Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Sociologist Tracey Reynolds began her academic career at London South Bank University after completing her PhD at the University of Greenwich. After nearly two decades at LSBU, where she was most recently acting head of the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, she has returned to Greenwich to take up a chair in social sciences. As a black, female professor, she is part of a tiny cohort. There are fewer than 100 black professors in the UK, and fewer than 20 of those are women

Where and when were you born?

Tooting in South London in the early 1970s.

How has this shaped you?

Tooting was working-class but a very multicultural area, and so from a young age I mixed with people from many different ethnicities and cultural groups. It gave me a natural curiosity about understanding differences between people and embracing these differences.

As a black, female professor you are in a particularly distinct minority within the academy. Do you hope to use your position to inspire others from these groups?

Yes, by mentoring and offering support to other black female scholars coming up through the academy, which I do a lot of and am happy to do. But also, on a more obvious note, by just being visible so that these female scholars can see that you don't have to be white, male and from a middle-class background to become a professor.

Why are there so few black and female professors in the UK, and what needs to be done?

We often talk about the glass ceiling for women in the workplace, but for black women we are faced with the concrete ceiling, and our day-to-day work can become a test of resilience against the oftentimes subtle discrimination and unspoken prejudices we encounter within the academy. Black female scholars disproportionately end up on short-term teaching and research contracts, overloaded with administrative duties with fewer promotion opportunities or routes to develop their research careers. Many of the black female peers I started out with when doing my PhD have left the academy out of sheer frustration that, despite having a proven track record, they are still unable to secure a full-time permanent contract, much less career progression and enhancement. The first step is that university institutions need to acknowledge that there is a problem, and at the very senior executive level there needs to be a clear commitment, through policy and action, to tackling the issue rather than shying away from it.

Adopting diversity quotas for senior academic position shortlists has been mooted. …

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