Academic Reality "Show": Presented by Women Faculty of Color

Luna, Gaye; Medina, Catherine; Gorman, Sharon
September 2010
Advancing Women in Leadership;2010, Vol. 30 Issue 11, p1
Academic Journal
Although the resolution of World War II brought dramatic growth to higher education, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s with social movements of equal and civil rights that women faculty of color had foray into faculty positions. Unfortunately, data on sex and minority status were limited in large studies during these decades, and any numbers of minority women faculty were estimated proportions of total faculty (see, e.g., Menges & Exum, 1983). In his analysis, Graham (1978) noted that women faculty positions actually declined from 1930 to 1970. Higher education after 1970 continued to expand due to the Civil Rights Movement, and this Movement propelled women and women of color to enter the academy. In academe today, women faculty of color know their own reality�they live in a world where an academic reality "show" would point out the truth, that is, all progress made in higher education does not represent them or their story. To begin, numerous quantitative studies do show that women have made significant progress in education over the decades. For example, The Condition of Education 2008 noted females account for nearly two-thirds of undergraduate and graduate (i.e., Master's level) degrees through 2007 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], n.d.). For graduate and professional degrees, women have almost equalized the total number of degrees awarded to men (U.S. Department of Education, as cited in The Nation, 2007; see, also, NCES, "Participation," n.d.). Even though increases in male and female graduate students are expected through 2018, female enrollment is expected to increase at a rate faster than male enrollment (NCES, "Participation," n.d.). Along a similar line, women of color (i.e., American Indian, Asian, Black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic) earned more doctorate degrees than male ethnic minorities in 2004-05 (U.S. Department of Education, as cited in The Nation, 2007). Women faculty of color hold only 3% of full professorships, representing an important difference from their classification of 10% as assistant professors (Snyder, in Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2009). This supports research that has found that women, and especially women of color, face significant barriers as they move toward tenure. Then, too, there has been only a sluggish increase in hiring racially and ethnically diverse faculty members, and this increase includes hiring these individuals into certain types of higher education institutions -- two-year colleges and community colleges (American Association of University Professors, 2009; Gappa, Austin, & Trice, 2007). As Jackson (2004) emphasized in her article, there are numerous other factors behind the numbers that tell the story of progress of women in academe. Personal experiences in the academic workplace are not found in percentages or other representative numbers. To understand the academic reality "show" for women faculty of color, we need to listen to their stories. These stories articulate messages that are often suppressed or ignored in academe. Perhaps the time has come to rethink again current practices in the academy�practices that confine, restrain, and dehumanize lives.


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