In the United Kingdom, fewer than 2% of engineers are women from ethnic minorities. However, a Black woman launching an innovative new comb for afro hair wants to use her story to inspire other young Black women into engineering.
Youmna Mouhamad, from Swansea, got the idea to develop her comb named Nyfasi Deluxe Detangler when she was doing her Ph.D. in Physics. The comb provides an easier way of conditioning natural afro hair.
According to the BBC, the entrepreneur worked as a nanny to support her studies. The little girl she was taking care of used to cry out of pain when her hair was being combed. “The whole house would be full of tears,” she told the BBC. “I wanted her to have a better experience.”
Mouhamad said she got interested in engineering because she always had the desire to work on things that she can touch with her hands. She also loved the process of taking an idea and creating something out of it.
After developing the prototype of her comb, she assembled women in a focus group to test it. She got applause for her invention from the participants of the study who loved how easy it was for them to use the comb on their afro hair.
“And this detangler, the first time I tried it, it was really easy,” one participant who has three girls said. Another participant said, “The normal comb feels like someone is pulling your hair, when it’s tangled it hurts. But with this comb, it’s very soft and easy to untangle.”
Mouhamad is not letting the rave reviews go to her head. According to her, she wants to inspire many more Black women into science and technology.
“When I was going through it, I thought it was me. I didn’t think it was the environment,” she said. “But when I spoke to other [black] students, it really got to me because it was like ‘oh my God, you know, it’s not you!’ “I never had a single black teacher, and that does a lot because of the simple fact of saying ‘if she can be there, so can I’.”
She is now being supported by Prof Dylan Jones-Evans at the University of South Wales to launch her business. Jones-Evans hopes the success of Mouhamad’s business will not only get ethnic minorities into science and engineering but into entrepreneurship as well.
“Many of them don’t have the right role models, but slowly that’s changing,” he said. “I see Youmna over the next few years – and she is already – being a role model for so many people.”