Kimberleigh Ashley Tommy is a biological anthropology PhD candidate with the Human Variation and Identification Research Unit at Wits University.
Tommy says one of the proudest moments for her life so far was receiving her master’s degree. It meant more because she was a student who didn’t seem to be on a path to “greatness” in her undergraduate degree. But she was able to pass her masters degree with distinction.
She doesn’t just want to achieve greatness for herself: she hopes that other young women who see her and the other incredible women of colour in palaeosciences are encouraged to pursue it as a career field.
Tommy says South Africa is a fossil-rich country with over 40% of fossils having roots in the African content. However, she has found that this area of study has been dominated on a large scale by non-Africans and it is not a very representative or diverse field. Change is necessary.
“I hope that this extends to other research areas where diversity is minimal, not for a lack of interest but because of systemic challenges that affect women of colour disproportionately,” she says.
Tommy hopes to see that the science field becomes more inclusive and a better representation of the talent pool.
She has had fantastic experiences and found many opportunities in the past few years of her academic career. She discovered that she has been able to take evolutionary science outside the walls of academic establishments. “It also showed me that my career in science needn’t stifle my voice and personality, and that a traditional academic path isn’t the only option.”