two-year old baby as a by-product. 

Today, I am a mother of two lovely girls, enjoying my role as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Statistics in Cairo University, where I first graduated, trying to transfer as much as I can of the amazing whole journey I’ve been through. The ultimate reward of working in academia is the ongoing learning and teaching experience that you share with your students, and the continuous contact with vibrant youths who never seize to spread their enthusiasm. A few sweet words of gratitude at the end of a course, or just feeling I have made a minimal difference in their way of thinking leaves me super satisfied and happy with this incredibly special connection. They also teach me a lot, and give me enough enthusiasm to face the same question over and over again: “...but why Statistics?!” 


Yajing Zhu


Yajing ZhuJPG

I studied a PhD in Statistics and also MSc Statistics (Research) at LSE. I was mostly attracted by the expertise of staff members and the unique opportunity to develop and apply quantitative research to address challenges in social sciences.

Currently I am a data scientist at Roche pharmaceuticals. We use large and complex real world data to generate impactful evidence and insights on our molecules/ medicines and patients. My work supports R&D and aims to advance medical knowledge and to enable personalized patient care and access.

I have always had an interest in contributing research to the society and public health is a key interest area for me. My PhD thesis focused on understanding the interplay between childhood socioeconomic circustances, partnership histories and midlife health. After graudation, I worked at Univeristy of Cambridge MRC Biostatistics Unit as a postdoctoral research fellow to address challenges in multimorbidity in the English population using massive primary care electronic health records. 

The best experience in my career has been the opportunity to work with people from various disciplines: e.g. medical doctors, sociologists, epidemiologists, statsiticians and policy makers. I enjoy teamwork and have learnt a great deal from domain experts. 

My favourite memory of LSE is the friendly and supportive international PhD community in the Department of Statistics and the occasional social and political debates that I have enjoyed with colleagues across departments.

My aspirations for the future are to continue to contribute to interdisciplinary research and to use rigorous quantitative tools to enhance the understanding of the society. 



Women in Statistics: Alumni Profiles 

Rahee Ambani


Rahee Ambani

Year of Graduation: 2018
Degree: MSc Financial Statistics
Job title: Associate, CDC Group plc

Tell us about what you do 
I work with the Chief Investment Office of an asset management company based out of London. My role involves a significant amount of analytics, strategy and building a top down view of the investment portfolio. 

What made you choose LSE Statistics? 
The wide range of courses offered by the Department and the diversity of the class every year encouraged me to join LSE. This course also opened up a large avenue of exciting job and research opportunities ranging from media analytics, risk analytics and strategy to quantitative research.

What was the main thing you learned from studying at LSE’s Department of Statistics? 
The coursework challenges you to take up theoretical concepts and apply them to real world problems. The Practitioners Challenge held at LSE with Apsara Capital was an exciting opportunity to make use of learning from the Time Series classes.

What are some of your key memories from your time spent here, and why do you think it is important to remain connected to LSE? 
Looking back at the long hours spent in group study at the library and the George IV (in that order!), I realise what a close knit and collaborative community I was a part of at LSE. Even after starting to work, I continue learning by working on investment research projects with former classmates. 

Do you have any hobbies or projects outside of work? 
I grew up playing lawn tennis at a competitive level and continue to pursue it even today. I have also been working part time with a textile manufacturer in India to set up a production unit that employs disadvantaged women. All profits from the sale of products go to funding of education and housing for these women.  

What would you tell someone thinking of studying at the Department of Statistics? 
I would say that each class offered by the Department is uniquely challenging and interesting. The professors are extremely engaging and helpful even outside the classroom. The student community is very diverse and the alumni network is widespread within London and internationally. 

What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome? 
As someone looking to start a career, with so many options out there post a degree from LSE, I found it particularly challenging to be able to make a decision on which path to follow. For instance, while studying at LSE I always thought I would be a quantitative researcher at a financial institution. It was only after interviewing and meeting more people did I realise that what sounded good in theory would not be right for me in practise.

What has been the best experience in your career to date?
I am currently running point on two projects and working directly with several senior professionals to obtain the end objectives. The first project entails creating a new risk tool and presenting it to the company board later this year.  I am also working on creating a macroeconomic strategy framework for a key region for my current firm. This has been a great learning opportunity both in terms of project content and developing my soft skills.


Marion Brethe


Marion Brethe

Year of Graduation: 2012
Degree: MSc Statistics
Job title: Business Analyst 

Tell us about what you do 
I worked as a Business Analyst at Google for the last few years but I left in 2019 to focus on my next project. I love art history so my aim is to become a researcher in the field and apply statistics to the study of artworks. I am working towards that goal by starting an art history course at Oxford.

Where have you worked previously?  
I have worked in a number of marketing analytics roles since graduating from LSE. I find the application of statistics to marketing fascinating. As an analyst, my aim is to bring life to raw data, build a story to understand which products customers are most likely to buy, what their shopping patterns are, and which segments of the population we should target for our marketing campaigns. It is a mix of social science, decision science and statistics!

How did you get into the field you currently work in?  
As a teenager, I would read the national surveys produced by the government to better understand the population - I suppose I was then trying to figure out the world for myself! Only later did I discover that these reports were most and foremost “just” statistics. I then decided to do a degree in statistics. I wasn’t even really good at maths - but this is where perseverance came in handy!

What made you choose LSE Statistics?  
After my bachelor degree, I worked in Ireland as a Risk Analyst for a few years. I soon felt I needed to study a little bit more to hone my statistical skills. A masters also gives you better recognition in the analytical field and I knew LSE, a world-class university, would give me the best experience in terms of teaching and environment. 

What are some of your key memories from your time spent at LSE?  
I loved writing my thesis. Exams were over, we had 2 months to write it over the summer. I have really fond memories of the summer days, where a few of us would meet at the library, study together and wrap up early so we could enjoy a few drinks at the nearby pub.   

What would you tell someone thinking of studying at the Department of Statistics? 
Studying stats at LSE not only gives you the strong statistical background you need to get a fantastic job, it also gives you the opportunity to be part of a dynamic and exciting School - assist at conferences and events, make friends from all over the world and learn from incredible teachers.

I loved the fact that you can pick and choose the modules from the programme, so there is something for everybody, from someone looking for highly-technical statistic theory to someone, (like me), who is interested in the real-life applications of statistics. 

What is the greatest challenge you've had to overcome?Going back to school after a few years working in a company was not easy. I needed some help with calculus at the beginning and I was not used to preparing for exams anymore, - but this taught me that it is ok to ask for help, from fellow students and teachers.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received? 
Keep it simple! We often tend to overcomplicate things. Thinking too much, complicated dissertation topics, wordy presentations, complex modelling. But in my opinion, even complicated statistical concepts can be explained in very simple terms, business problems can be solved with simple models... and stakeholders will love you for it! 

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? 
Nothing! I found the course challenging and the technical skills learnt during my year at LSE are now extremely useful in my work. The course helped me gain the confidence I needed. And I met incredible people while studying there, both within the Department and wider School.


Katie Rudd


Katie Rudd

Year of Graduation: 2012
Degree: MSc Risk and Stochastics
Job title: VP, Analytics at Beach & Associates

Tell us about what you do
I am a qualified Actuary and Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary (CERA), working as part of the Analytics team at a reinsurance broking firm. Our team works in partnership with the brokers and our clients (Insurance companies) to design and implement reinsurance solutions which are tailored to their individual needs. As an Actuary, this begins with looking at the supporting data, through to analysing portfolios, and meeting with clients and target markets to explain our analysis and conclusions. It is a highly collaborative process with a lot of exposure across the business and in the wider market.

Where have you worked previously?
After graduating from LSE I worked in Actuarial Consulting at Deloitte, before moving to work as a Marine Pricing Actuary at Talbot Underwriting, where I qualified in 2016. I moved to Beach in October of 2017 as an AVP, and was promoted to VP in 2018.

What made you choose LSE Statistics?
The MSc Risk and Stochastics at LSE offered an opportunity to expand on my areas of interest following my Bachelor’s Degree, and of course the great reputation of the School, which I knew would help me when I started looking for work.

Do you have any hobbies or projects outside of work?
I’ve recently started studying wine, and I’ve taken two qualifications through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, which include learning about the winemaking process across the world, as well as tasting.

What is the greatest challenge you've had to overcome? 
Not sure if it’s the biggest challenge, but moving from the mostly theoretical world of my masters degree to working with actual clients and data was a big adjustment! Luckily the other major change when moving from a degree programme to a work environment is that it is much more collaborative, and I was immediately part of a team. Having other graduates and more senior team members as a resource was extremely helpful as part of the transition to working full time. 

What has been the best experience in your career to date?
It isn’t a single experience, but getting to work with great people who all have different perspectives in order to solve a problem together is something that I really enjoy about my job. That, as well as meeting with clients and reinsurance markets to present and support my work is really rewarding, as well as a great learning opportunity.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
Get involved! Don’t be shy to put yourself forward for different opportunities as you never know when you might find something unexpected that you love doing.

What would you tell someone who's thinking of pursuing a career in Actuarial Science?
I would say there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Especially in recent years, the role of Actuaries within insurance companies and beyond has been expanding, and it really is up to you what you make of it. The system of actuarial exams provides a great baseline of knowledge, but it is up to you to decide where you want to take it. 


Yaxsaana Sivanathan



Year of Graduation: 2017
Degree: BSc Business, Mathematics and Statistics
Job title: Assistant Statistician, Civil Service Fast Streamer

Tell us about what you do 
I joined the Civil Service in the summer after I graduated in 2017 and I currently work in the Department of International Trade. My team focuses on Investment Promotion and Policy Analysis, which builds up the evidence base to influence inward and outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). More specifically, I am working on a research project conducting econometric analysis to determine the drivers of FDI into UK regions, and the economic impacts of FDI on local economies. This evidence will feed into the current government’s agenda of “levelling up” regions. 

Where have you worked previously?
My first role in the Civil Service was in a private office for a Senior Official at the Cabinet Office, which was related to EU Exit. I managed to get this position through the Direct Appointment scheme because I narrowly missed a place on the Fast Stream when I first applied. This gave me a really good understanding of how the “centre” of government works at the highest level, and it spurred my interest in re-applying to the Fast Stream. I was successful in my second application and was posted in the Department of Health and Social Care on the Statistics Fast Stream where I was responsible for parliamentary business, developing analysis on the NHS workforce and providing evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee.

How did you get into the field you currently work in?
I actually stumbled upon the Civil Service and all its glories when I went to grab a coffee at a stall on campus that the Civil Service were running. I was initially only interested in the coffee, but after speaking to the Fast Streamers I realised that supporting the government and working in the public interest would be more suited to my interests than working in the private sector. I then applied to the Early Diversity Internship programme in my first year (which I absolutely loved) and the rest is history! 

What made you choose LSE Statistics?
The Business Mathematics and Statistics programme offered a chance to pick and choose modules that were tailored to my own interests. This suited me much more than having options pre-defined and allowed me the chance to study a mix of modules from abstract mathematics and macroeconomic modules to more practical modules on applied regression and simulation modelling. Applied regression, in particular, is a feature of the work I’m currently involved in, so it is rewarding to be able to use my degree in my day to day work. 

Do you have any hobbies or projects outside of work?
I highly value work/life balance, and the Civil Service definitely offers that. I rarely leave the office after 5, which means I have ample time to play competitive netball regularly, chill out and read, or even sew the stresses of life away.

What has been the best experience in your career to date?
I was invited to No 10, along with the team, to an evening event with the Prime Minister. It was a surreal moment and hands down the best experience in my career so far. 

What would you tell someone who's thinking of pursuing a career in the Civil Service?
Go for it. I was initially apprehensive about the public sector, but what the Civil Service Fast Stream can provide is a sense of community that strives to make a difference on interesting policy issues, whilst also maintaining a great work/life balance. Within statistics, there are many policy challenges that have gaps in evidence where statistical analysis can make a real difference.