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The theme of Black History Month is ‘Saluting our Sisters’ and it highlights the crucial role that Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change, and building communities. Alexandra Whitford, MSc Management student and Black Future Leaders Award recipient shares her reflections on this theme; she also highlights that there is still more to be done for Black Women today.  

About me 

I’m always keen to learn new things and enjoy a challenge. During my undergraduate studies, I studied French and Spanish at University College London (UCL). Contrary to the belief of some readers, language degrees provide a platform towards a broad and expansive skillset. The academic experience provided me with a foundation to understanding global history, politics, literature, and languages. I was keen to apply this knowledge with a main discipline, and therefore applied for the MSc Management programme at Imperial College Business School. I am also focusing on finance in this academic year. 

Why I chose to study at Imperial College Business School 

Prior to joining the Business School, I was conscious about how I would fare in disciplines with a more quantitative focus. I struggled with mathematics during my secondary school studies, mainly due to the quantity of subjects and topics taught both poorly and within an unthoughtful time frame. At Imperial College Business School, I have found that the real-world application of these topics has greatly improved and furthered my analytical skills and technical abilities. I also saw value in the course, as it would give me further exposure and confidence with its connections to science, technology, engineering, and maths. 

Moving forward, I hope to pursue leadership opportunities with managerial and executive responsibilities. I want to challenge current business practices regarding the way in which we think about our businesses, their ethics, and future visions. In particular, I am considering a career in the financial services, after having interned at Wellington Management during the summer of 2023, where I also received equally invaluable mentorship and support from colleagues. 

My Black Future Leaders Award

For the duration of my postgraduate studies, I have been awarded the Black Future Leaders Award which is open to students from a Black or mixed background. The financial support has made a master’s degree more accessible and has allowed me to join a wider business network. I have recently enjoyed attending company networking events and participating in finance competitions. I have also started to get involved in the Business School and wider College activities, such as Imperial as One (IAO), and academic groups. I would like to thank Imperial for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to the next few months. 

What Black History Month means to me 

Any attempt to define Black History Month would not do it justice, as this occasion reflects a variety of histories, cultures, and stories. I interpret "Saluting Our Sisters" for Black History Month as a collective effort to commemorate, recognise, and celebrate the importance of Black female individuals – past, present, and future. 

Black History Month is an opportunity for us to debate and discuss key figures and issues of our time, in addition to our own experiences, misconceptions, and understandings. This is significant as we, as future business leaders, will only be best equipped to address diversity and social justice with a clear, robust, and accountable strategy. This, in turn, will enable us to remain committed to institutional changes and respond appropriately. Black History Month is essential to ensure a wider understanding of Black individuals from all walks of life and to map solutions that can shape a better society for future generations and their leaders. 

Black women who inspire me 

I admire Angela Davis: a Marxist and feminist political activist, philosopher, academic, and author whose position in society has changed from “public enemy number one” to respected academic. Having read her autobiography, her writings and speeches show effective yet natural communication. Autobiographies are also my favourite book genre. They provide us, as contemporary readers, with an insight into a different period or perspective that may be often overlooked or underexplored. 

Autobiographies also provide a dialogue between narrators, authors, and readers. This simultaneously encourages us as readers to imagine other worlds, or inadvertently compare our own realities. This can, at times, be illuminating, terrifying, or reassuring. 

Angela Davis continues to provide thought-provoking content relevant to the theme of this year’s Black History Month with publications on women, race, and class. 

Takeaway thoughts 

I encourage readers to think about why problems faced by underrepresented communities are often so complex and multi-faceted. Where do they start, and where do they end? These are questions that I continue to ask myself, having read and considered the following statistics that reinforce the ever-growing importance of Black History Month:  

  • Maternal mortality amongst Black women is nearly four times higher than amongst white women, with Asian women 1.8 times more likely.  
  • Within postgraduate research in the UK, Black students comprise 3% of positions and these are often concentrated in particular areas of study; 
  • Published pay inequality on BAME employees is yet to be mandated despite calls from charities, following the 2017 gender pay gap legislation for organisations with 250+ employees; 
  • And, poverty and financial disadvantage amongst Black pensioners is nearly twice as high, compared to white pensioners according to Age UK