Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Gender, Race, and Career Advancement: When Do We Have Enough Cultural Capital?

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Gender, Race, and Career Advancement: When Do We Have Enough Cultural Capital?

Article excerpt

Note: The term African American is used throughout this article to refer to Black Americans. Furthermore, African American experiences are situated in historical and cultural context within the African global diaspora.


The expansive attrition and retirement of African American administrators and other administrators of color come at a time when many institutions of higher education are attempting to build diverse and inclusive campus communities. Despite earlier gains in employing administrators of color, their numbers are diminishing significantly. According to the American Council on Education (2013), between 2008 and 2013, the number of African Americans in senior administrative positions declined from 3.7 % to 2.3%. In contrast, 30% of all college students are from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, (American Council on Education, 2013). As these new groups of students arrive on campuses they will find fewer administrators who are from similar cultural and ethnic context. This trend is also a clarion call for colleges and universities to address deficits in their structural diversity and hiring/promotion processes, (Evans & Chun, 2007).

Prior studies of career mobility rarely included a sample of African American administrators large enough to conduct comparative analyses, consequently little is known about their experiences pertaining to career mobility. While the outcomes of the career mobility of African Americans and other administrators of color are problematic; few studies have addressed causality. Moreover, disparities in career advancement exist between African American women and men administrators. This research is a comparative analysis of African American women and men administrators in higher education organizations which examine the effects of proportional representation (tokenism) and cultural capital accrual on career advancement. Furthermore, this study hypothesizes men and women differ on the measures of those effects.

The Influence of Federal Policy

Several policy and legislative initiatives such as Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits employment discrimination) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are the primary impetus for the presence of African Americans in administrative roles at predominately-white colleges and universities (Sagaria 1985a, 1986; Ross & Moore 1993; National Center for Education Statistics, 1998). They have achieved modest gains in the number of administrative positions held over the last five decades. However, as the first sizable cohort of African American administrators begin to retire, institutions of higher education are faced with the dual challenge of replacing them as well as increasing their numbers, (Townsend & Wiese, 1991). The deliberate decimation of affirmative action policies and practices over the years make that challenge more complex (Evan & Chun, 2007). As forecasted in his study of land grant universities, Hoskins (1978) concluded that with such a small percentage of African Americans employed as administrators, their prospects for increasing would have a poor outlook. This trend would be even more deleterious for African American women who often held lower level positions than men (Williams, 1989; Wilson, 1989b). Similar to some of Hoskins' (1978) findings, recent studies concluded that ethnic minority women administrators have increased within the past ten years however, they remain disproportionately underrepresented among all administrators, particularly at the senior administrative level (Cook & Cordova, 2006). Within this problem of under-representation at higher education institutions for African Americans, career advancement is also constrained from middle to senior level positions with substantial disparities existing in mobility patterns between men and women (Ross & Green, 1990; Ross, Green, & Henderson, 1993; Carter & Wilson, 1997; Wilson, 1989b). Earlier, Moore (1983, 1984, 1988) as well as Moore & Twombly (1990) surmised that while ethnic minorities and women had made gains, they were confined to a narrow range of positions and institutions. …

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