Botwc Firsts

Monifa Phillips Becomes First Black Woman to Earn a PhD in Physics from the University of Glasgow

Monifa Phillips Becomes First Black Woman to Earn a PhD in Physics from the University of Glasgow

Despite conversations around the need for more diversity in STEM, data shows that women, particularly Black women, still lack representation in the field. 

Helping to shatter the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry is Monifa Phillips who just became the first Black woman to earn a PhD in physics from the University of Glasgow. 

On June 30, Phillips tweeted about her accomplishment along with a picture of her in her graduation gown. 

“This week, I was the very first Black woman to graduate from the Uni of Glasglow with a PhD in Physics,” she wrote. “I’m a proud Black British woman from LDN. I made space for myself in a predominantly white, male field. It was hard, but with the support of my family and my community, I did it.”

According to a study by the nonprofit organization Catalyst, Black women made up just 2.9% of STEM bachelor degree graduates in the United States in 2015-2016. The Atlantic points out that between 2012 and 2017, of the roughly 50,000 people who earned PhDs each year, the percentage of Black recipients increased only slightly from 5.1% to 5.4%, according to the National Science Foundation. 

The Atlantic also highlights that a number of factors contribute to this lack of representation, including cost, racial bias and certainly a lack of access that keeps Black people from pursuing careers in STEM. 

University of Glasgow's College of Science and Engineering professor Muffy Calder praised Phillips for her accomplishment and told Teen Vogue in a statement that she wishes the history maker “the best of luck in her future career.”