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Inside the ivory tower


black women in UK academia, collection, new book, Dr Deborah Gabriel, “I am frequently asked why so few women of colour hold leadership roles in academia – the answers lie in this book.”

The long awaited collection of autoethnographies documenting the subtle but impactful ways that women of colour experience race and gender inequalities in British academia has now been published.

The book, ‘Inside the Ivory Tower: Narratives of Women of Colour Surviving and Thriving in British Academia’, places the perspectives, experiences and career trajectories of women of colour in British academia at the centre of analysis, positioning academia as a space dominated by whiteness and patriarchy where women of colour must develop strategies for survival and success.

It explores how the experiences of the contributors are shaped by race and gender and how racism manifests in day to day experiences in the academe, from subtle microagressions to overt racialised and gendered abuse.

Presented as a selection of autoethnographies, each chapter touches on common themes such as invisibility, hypervisibility, exclusion and belonging, highlighting intersectional experiences.

The book started as a research project developed by the founder of ‘Black British Academics‘, Dr Deborah Gabriel in 2014, as a project to link several aims of the Black Sister Network – a group within Black British Academics which aims to empower women of colour in academia through solidarity and collective activism.

The collection has been edited by Dr Gabriel, who is Senior Lecturer in Politics, Media and Communication at Bournemouth University, and Professor Shirley Anne Tate, Professor of Race and Education in the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Beckett University.

It features powerful testimonies from the contributors: Professor Claudia Bernard, Professor of Social Work and Postgraduate Research, Goldsmiths University; Dr Jenny Douglas, Senior Lecturer In Health Promotion at The Open University; Dr Ima Jackson, Lecturer in the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University; Dr Josephine Kwhali, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University; Professor Heidi Mirza, Professor of Race, Faith and Culture at Goldsmith College, University of London; Dr Elizabeth Opara, Head of the Department of Applied & Human Sciences at Kingston University; Aisha Richards Associate Lecturer in Art and Design at the University of the Arts London; and founder and director of Shades of Noir; and Dr Marcia Wilson, Head of the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, University of East London.

Commenting on the book, Dr Gabriel said: “I am both humbled and inspired by all the women who contributed to this book.

“It has been a challenging but rewarding journey – both in terms of reliving painful experiences and empowering ourselves in the process.

“I am frequently asked why so few women of colour hold leadership roles in academia – the answers lie in this book,” she continued.

“Instead of focusing on mentoring and leadership courses – as if the problems lie with us – the sector should start by looking at the White privilege that lies at the heart of raced and gendered inequalities.

“Our book goes a long way to uncovering the hidden and ignored experiences that contributes to our marginalised status – but also highlights the amazing contributions women of colour make to the academy that goes largely unacknowledged and unrewarded.

“I sincerely hope that this books helps readers of all backgrounds to develop a nuanced understanding and critical consciousness of raced and gendered inequality as a starting point for meaningful change.”

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