Black Women Minorities in the Workplace Interview: Yemi M



Hi, for those reading give us a brief description of who you are and what it is you do?
My name is Yemi, I'm 25 and I live and work in London, as a research assistant. I finished my undergraduate at Coventry and later went on to University of Leeds to study Infection and Immunity.
I've come from a Infection and Immunology background and work on both clinical trials and molecular biology identifying markers in trauma patients. I get to work in a multidisciplinary team comprising of A&E clinicians and molecular biologist, splitting my time entered the hospital and labs.

What attracted you to your field?
I didn’t know about my field until I went to university. I initially wanted to do Medicine and the more I did Molecular Biology and Microbiology, the more I was interested in learning and conducting research.

Describe a typical day in your life at work.
A typical day includes analysing data and conducting experiments within the lab. Helping with the recruitment of patients in the ED department and processing samples for further analysis.

In your department how many other minorities are there? How many other black females?
Well, that depends on what is classified as minorities, because there are Iranians, Kuwaitis and Spanish within my team. But there are only 2 black minorities within the department
I am the only back female in the team. There were 2 of us at the end of 2015 but she left for other interest's.  

Working in Academia/Education do feel that minorities, especially black people and black females are represented fairly?
No, I know I wasn't asked but I think it's important to say this, with black families especially Nigerians because I am Nigerian, I think the idea of research as a career choice isn't as respected or even encouraged because of the lack of exposure. Unless you do the stereotypical engineer or medicine or law route, people often seem uninterested in what you do and I get that often. Especially from black people where they feel research as a career isn't something to write home about.  So for me, once views like that change then more black (females) will look for those types of jobs and will more than likely be accepted. 

Do you ever feel that being a black female has ever stopped you from speaking out at work?
Sometimes, purely because I do not want to be labelled as the angry black woman, lol.

Do you feel that you get overlooked for career progression or opportunities at work due to being a black female?

Does lack of representation in your field motivate you to succeed?
This is a complex question, I think dealing with the confusion of ethnic minority-black British is what motivates me go want to succeed in my field. I know I will come in contact with a small number of individual narrow minded people so I have to always be the best at what I do so as not give the excuse that I can’t succeed. This also means when I don't know some thing or can't do something, I put in the extra work to get to a point of competence.

Who is your inspiration?
I used to think my mother was my inspiration, and in some ways she is, but now the driving force is me succeeding and not relying on other people for my livelihood. 

Do you have any words of encouragement for girls who are looking to join your field but mayne discouraged by the lack of representation?
To be honest the best type of advice I can give is to be competent in whatever skills you want to learn. And not be disappointed by disappointment! Many people will say you’re not good enough, many people will want to disregard your effort but as long as your competent in your skills and your knowledge, you have nothing to worry about. Also not being proud and ignorant, if you do not know what you are doing SPEAK UP! Don’t be feeling like some type of star when your just not good enough, that’s ignorance!

In this day and age, lack of representation not only happens in our workplaces but in our day to day lives, e.g. tv shows, beauty industry, politics. What are your thoughts on this?
I am happy with the revolution of the black sister! I remember people feeling embarrassed for having natural or from having Asoebi and wearing a gele (I know I was). BUT NOW! I am loving how people (well, people I speak to) are accepting pan-African culture, fashion, hair, food, holidays and beauty it’s so amazing. There will always be lack of representation, it will never be perfect or even at a place where people are represented equally or given credit for their work in our institutions, but as long as we minorities are challenging the lack of representation and are demanding it, it’s the first step to achieving it.  Now when I say demanding and challenging I’m not saying looting and rioting or being antisocial and attacking innocent people, I mean us showcasing how AMAZING we are in our jobs, in our productions, in our books, in our beauty products, in our designers, in our models, in our doctors, in ours actors, basically in all areas of life we have to bring our A game.

What can be done towards change?
I think I answered that in my previous question. We have to be the best people we can be. Also, we have to support people, especially people who are minorities. We need to stop hating on people who have businesses or have started something that help elevate the minority community, that counteracts and gives permission for people to want to disregard us. 

Be sure to check out previous interviews:
 - Vicky 
 - Tani 
 - Maggie

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