Promoting the Inclusion of Tenure Earning Black Women in Academe: Lessons for Leaders in Education

By Davis, Dannielle Joy; Reynolds, Rema et al. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Promoting the Inclusion of Tenure Earning Black Women in Academe: Lessons for Leaders in Education


Davis, Dannielle Joy, Reynolds, Rema, Jones, Tamara Bertrand, Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


The recruitment, hiring, and subsequent success of faculty from underrepresented groups, such as African Americans and Hispanics is a significant issue in higher education. Researchers have long identified the factors that contribute to academic and professional success in the academy (e.g., dissertation completion; clear, consistent performance criteria; successful tenure and promotion) and have examined these factors in many institutional and gendered contexts (Johnsrud & DesJarlais, 1994; Phelps, 1995; Ponjuan, Martin Conley, & Trower, 2011; Villalpando & Delgado Bernal, 2002). Consistent evidence has shown that faculty of color have different experiences in comparison to their White counterparts (Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 2004; Johnsrud & DesJarlais, 1994; Ponjuan, Martin Conley, & Trower, 2011; Stanley, 2006, 2007; Thompson & Dey, 1998; Tillman, 2001). For Black female faculty the intersectionality of race coupled with gender issues creates an even more challenging experience (Gregory, 2001; Griffin & Reddick, 2011; Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 2008; Tillman, 2011). Tillman (2001) identified three primary factors that present roadblocks for Black females' successful promotion and tenure: (a) lack of socialization to faculty life, (b) lack of meaningful mentoring, and (c) inability to articulate a viable and sustainable research agenda. These hindrances serve as a framework to view the existing literature related to the challenges Black female faculty face.

Socialization is an important factor in the professional success of early career faculty (Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Johnson, 2002; Lucas & Murry, 2002). Clark and Corcoran (1986) defined socialization as "a mechanism through which new members learn the values, norms, knowledge, beliefs, and the interpersonal and other skills that facilitate role performance and further group goals" (p. 22). Early career faculty often have not received the proper prior training to become productive faculty members (LaRocco & Bruns, 2006; Ortlieb, Biddix, & Doepker, 2010; Reynolds, 1992). Socialization activities for new faculty focus on the discipline-based knowledge and common skills required for academic and professional success. These areas, while important, fail to address many of the unwritten or unstated rules of academic culture that govern the academy (Johnson, 2001; LaRocco & Bruns, 2006; Reynolds, 1992). Successful socialization depends on many factors and often occurs prior to the first academic appointment. Previous exposure to academic culture in graduate school prepares faculty for assessing and evaluating their current (and future) departmental culture.

Understanding the written and unwritten rules of academic life broadly, and departmental politics specifically, can help or hinder early career faculty during the tenure and promotion process. Building upon the already challenging transition from student to professor, Black faculty often also experience isolation and alienation in departments (Johnsrud & DesJarlais, 1994; Phelps, 1995). Unfortunately, females are less likely than males to experience appreciation and support from colleagues (Bronstein & Farnsworth, 1998); while faculty of color receive less social support than White colleagues (Ponjuan, Martin Conley, & Trower, 2011). The lack of support is sometimes a result of conflicting values that govern individual faculty members and the academy at large (Stanley, 2007).

In addition, developing and articulating a viable and sustainable research agenda is an important component of the designation as a scholar and is important to the tenure and promotion process (Boyer, 1990; Tillman, 2001). Clear and consistent criteria guiding the tenure and promotion process ensures that the process remains as "objective" as possible. Despite objectivity those involved in the review often subjectively place value on their colleagues' research. …

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