There are only 25 black female professors in the UK, making up 0.1 percent of all professors. A pervasive culture of bullying and stereotyping at UK universities is blocking the professorial paths for black female academics, a report has warned. The minority group has to work harder and employ mentally draining strategies at speed to try to prove themselves, according to research from the University and College Union (UCU). In one case, a black female professor who had done a great deal of preparation for an academic meeting was still introduced by a senior white colleague as a “student representative”.
Meanwhile, others have been directly told: “I do not know why you are here. And why you expect to be able to achieve and progress?” according to the author of the report. There are only 25 black female professors in the UK – which make up just 0.1 percent of all professors, compared to white men who represent nearly two-thirds of professors. The report, which includes interviews of 20 of the 25, details the women’s experiences of explicit and passive bullying, as well as clumsy stereotyping. Dr. Nicola Rollock, who carried out the research for the UCU, told The Independent: “Bullying and stereotyping were commonplace in terms of their experiences.
“One woman spoke of putting her hand up for half an hour in a meeting but she was ignored by the white male chair of that meeting. “Respondents gave the example of being bypassed by white female colleagues for the same level role despite the fact their white female colleagues had fewer qualifications and fewer experiences. “The only explanation to their minds is that race plays a factor in those judgments.”
Dr Rollock added: “That these black female academics have reached professorship despite their experiences of racism, bullying and lack of support reflects their talent and sheer determination to succeed. Ambition should not be thwarted by discrimination.” Universities need to overhaul their promotion structures to ensure there is genuine equality of opportunity for black female professors, as well as providing more support, the UCU says.
Matt Waddup, head of policy at UCU, said: “This report tells of a higher education system that is plagued by bullying and stereotyping, and forces black women to develop strategies just to cope. “They don’t feel they can be themselves, yet also feel forced into the role of stereotype and role model.” The research comes just days after the government announced that universities will have to publish information on what they are doing to tackle ethnic disparity. They will also be held to account on how they improve outcomes for underrepresented students, including those from ethnic minorities.
A Universities UK spokesperson said: “We agree that much more needs to be done to enhance the ethnic diversity within the university academic community.” They added the Universities UK was working with the organization Advance HE to improve the experiences of ethnic minority staff and students. The spokesperson continued: “One incident of hate crime is one too many and universities remain committed to ending these negative attitudes and practices and ensuring all institutions are welcoming and inclusive places.”