Custom Search 1

Bullying and stereotyping blocking pathway to success for black female professors

PROJECT LEAD: Dr.Nicola Rollock

A CULTURE of bullying and stereotyping means black academics have to work harder and employ mentally draining strategies to try and get on, a new report has found.

The findings of the Staying Power report, released today (Feb 4), detail the experiences of female black professors in UK universities.

The research, funded by UCU, documents the experiences of 20 of the UK’s 25 black female professors and charts key moments of their career from entry to accademia through to progression and promotion to professorship.

These professors make up just 0.1% of all professors, compared to white men who represent two-thirds (68%) of professors.

“In addition, you’re three times more likely to become a professor if you're a white woman compared to a black woman. This is an extremely stark and concerning finding,” says Dr Nicola Rollock, the project lead behind the report.

Speaking to The Voice Dr.Rollock says these worrying statistics is what lead to the creation of the report, after she expressed personal concerns about the widening disparity. “When you break it down by gender and ethnicity this is the smallest group and has remained the smallest group for quite some time.”

Through the report, Dr. Rollock’s examination of the 20 black female professors showed many commonplace experiences faced by black female academics.

Respondents talked about their experiences of explicit and passive bullying, clumsy stereotyping and the mentally draining strategies they need to devise and implement at speed just to cope. One professor explained how after “over preparing as usual” for a meeting she is still introduced by a senior white colleague as the student representative.

“Some of the women experienced bullying, verbal abuse, being mistaken for the student reps, rudeness in email communication, having their work and applications for professorship over scrutinised and much more,” reveals the UCU professor.

“These are commonplace experiences for black women and they are constantly repeated. They happen time and time again and are seldom taken seriously by institutions or by line managers. This often results in black women feeling they have to work harder than their white counterparts just to display their competence and ability to do the job.”

The report notes that improvements for black academics are not possible unless there is a fundamental shift in how race and racism are understood. “The way in which we carry out recruitment and progression within the sector must be improved and clear, transparent and equitable,” she says.

“What is not well known outside my sector is that in order to become a professor you require the approval of the head of your department or your line manager. But what the findings show is that it's often the head of departments that are a barrier to progressing for black female academics.”

Dr.Rollock’s report comes after the Government announced plans to improve outcomes for ethnic minority students in higher education. The measures - which are a part of a cross-government effort - will hold universities to account on how they will improve outcomes for underrepresented students, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

However, the academic argues that far too often the government focuses on students but not the wellbeing of the staff - something which is needed to have a truly inclusive educational sector.

“Our attention often centres on students and we don't also focus on members or staff and there's no point just looking at students and the context at which they are operating in without also looking at the corresponding experience of BME staff and the environment that they're working in as well. This needs a wholesale review of how the sector engages with racial justice.”

To read the Staying Power report, click here

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.