This Sunday, Sana shines our Colloquium spotlight on Kayisha Payne, Founder of BBSTEM – a new organisation campaigning for balance and representation of Black individuals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
Take a read to learn more about this fantastic network and the mastermind behind it all…
So, tell us about yourself – who is Kayisha Payne?
I am 24 years old. Completed a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from Aston University, then went on to study for a Masters in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. I have worked as a Process Engineer in the cosmetic industry, Project Assistant in the construction industry and currently working in the Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology industry.
My father is Nigerian and my mother is Jamaican, which I think is a great mix of two cultures! I have two brothers and two sisters, making me the youngest of five and I have a huge extended family (60+).
I’m a huge netball fan! I played from primary school, right up through to university and in my teens I played for Kent County Netball Club. I love to travel and I’m a big foodie!
How did BBSTEM come about?
Randomly! In February 2017 I met someone I would consider to be a very successful young Black Chemical Engineer – we were introduced through a family friend. After the conversation I felt so inspired and privileged to hear of a young Black man in the same career field, with a similar Caribbean upbringing, having “made it”.
I felt so enthused and I wanted to create a platform where these ‘accidental’ meetings are made deliberate and intentional. A place where young Black people feel comfortable to reach out for support and to be given support.
Latest statistics show that only 6.2% of UK domiciled students enrolled onto STEM related subjects at UK universities are black (4.8% Black African, 1.2% Black Caribbean, 0.2% Black Other) and organisations such as The Royal Academy of Engineering recognise that while there are an abundance of programmes and initiatives directed at balancing and campaigning for gender balance in STEM fields, there is a lack of programmes directed at increasing the inclusion of BAME.
What are you hoping to achieve with BBSTEM?
I’m hoping BBSTEM will grow to be an organisation where our professional members can go into schools and be visible inspiration to the younger generation. I want it to be a safe zone where young people feel comfortable to go for career advice and personal and professional development. A place where parents who don’t have a STEM background, but have children who are interested in the area, can come to be advised on the best way to support their children. I’m hoping that it allows for a place where people can speak about their personal experiences in the workplace, and how we can all be made aware of individuals’ experiences, and how to improve workplace environments for all.
Why are these kinds of networks important especially for BAME ethnicity groups?
It’s important that the younger generation can see themselves represented in jobs that they would otherwise be scared to fill. They also provide opportunities to open up the dialogue around talking about race in the workplace. Often these networks can be deemed as exclusive, however it is fully inclusive and welcomes individuals from any background – the aims are to increase the inclusion of a group currently underrepresented.
Where do you see BBSTEM in 6 months?
I see it as an organisation that’s continually growing and making a positive impact. I see our schools outreach programme in full swing in the London area and collaborating with other influential organisations who share the same ethos and commitment as us, in terms of diversity and inclusion.
So who can be a mentor?
Anyone can be a mentor. If you’re an individual who has a sincere desire to be a source of inspiration and guidance for a young person, an ability to see solutions and opportunities and are passionate about diversity and inclusion then sign up!
It’s also important for a mentor to be willing to take the time out to get to know their mentee and understand what their needs are in the mentoring relationship.
How can people sign up?
We are initially capturing individuals’ details on the following form. This allows us to keep everyone up-to-date with the events and activities we’ll be doing. When we launch our mentoring programme, we can closely match mentees with the appropriate people in industry to give guidance.
The website will be coming soon.