Inside the Ivory Tower: Women’s Self-Empowerment and Leadership through the Black Sister Network

Authors: Gabriel, D.

Start date: 30 July 2016

In the past decade, studies have documented racial inequalities in British higher education in relation to the recruitment and progression of academic and non-academic staff from racialised minority backgrounds. However, the absence of an intersectional approach results in lack of understanding on the specific ways that race and gender shapes the experiences and career outcomes of women of colour. The handful of small-scale studies on minority women (by minority women) represents dedicated academics seizing limited opportunities to raise awareness.

Black Sister Network is a dedicated community for women of colour that forms part of Black British Academics, an independent organisation led by people of colour to address racial inequalities in British higher education. This paper discusses a collaborative research project designed as a strategy to overcome exclusion and marginalisation by undertaking critical research that gives voice to raced and gendered experiences through powerful counter-narratives. By building on past studies by minority women, Black Sister Network is helping to maintain the tradition among women of colour to take leadership on issues around race and gender. By sharing their experiences, challenges and successes, this research can aid other women of colour in navigating raced and gendered spaces in academia. In establishing a dedicated community for women of colour in British Higher Education, Black Sister Network plays a key role in building solidarity, promoting collective activism and self-empowerment.

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