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Sisters in the Academy

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: This is a conversion of a presentation given at the Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position Workshop given on October 14-16, 2007. This presentation was originally created and presented by Gilda Barabino, The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at GaTech and Emory.

Sister

As defined in the African-American community:

  • Black women’s relationships with each other shaped by shared experiences and beliefs and mutual support

“The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science” AAAS Report No. 76-R-3, 1976

“Minority women represent a disturbingly small part of the total scientific manpower pool, but are a significant component whose needs seem not to have been addressed by existing programs for minorities or women. They have traditionally been excluded because of biases related to both their race or ethnicity and gender, constituting a double bind. Programs for minorities and women have generally been assumed to include minority women, but in fact minority women fall in the cracks between the two. The programs developed for minorities in science have mostly been dominated by male scientists. Similarly, the women’s science organizations are overwhelmingly white, and the minority science organizations, overwhelmingly male.”

What’s Race Got to Do With It?

Everything!

or at least a very disproportionate amount

Black Women in the Academy

History

  • 1861 Civil War begins - little formal education prior
  • 1873 Bennett College for women established
  • 1881 Spelman College for women established
  • 1896 Plessy vs Ferguson - separate but equal legalized
  • 1920’s First black women earn doctorates (none in S +E)
  • 1954 Brown vs Board of Education - separate but equal ruled unconstitutional
  • 1960’s First doctorates in S+E

-1970’s

  • Represent 2.1% of full time tenured and tenure-track faculty (1990’s data)
  • Concentrated in humanities, arts and social work professions at the lowest ranks and less prestigious schools
  • Experience extraordinary time demands linked to small numbers

Engineering Faculty (I)

Figure 1
Figure 1 (graphics1.png)

Engineering Faculty (II)

Figure 2
Figure 2 (graphics2.jpg)

Engineering Faculty (III)

Figure 3
Figure 3 (graphics3.jpg)

Black Women in the Academy

  • Experience the academy differently from black men, majority men and majority women
  • Are least likely to have professional mentors
  • Are least likely to be included in collaborative efforts
  • Are least likely to be tenured and promoted
  • Are least likely to be at the rank of Full Professor
  • Are most likely to carry the heaviest service burdens
  • Shared Experiences:
    • Double bind, gender and race
    • Double consciousness, academic and ethnic communities
    • Multiple marginality
    • Unaccommodating culture, stereotypes, racialized sexism
    • Increased barriers to professional socialization and advancement
    • Hypervisibility/invisibility/superisolation
    • Community responsibility
    • Spirit of survival

My Experience in the Academy

  • 1978, BS Chemistry, Xavier University of LA
  • 1981, first African American admitted to ChE graduate program at Rice
  • 1986, PhD Chemical Eng, Rice University
  • 1989, first African American female ChE faculty member at Northeastern
  • 2007, first African American female BME faculty member at GaTech

Musings on My Experience

Strategies for success:

  • Self-definition, self-valuation, self-efficacy, self-reliance, self-empowerment, selflessness
  • Shared responsibility and leadership to promote accountability
  • Community building (mentoring, networking)

“The focus on building community necessarily challenges a culture of domination that privileges individual well-being over collective effort.”

--bell hooks

Sisters Helping Sisters Negotiate the Academy

  • Breaking silence - open dialogue
  • Establishing support systems - mentoring and networking, sharing resources
  • Creating a culture of inclusion
  • Promoting true sisterhood across racial, ethnic, class, disciplinary and other lines

“As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change.”

--Audre Lorde

  • “She who learns must also teach”
    • --African Proverb
  • “Lifting as we climb”
    • --Motto of The National Association of Colored Women

Sister

As it should be defined by the academic community:

  • women’s relationships with each other shaped by shared experiences and beliefs and mutual support regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, ableness or culture

Thank you, Sisters!

Compiled and Presented By:

Gilda Barabino

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at GaTech and Emory

Links to additional presentations from the Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position Seminar: An African-American Physicist - Nearly 30 years of experiences, strategies, and personal accounts ; How to Choose and Keep a Mentor

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