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Chapter 7 Their Rightful Place: Diversity Narratives, Women of Color Agency and Transformation of the Academy

Women of Color in Higher Education: Changing Directions and New Perspectives

ISBN: 978-1-78052-182-4, eISBN: 978-1-78052-181-7

ISSN: 1479-3644

Publication date: 7 September 2011

Abstract

The literature on women of color (WOC) faculty is replete with accounts of marginalization (Balderrama, Texeira, & Valdez, 2006; Benjamin, 1997; Garcia, 2005; John, 1997; Li & Beckett, 2006; McKay, 1997; Reyes, 2005). For instance, Balderrama et al. (2006) explains, “I come from a family of survivors, but I never realized it would come to that in academia …Little did I know I was entering one of the bastions of conservative ideology and practices – a far cry from a meritocracy working for the public good” (Balderrama et al., 2006, p. 224). Concomitantly, the higher education literature extols the presence of race and gender diversity because they are associated with elevated learning outcomes and intercultural engagement (Chang, 2002; Gurin, 1999; Milem & Hakuta, 2002). Therein lies the quandary. Given the importance of illuminating the challenges that WOC face within the academy, how then can that discourse be broadened to include empirical and theoretical claims about the relationship between WOC agency and structural transformation? In other words, how can WOC move beyond or within structural constraints to contribute to the teaching and learning environment? Equally important, how does the presence of WOC encourage a diversity conversation beyond student learning outcomes to one that emphasizes social equity? This chapter intends to participate in these emergent conversations in two ways. First, drawing from an empirical study of Black female faculty, I discuss how the participants contributed to their institutions and how those contributions embody and expand on the following diversity narratives: structural access and climate, learning outcomes, intercultural competencies, and meritocracy. Second, I theoretically expound upon the Black female faculty findings to discuss implications for similarly situated WOC. In all, this chapter demonstrates that difference – a woman of color difference – dislodges reactionary strongholds within the academic enterprise.

Citation

Thandi Sulé, V. (2011), "Chapter 7 Their Rightful Place: Diversity Narratives, Women of Color Agency and Transformation of the Academy", Jean-Marie, G. and Lloyd-Jones, B. (Ed.) Women of Color in Higher Education: Changing Directions and New Perspectives (Diversity in Higher Education, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 135-161. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3644(2011)0000010011

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited