‘We need to be spreading awareness of more female scientists’

An A Level Physics student says more role models and better representation is needed to inspire more black girls to take up the subject.

Cheyanne Kusi, 16, was responding to comments made by Prof Dame Athene Donald who claimed that girls were not choosing the subject because they think it is only for white boys.

The Cambridge University academic told MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee that no mention of female scientists in the national curriculum was discouraging girls from physics.

“If you are black or if you are a woman, you don’t see yourself fitting in,” she said, according to a report on the BBC News website last month.

The article revealed that last year just 23 per cent of A Level Physics entrants nationally were female.

Cheyanne, from Haringey, felt more needed to be done to make the subject more appealing to girls, particularly those from ethnic minorities.

“There is a lack of diversity in many fields and in physics especially. I imagine girls are put off the subject because they mostly see white middle-class men as the figureheads of the subject. If you only see people like them doing the subject and not people that look like you, you’re probably less likely to want to do it.

“I can understand how it might discourage some girls. I went to a predominantly white secondary school and they didn’t really understand and there was some ignorance.

“We need to be spreading awareness of more female scientists, because at the moment the only one I can think of is Marie Curie.

“It’s important we change the perception of physics. There needs to be change and hopefully there will be one. I feel there has been a bit of a shift, but more can always be done.”

Cheyanne decided to take A Level Physics partly because she was unsure about her future plans.

She said: “At the moment I’m not sure what I want to do and when you don’t really know it’s always good to have options.

“Physics is a very broad subject. It can go down so many different avenues from nuclear energy and engineering to architecture and rocket science. It really opens up doors, rather than closing them.”

Cheyanne was keen to encourage more girls to take physics and admitted that having a female teacher at CANDI had been a “big inspiration” to her.

This summer she will be among a group of students taking part in the In2ScienceUK programme, which gives young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a practical insight into STEM careers to encourage diversity in the sector.

“I thought it would be great for me to do something that would be a good experience and show future employers the dedication I’ve put in.”, said Cheyanne.

“It’s really hard to find opportunities for yourself and our teachers at CANDI went out of their way to tell us about it. It’s nice to know they’re looking out for us and encouraging us become the best we can be.”

As well as helping you study for your A Levels, at CANDI we help you find interesting and relevant extra-curricular activities too. These experiences, like joining our debating club or the In2ScienceUK programme that Cheyanne will be doing in the summer, can enhance your studies and help you put a strong university application.

Find out more and apply for A Levels with us here.

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