Royal Astronomical Society's planetary physicist Dr Sheila Kanani features in Women in Uniform project to break down gender barriers

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
An inspirational Fylde woman has been chosen to be part of an exhibition that aims to motivate young women to break down barriers in industries typically dominated by men.

Professional photogapher Shy Burhan is working on a national Arts Council funded project called ‘Women In Uniform’ – and she chose a St Annes planetary physicist to feature in her work.

She recently photographed Dr Sheila Kanani, who is also the education outreach and diversity officer at The Royal Astronomical Society, for the project.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Kanani, who was awarded the MBE for services to astronomy and to diversity in physics in this year’s New Year's Honours list, hopes the exhibition will inspire younger generations.

Dr Sheila Kanani, from Lytham, who was photographed by Shy Burhan for her exhibition called Women in UniformDr Sheila Kanani, from Lytham, who was photographed by Shy Burhan for her exhibition called Women in Uniform
Dr Sheila Kanani, from Lytham, who was photographed by Shy Burhan for her exhibition called Women in Uniform

The 39-year-old said: “When I was growing up I didn’t have an Asian physicist to look up to.

"It’s interesting as I don’t really see myself as a role model, but it’s accidentally quite powerful.

"People have preconceptions about who can do science or who become a doctor so I hope to inspire the next generation.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Sheila Kanani was previously a physics teacher, and also has a background in astrophysics and astronomy research.

Photographer Shy BurhanPhotographer Shy Burhan
Photographer Shy Burhan

She is an author and regularly acts as a science ambassador by visiting schools and speaking at events.

Shy is aiming to feature at least 60 women in the exhibition, and has so far photographed females working in industries including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), psychotherapy, gynaecology, astronomy, the Armed Forces, and construction.

She said: “Women in Uniform will celebrate the achievements of professional women of colour in industries where we are traditionally under-represented.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I’m hoping that this project will be inspirational to young females, especially females of colour, and make these sectors more accessible and aspirational for them.

"I want them to see that barriers are there to be broken and glass ceilings there to be shattered.

“As a female photographer of South Asian heritage, I'm somewhat of a rarity in my field I've found.

"Moreover, women of colour (black, Asian, hispanic, Arab) who occupy senior roles in their respective industries are still lower in number than their white, male counterparts. And yet I know we exist because I exist.“To celebrate these hidden figures, I am inviting UK based BAHA women – including trans women of colour – to have their portraits shot for this mammoth project in a conceptual way that shares their individual truths, centring around what their 'uniform' means to them.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
Passion for skateboarding helped Blackpool girl, 15, beat her demons

Shy, who is based in Shipley, West Yorkshire, is looking for more participants.

She added: "A recorded Zoom conversation takes place first to discuss the project and then I arrange to take their portraits in my Shipley-based studio, over a May 2022 to February 2023 timeframe.”

The images will be used in a national exhibition which will launch on March 8, 2023 to coincide with International Women's Day at the Haworth Art Gallery in Accrington and will run until May 14, 2023.To thank all of the participants, they will receive their own 10x8 inch signed and mounted gift portrait from the series.If you know of anyone who may be a suitable candidate, they can get in touch by emailing [email protected]