HEIDI SAFIA MIRZA
As one of the few women professors in the UK, Professor Heidi Mirza has devoted her career to tackling discrimination within the education system, especially in relation to its effects on girls
Heidi was born in the UK to an Austrian mother and Trinidadian father in 1958. When she was four, the family moved to Trinidad. She returned to England when she was 16 and went on to study development studies at the University of East Anglia. She obtained a doctorate at Goldsmiths College and her thesis became her first book, Young Female and Black (1992) about second-generation Caribbean young women in British comprehensive schools. It remains an ‘A’ level text and is considered one of the most influential educational resources in Britain.
“I am really proud of my first book,” she said. “It laid the groundwork for my theoretical work on black British feminism and my research on marginalised and racialised women in education”.
Heidi has taught at South Bank and Middlesex Universities: at Middlesex she became the first chair of Racial Equalities Studies. She is also Professor Emerita in Equalities Studies at the Institute of Education, University College.
Her publications include Tackling the Roots of Racism: Lessons for Success, Black and Postcolonial Feminisms in New Times, and Respecting Difference: Race, Faith and Culture for Teacher Educators.
She helped establish the Runnymede Collection at the Black Cultural Archives and is the recipient of the Media Diversified Eight Women Award, which celebrates the achievements of women of colour. In 2015 she delivered the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King Lecture with Doreen Lawrence, an event she described as the highlight of her career. She said: “Young people want and need to be inspired, and we have to dig deep and draw on the wisdom and courage of those who went before us to power us onwards in our struggle for social and racial justice”.
Asked what she thought is the most important issue facing the world today, she added: “This is a big one – and from where I sit racial and religious hatred, endemic class discrimination and structural sexism remain deeply entrenched. The sheer scale of mass global dispossession these inequalities engender means it will become a flashpoint for 21st century”.