‘I make it a point to not be influenced by the naysayers’

Angie Amon talks about how being a black working-class woman has motivated her to do a PhD

July 10 2018
black female student at university

I was raised in Peckham, south London and with that comes a certain reputation. Many people still believe that Peckham is rough, lower class and that people from there don't go far.

I was state-school educated from primary school to sixth form (aged 5 to 18). Schools in my area were understaffed and teachers were too overworked to focus on the potential of each child equally. Those in the top set were provided with more opportunities, those in the middle set were encouraged to maintain their level of work so as not to be pulled into the bottom set. Those in the bottom set were often neglected, their poor attention span and seemingly disrespectful attitude deterred teachers from giving them the attention they needed.

I found myself in the middle set, not because I lacked intelligence, but because I treated talking as a sport and would often miss out on crucial teaching in lessons.

At the age of 13 I became determined to be a lawyer. In my pursuit of this career path, I studied for A-levels in law, English language and literature and psychology.

I then studied law at the University of Westminster, but because of circumstances beyond my control, I found myself achieving a 2:2 instead of the 2:1 target I had set for myself. I was devastated and struggled with feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure and everything in-between. Following graduation, I did not think that becoming a lawyer was still possible, but to my surprise I discovered that a 2:2 did not signal the end of my career.

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Being a black working-class woman in the job market did not come without its struggles and rejections. I was often passed over for roles in predominantly Caucasian environments, and was once looked at with dismay when an interviewer realised that my skin tone didn’t reflect my somewhat British sounding name. Although some rejections were a result of the colour of my skin, I’m almost certain others were because I was under- or overqualified for some positions.

Some believe that the opportunities available for black working-class women are fewer than those for our white counterparts. This may be true to an extent, but I feel it is important not to allow bias, prejudice or sexism to be a blockade to success. I make it a point not to be influenced by the naysayers. Instead, I try to maintain a positive attitude towards all people despite their background or ethnicity.  

I am currently taking my final exams to become a chartered legal executive lawyer, specialising in residential and commercial property as well as litigation.

My interest in social policy has also fuelled my motivation to undertake a PhD. I want to make a contribution to social development, young people and their communities. I am working on my preliminary research proposal and hope to be enrolled as a doctoral student by next spring. The application process has been stressful because it has been a challenge to find a balance between producing a proposal which isn’t the PhD itself, but contains enough detail and research. It must have paid off as I have an interview for a PhD programme in September. It has been a learning curve and I know the final result will be worthwhile.

Read more: Reflections from a University of Oxford foundation year student

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