Celebrating women in mathematics and statistics: Meeting report

Celebrating Women in Mathematics and Statistics was an online half-day event recognising women in mathematics in the Lancashire area took place on 19 May 2021. The event was led by Anastasia Ushakova in collaboration with the Lancaster University (LU) Women’s Network and RSS Lancashire and East Cumbria Group. 

Speakers shared their career journeys, research interests and gave some advice for women currently studying for maths degrees. More than 50 attendees registered and over 30 attended the event either fully or for specific sessions via Teams. The audience included high-school and college students, UG and PG students alongside PhD and early career researchers.

Speakers featured Lancaster University’s Raquel Coelho SimoesLucy MorganRebecca Killick, Nadia Mazza and academics from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Svetlana Tishkovskaya and Naseerah Akooji. The event was split in three sessions culminated by a panel that involved all the speakers.

The first session focused on pure mathematics and academic journeys of Professor Nadia Mazza and Dr Raquel Coelho Simoes. Nadia talked about her journey across the world and her passion for mathematics that led her to work in Switzerland, United States, Germany before she landed in Lancaster to continue her work on group theory. She commented on importance of reaching out to people and ask for advice, academic friendships and the rewards of having a job where you can think about solving a mathematical problem day by day. Raquel, in addition to the overview of her fascinating research that combines representation theory, algebra and combinatorics, also commented on the importance of enjoying yourself during her journey from Portugal to Marie Currie Fellowship in the UK. Whilst academic careers can be hard due to fixed term contracts and uncertainty, the ability to have freedom to work on what you are curious may outweigh these challenges. 

The next session focused on research in health and how a mathematics degree can enable those passionate about finding solutions to pressing health challenges make an impact. Both speakers are currently working in Clinical Trials Unit (CTU). Svetlana is senior lecturer and Naseerah is a research assistant. Svetlana talked about her journey from PhD in Applied Mathematics in Russia all the way to the UK and described the exciting problems she had to work on in her career. She endorsed the Daphne Jackson Fellowship that has funded her work in movement ecology in University of Sheffield before she settled in UCLan to work on complex interventions and feasibility trials in health. Naseerah, after completing her BSc in Maths and then MSc in Statistics had an interesting journey to date, mostl recently joining Svetlana in UCLan’s CTU. She talked about her work as a member of Young Statisticians group and her route to obtain GradStat qualification from RSS.

The last session featured two other inspirational women working in statistics and operational research. Rebecca Killick, senior lecturer in Lancaster, talked to us about her work with business organisations, environmental and health researchers and what she finds most rewarding in her job.  She has also spoken about work/life balance in academia and choices she had to make in order to balance her career and family life. Lucy Morgan, lecturer in Lancaster Management School, offered a fascinating overview of her journey in Lancaster since starting her degree all the way up to her current work in stochastics and simulation modelling.  She also talked a little bit about work and life balance and importance of looking after yourself. 

The event concluded with a panel session which included questions from the audience and few broader questions around support for women in mathematics and statistics, what works well and supported our speakers during the journey and what, if anything, we can do better to ensure we can increase representation of women in not only postgraduate education but among those taking an academic career. A list of useful resources curated by Srshti Putcha from our Local group was shared with all the participants.

The audience has commented on the event exceeding their expectations and being highly inspirational and useful. Some comments included: 
‘It was a fantastic and inspiring event’ 
‘Academics sharing their own experiences with truth - it was SO inspiring’ 
The organisers hope to make the event an annual tradition in Lancaster going forward. 
We would like to say thanks to those who helped to organise the event and especially, Srshti Putcha, Alex Gibberd and James Groves. 

Anastasia Ushakova, Chair or RSS Lancashire and East Cumbria Group.

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