As student populations become more diverse in higher education, a push to diversify our pool of educators is necessary to support an agenda of equity and inclusion. Alongside the push for educators’ representational diversity is a need for continued resources and support for educational developers as they work to improve teaching and learning practices. However, current faculty demographics demonstrate a lack in faculty diversity. As of 2016, Black women occupied less than 3% of all faculty positions at bachelor’s degree–granting institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.). The lack of Black women faculty representation is troubling given the impact faculty of color have on diverse student engagement (Umbach, 2006; Zambrana et al., 2015). Considering the pivotal role that Black women can serve in academia, it is necessary for institutional stakeholders to better understand how to recruit, develop, and retain them as faculty members in order for their perspectives to be integrated into educational development processes and practices.

Black women’s trajectory in academia has been fraught with oppression and discrimination given their multiple minority statuses. While research on race (e.g., Diggs et al., 2009; Stanley, 2006; Turner et al., 2008) and gender (e.g., Kosoko-Lasaki et al., 2006; Maranto & Griffin, 2011; Marschke et al., 2007) are common, looking specifically at the intersections of both is less frequent in higher education scholarship. This type of examination is necessary as the experiences of Black women are unique, based on both their race and gender as well as other marginalized identities they may hold (Crenshaw, 1989; Griffin, 2016; Niemann, 2011). However, both educational development scholarship and practices tend to only focus on either Black faculty or women of color faculty without particular attention to Black women faculty (e.g., Moore, 2017; Pittman, 2010). Only examining Black faculty’s or women of color faculty’s experiences can mask specific information needed to understand who Black women faculty are, where they are, and what they value in their faculty roles. Gaining more insight about Black women faculty creates opportunities for educational developers to design more targeted resources and support for them as they navigate their teaching and learning practices in academia. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to center Black women faculty experiences in the United States through critical race feminism (CRF) in order to continue learning about why Black women faculty and their perspectives are important when educational developers consider teaching and learning improvements.

Literature Review

Although research on faculty experiences exists, a dearth of literature is focused on Black women faculty using quantitative data. Much of the quantitative research conducted on faculty, including Black women, takes a comparative approach to understanding faculty experiences by demographic characteristics (i.e., Allen et al., 2000; Guarino & Borden, 2017; Thomas & Hollenshead, 2001). Qualitative studies centering Black women faculty highlight numerous experiences, including distribution of work, campus climate, and navigating issues of diversity (Griffin et al., 2011; Warren-Gordon & Mayes, 2017). Through an autoethnography, Warren-Gordon and Mayes (2017) explored Black women’s experiences with balancing service, teaching, and research, as well as navigating a social justice curriculum to a majority White audience at predominately White institutions (PWIs). Furthermore, Griffin et al. (2011) found that in order to combat racist environments, Black faculty, including women, look to disprove stereotypes, engage in service, and develop informal networks of support. The following sections expand on these facets of Black women faculty’s experiences.

Institutional Context

Institutional type and institutional culture are integral in understanding how Black women faculty experience the academy. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) provide an avenue of advancement for Black women pursuing careers in academia. There is potential value and opportunity at HBCUs because Black women should not have to contend with the double bind status of race and gender, among other potential marginalized identities (Davis & Brown, 2017). One example that exemplifies the value of HBCUs for Black women is how the gender pay gap between men and women at HBCUs is smaller compared to PWIs (Renzulli et al., 2006). However, although opportunities exist, there are still gendered power dynamics that Black women navigate to be successful in their respective fields (e.g., Davis & Brown, 2017; Gasman, 2007). Almost half of Black women faculty respondents at an HBCU in Atlanta cited discrimination incidents based on their gender (Bonner, 1992, as cited in Bonner, 2001). Black women faculty respondents also felt they were denied opportunities because a male was preferred (Bonner, 2001). Ricks (2012) affirms negative gendered experiences by Black women faculty, as one Black woman faculty shared that her hopes for support while teaching at an HBCU were not met. While barriers exist for Black women faculty at HBCUs, it is important to recognize that the climate at PWIs fares no better.

The available research on Black women’s experiences navigating the academy at PWIs is greater than that on their experiences at HBCUs. Harley (2008) stated that PWI climates for Black faculty, particularly Black women, are chilly and hostile. Hostile climates cultivated at PWIs are created through experiences of racial microaggressions (Kelly et al., 2017; Louis et al., 2016), social isolation, tokenization of Black faculty on committees (Edwards & Ross, 2018), and the devaluing of Black faculty’s research (Edwards & Ross, 2018; Harley, 2008). Perceptions of how Black women are viewed in academia are outside of their control and are influenced by both internal and external factors, such as dominant and stereotypical narratives of the role and responsibilities Black women should hold in society (Harley, 2008). The stress faced by Black women in predominantly White spaces has lasting impacts, as a lack of critical mass and feelings of isolation compounded by racism and sexism in the academy mean Black women continually face an uphill battle in representation and belongingness (Henry & Glenn, 2009).

Through in-depth interviews with 14 Black women faculty, Sulé (2009) found three critical enactments named by Black women to self-define their career success at PWIs. Participants shared that they centered issues of race and gender and used their access to different spaces inside and outside the institution to talk about these issues. In addition, Black women faculty worked to uplift others in their academic journey, including students and people of color outside the institution. Lastly, participants shared that while they were required or chose to follow a certain protocol, they were also intentional about creating their own paths that aligned with their own values. After reviewing literature on Black women in the academy, Harley (2008) provided four strategies for Black women faculty to succeed in the field and cope with stressors: accept that Black women cannot be all things to all people; practice self-validation, which sometimes may be the only source of acknowledgment received; recognize and learn to navigate the institutional culture; and maintain mental, spiritual, and physical health. Information gathered from these researchers is important for educational developers to further understand how Black women faculty navigate constant barriers at PWIs in the academy.

Evaluation in the Academy: Teaching, Service, and Research

Multiple factors influence tenure and promotion processes for faculty, including the expected workload of teaching, research, and service. However, some faculty see tensions between the workload components (Greene et al., 2008). Faculty who take on or are assigned higher service loads conduct less work in research and teaching areas (Guarino & Borden, 2017), whereas new faculty spend significantly more time on teaching with the understanding that research is more important in tenure and promotion decisions (Greene et al., 2008). These tensions are also perceived based on institutional type, as faculty at research-intensive institutions reported discrepancies in research and workload expectations at their institutions (Greene et al., 2008). These inconsistencies are more pronounced for Black women faculty through inequitable assignments and rewards for different faculty workload components (Misra et al., 2021; O’Meara et al., 2019). The teaching and service loads of Black women faculty are higher than their research load (e.g., Evans & Cokley, 2008). Their heavy teaching and mentorship load is compared to that of child-rearing, in that they are expected to carry the brunt of caring for and teaching students (Harley, 2008; Haynes et al., 2020). As one faculty member shared, service is viewed as a catch-all that Black women disproportionately take on even though it is not typically valued as teaching and research are in the tenure process (Griffin, 2013; Misra et al., 2021).

Black women faculty’s heavy teaching and service loads are troubling and misaligned with institutional expectations. Similar to faculty in the Greene et al. (2008) study, Black women faculty acknowledged how much emphasis institutions place on research even though they perceived a larger emphasis on teaching evaluations in consideration for tenure and promotion (Griffin et al., 2013). One Black woman faculty member discussed how one negative teaching evaluation led to her initial denial for tenure (Griffin et al., 2013). The teaching evaluation narrative in Griffin et al. (2013) is not an isolated incident, as racism is frequently found in Black women faculty’s teaching evaluations (Chambers, 2011–2012; Wallace et al., 2019). The discrepancies between what Black women faculty are expected to take on, what institutions value, and what is evaluated in tenure and promotion make faculty life difficult to navigate for Black women and further marginalize them within the academy (Patitu & Hinton, 2003).

Even though Black women faculty carry higher teaching loads, Black women’s value as teachers is varied. Higher education continues to push the need for faculty to integrate equity-minded and inclusive teaching practices into college classrooms (Dewsbury & Brame, 2019; Schmid et al., 2016; Tuitt et al., 2018). Black faculty are shown to be among other racially minoritized faculty who emphasize inclusive teaching practices in their classrooms (Ribera et al., 2018), and Black women faculty are likely to encourage their students to engage in civic engagement and incorporate service-learning in their classrooms (Wheatle & BrckaLorenz, 2015). However, Black women faculty’s pedagogical practices are often politicized and othered (Perlow et al., 2014). They are perceived as biased, and their teaching is taken less seriously when they teach on race and gender-based concepts (Perlow et al., 2014). Black women faculty frequently face barriers to being accepted and viewed as intellectual equals (Haynes et al., 2020; Perlow et al., 2014), and perceptions of their intellect impact how valued they become in the academy.

While much of the literature examines Black women’s experiences in the early stages of their career (e.g., Jones & Osborne-Lampkin, 2013; Montgomery et al., 2014) or working toward tenure, Croom and Patton (2011–2012) utilized critical race theory and critical feminism to examine Black women and full professorship. Acknowledging the hierarchical structure of faculty ranks, they posit that the higher education system is deeply rooted in racism and sexism due to its creation by and for White men. Instead of looking to Black women to fall in line with the current system, it is time to reimagine a tenure system that is inclusive of culture and identity. Educational developers become crucial at this step because they can uplift Black women faculty’s perspectives to combat the systemic inequities that further marginalize them from higher education. As teaching and learning improvements develop, educational developers could become Black women faculty’s biggest supporters by advocating for their insights and values to be integrated into how all faculty perform in research, teaching, and service areas. More educators advocating for what Black women faculty bring to the academy can hopefully demonstrate why the implementation of their values improves the academy. Therefore, knowing how Black women faculty spend their time and what they value in student experiences is important knowledge for educational developers to better promote the perspectives of Black women faculty.

Benefits of Black Women Faculty

While much of the previous literature highlights the oppressive system faced by Black women faculty and the obstacles that must be overcome to achieve both academic success and personal well-being, several researchers highlight the benefits that Black women faculty bring to higher education as well as tools and resources that can be utilized to combat oppressive systems. Although they are challenged in the classroom, Black women faculty’s presence and practices are beneficial for student engagement and retention. Black women faculty are viewed as integral for racially minoritized students’ institutional retention (Chambers, 2011–2012; Patitu & Hinton, 2003). More specifically in STEM disciplines, Black women faculty are important role models to same-gender students’ academic success (Mack et al., 2011). In a case study of tenured Black women faculty at Michigan State University, Smith (2003) found that Black women felt that when more Black women faculty and staff were hired, the campus climate improved. The institution held more cultural events with Black performers, and the research produced by the faculty hired centered the range of Black people’s experiences (Smith, 2003). Not only are Black women faculty influential to students and campus climate, but they also bring important perspectives that other faculty members could adopt. Their emphasis on social justice concepts in the classroom guides them to sustain community within the academic environments they occupy (Hill-Brisbane, 2005). One way they facilitated community is through creating transformative spaces that promote other women of color’s scholarship (Brown-Glaude, 2010). The inclusion of more diverse scholarship furthers the argument for the necessity of Black women faculty’s presence in higher education.

Enriching the Current Literature

The current literature on Black women faculty, particularly the contributions from Black women, has helped to shape the narrative of navigating academia as a Black woman. Although these contributions are vital, there are several areas within the literature that the current study hopes to contribute. Traditionally in education, qualitative methods are seen as best to provide space for counternarratives and storytelling compared to quantitative methods. Much of the literature is qualitative in nature (e.g., Griffin et al., 2013; Mawhinney, 2011–2012; Perlow et al., 2014), providing a rich analysis of the experiences and phenomena of Black women scholars. Due to the qualitative approach, the current studies also have focused on smaller populations (i.e., Griffin, 2016; León & Thomas, 2016). Quantitative studies focused on faculty experiences often aggregate Black experiences into racial minority experiences, due to the reliance on large numbers and between-group comparative analyses (Griffin, 2019; Lawrence et al., 2014; Reid, 2010). These research approaches can continue to normalize Whiteness and maleness while othering Black women.

Therefore, the current study aims to move beyond these approaches by contributing an examination of descriptive information and withingroup comparative analyses to examine and center Black women faculty experiences. The current study addresses who these Black women faculty are, where they are located, how they spend their time in their faculty positions, and what they value. There is a need to continue adding information to previous research centering intersecting experiences of Black women faculty, especially using a large-scale, multi-institutional data set to continue discovering how Black women faculty are supported. Furthermore, at the practical level, there is also a continued need to understand what role educational developers play in creating space to value Black women faculty and what they have to offer academia.

Positionality Statement

We are higher education scholars, composed of early career scholars one year removed from graduate school and a faculty member, who identify as a group of women interested in highlighting the stories of Black women faculty in higher education. It is important to acknowledge that none of us identify as Black women faculty. We are all outsiders of the intersecting identity, and we are aware that this means we cannot fully understand or relate to the experiences of Black women faculty. Two of us, however, identify as Black women postdoctoral researchers with aspirations to become faculty members, and the opportunity to understand current Black women faculty experiences is encouraging to offer space to a population we hope to join. In our data analysis, we found the representation of Black women in faculty ranks disheartening, as the possibilities of becoming faculty after degree attainment appear slim. Exploring the experiences of Black women faculty created opportunities of reflection for the Black women graduate students to manage expectations of their future careers.

Beyond how our identities connect to the sample, two of us have a qualitative background with a focus on feminist research methodologies, which led to the incorporation of CRF as the framework. Two of us have a strong quantitative background, with experience in researching small populations. Having previous experience working with smaller populations made us aware of different approaches to analyzing data. The researchers set out to be intentional about focusing solely on Black women faculty without a comparison group to center the narrative of these women, add to the literature, and provide an example of using critical quantitative methodology. We worked collaboratively, playing on the strengths of each member to best explore the data. We consistently checked in with one another to ensure our research approach is collectively understood. We acknowledge that a group bias occurred in data analysis because of the group’s care for Black women faculty. In the examination of the data, we challenged ourselves to extract a story using quantitative methods, and there were no expectations to fulfill all inquiries into Black women faculty in higher education research. Rather, we intended to proceed with care and intention with our methods and theoretical framework.

Theoretical Framework

CRF developed from the work of critical legal studies, critical race theory (CRT), and feminist scholarship. CRT is an intellectual movement introduced through legal studies and formed because of the frustrations Derrick Bell and Alan Freeman had about the stagnant nature of civil rights strategies (Stefancic & Delgado, 2000). Their frustrations and scholarly work set the tone for emerging legal scholars to create a space to engage in critical race studies within law. CRT laid a necessary foundation but does not quite provide the tools to analyze the experiences and challenges facing women of color.

CRF developed from critiques of CRT, stating that CRT essentialized gender based on the male racial experience. CRT and CRF overlap with a focus on race and racism as normalized and ordinary, counter storytelling, and intersectionality. However, CRF is a branch of CRT that intersects CRT (missing women) with feminist legal studies (women of color).

Critical race feminists expose how various factors, such as race, gender, and class, interact within a system of White male patriarchy and racist oppression to make the life experiences of women of color distinct from those of men of color and white women. (Onwuachi-Willig, 2006, p. 736)

Moreover, CRF aims to bridge theory and practice because it is not enough to theorize about experiences when change is necessary. Similarly to CRT, CRF is guided by tenets, including the specific tenets that frame this study: racism is essentialized and embedded in our society (Bell, 1992; DeCuir & Dixson, 2004), there is value in the experiential knowledge of marginalized people (Yosso, 2006), dominant paradigms must be challenged (Solórzano et al., 2002), and intersectionality shapes the experiences of women of color (Crenshaw, 1989). These tenets help orient our knowledge about the oppressive systems that marginalize Black women faculty in higher education.

In this study, CRF provides the avenue to center the experiences of Black women faculty and grounds our attempts to learn more about how to change their current experiences in higher education. The tenet that racism is embedded in our society aids in our investigation of critiquing systems of oppression as they shape the experiences of the Black women in this study. The intersectionality tenet pushes us away from essentializing the experiences of only Black faculty and only women faculty to elevate Black women faculty experiences. Understanding the intersectional needs of Black women, our method and analysis only include Black women faculty. The tenet regarding dominant paradigms helps us recognize that all Black women faculty do not have the same experience and motivated the within-group examinations in the study. Through the within-group examinations, more nuanced understanding of their experiences was uncovered in order to provide more tailored discussions about Black women faculty.

Data Sources and Method

To examine Black women faculty experiences, a secondary data analysis was conducted with data from the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) 2014–2020 administrations. FSSE, a complementary survey to the National Survey of Student Engagement, asks faculty about their use of educational practices that are linked with student learning and development. More specifically, questions asked faculty about their perceptions of student experiences and interactions, approaches to teaching, faculty development and supportive environments, along with demographic information. Between 2014 and 2020, FSSE was administered to 1,887 Black women faculty at 363 4-year institutions. In our exploration of the experiences of Black women faculty, we focused on examining descriptive statistics and relationships among demographic information. The use of non-comparative methodology in the current study aligns with CRF, as we aimed to intentionally highlight the experiences of Black women faculty.


Who They Are

Among the 1,887 Black women faculty respondents, approximately 31% identified as adjunct faculty members, 27% as assistant professors, 19% as associate professors, and 23% as instructors. About 44% of Black women faculty respondents were not in tenure-track faculty positions but were employed at institutions that have tenure systems, while only 18% reported being tenured. About 46% of Black women faculty respondents were employed at minority-serving institutions, with 32.4% at HBCUs.

Approximately 47% of Black women faculty respondents were at master’s colleges and universities, with about 31% of Black women faculty having between 10 and 19 years of teaching experience. The top academic disciplines reported by Black women faculty respondents were Health Professions (17%), Education (15.6%), Arts & Humanities (13.8%), and Social Sciences (13.6%). More demographic details can be found in Table 1.

Table 1.

Selected Black Women Faculty Characteristics

FSSE data
Rank Professor 14.0
Associate Professor 19.3
Assistant Professor 27.0
Instructor 22.5
Lecturer 8.7
Adjunct No 68.4
Yes 31.6
Tenure No tenure at institution 15.0
Not on tenure track, but institution has tenure system 43.5
On tenure track but not tenured 18.2
Tenured 23.4
Institution type Doctoral universities 36.2
Master’s colleges and universities 47.1
Baccalaureate colleges 13.1
Academic department Arts & Humanities 13.8
Biological Sciences, Agriculture & Natural Resources 4.0
Physical Sciences, Mathematics & Computer Sciences 3.9
Social Sciences 13.6
Business 8.2
Communications, Media & Public Relations 3.9
Education 15.6
Engineering 1.5
Health Professions 17.3
Social Service Professions 8.9
Other disciplines 9.4
Years teaching 4 or less 21.8
5–9 21.7
10–19 31.4
20–29 16.5
30 or more 8.5

How They Spend Their Time

On average, Black women faculty spent an average of 13 to 16 hours per week on teaching activities, such as prepping class materials, class sessions, grading, etc. (M=5.34, SD=1.93), while they spent on average five to eight hours per week on advising duties (M=2.98, SD=1.58). Additionally, Black women faculty spent on average five to eight hours per week on research or scholarly activities (M=3.29, SD=1.68) and five to eight hours on average on service activities, which included committees and administrative duties (M=3.39, SD=1.86). Approximately 30% reported working with undergraduate students on research, and 33% reported supervising undergraduate internships or other related experiences, while about 21% reported including community-based projects in most or all of their undergraduate courses. More information can be found in Table 2.

Table 2.

Chi-Square Statistics for Differences in Disciplinary Area, Rank, and Tenure by Institution Type

Standardized residual χ2, p, n(df)
Discipline Arts & Humanities −1.1 1.1 χ2=15.94
Biological Sciences, Agriculture & Natural Resources −2.5 2.5 1,815(10)
Physical Sciences, Mathematics & Computer Sciences −0.9 0.9
Social Sciences 2.1 −2.1
Business 1.2 −1.2
Communications, Media & Public Relations 0.7 −0.7
Education 0.8 −0.8
Engineering −1.0 1.0
Health Professions −0.2 0.2
Social Service Professions −0.8 0.8
Other disciplines −0.1 0.1 χ2=33.70***
Rank Professor 0.4 −0.4 1,828(6)
Associate Professor −2.4 2.4
Assistant Professor −2.9 2.9
Instructor 1.5 −1.5
Lecturer 3.3 −3.3
Tenure No tenure system 5.3 −5.3 χ2=53.06***
Not on tenure track 2.8 −2.8 1,786(3)
Tenure track −3.7 3.7
Tenured −4.1 4.1
  • ***p value < .001

What They Value

Black women faculty respondents were asked about their perceptions on various student experiences and teaching practices. Black women faculty perceived internship experiences (75%), capstone or senior experiences (62%), and community-based projects (48%) to be Very Important, whereas only 20% perceived study abroad experiences as Very Important. For teaching practices, approximately 63% of respondents reported using a variety of teaching techniques to accommodate diversity, and 64% reported high importance for incorporating diverse perspectives in course discussions and assignments. There were about 68.5% of respondents who reported high importance for students examining strengths and weaknesses of their own views on issues, and 77% reported high importance on students connecting ideas from their courses to prior experiences and knowledge.

Black Women Representation: Chi-Squares

A series of chi-square analyses were conducted to examine associations between demographic information for Black women faculty. Adjusted residuals (AR) were used to analyze notable differences in chi-square analyses. An AR less than −2 or greater than 2 was considered a notable difference in our analyses (Agresti & Finlay, 1997). There was significant association found between tenure status and institution type (χ23,1786=53.06, p<.01). Black women faculty were underrepresented at HBCUs that did not have tenure systems (AR=5.3) and at HBCUs where they were not on the tenure track (AR=2.8) while being overrepresented at HBCUs in tenure-track (AR=3.7) and in tenured (AR=4.1) positions. There was also a significant association found between rank and institution type (χ26,1828=33.70, p<.01). At HBCUs, Black women faculty were overrepresented in associate professor (AR=2.4) and assistant professor positions (AR=2.9) while being overrepresented as lecturers at non-HBCUs (AR=3.3). There was a significant association found in discipline and tenure status (χ230,1809=63.71, p<.01). Black women faculty were overrepresented in Business at institutions with no tenure systems (AR=3.9) and tenured in Biological Sciences, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (AR=2.0) while being underrepresented in non-tenure-track positions in Social Sciences (AR=2.4). More chi-square results can be found in Table 3.

Table 3.

Chi-Square Statistics for Differences in Disciplinary Area by Tenure Status

Standardized residual χ2, p, n(df)
No tenure system Not on tenure track Tenure track Tenured
Discipline Arts & Humanities −0.7 −0.5 0.0 1.2 χ2=63.71***
Biological Sciences, Agriculture & Natural Resources −0.6 −1.3 −0.1 2.0 1,809(30)
Physical Sciences, Mathematics & computer Sciences −0.2 −0.6 −0.1 0.9
Social Sciences 0.1 −2.4 0.7 2.1
Business 3.9 −0.2 −1.3 −1.9
Communications, Media & Public Relations −1.2 1.2 −1.2 0.7
Education 0.6 −0.3 −0.7 0.5
Engineering −0.6 −0.8 0.4 1.1
Health Professions −1.8 0.2 2.4 −1.0
Social Service Professions −0.2 0.2 1.0 −0.9
Other disciplines 0.5 4.2 −2.0 −3.5
  • ***p value < .001.


Institutions self-select to participate in FSSE, and those institutions are able to select which departments and faculty receive the survey. The FSSE administration process of self-selection may produce biases based on which institutions choose to administer the survey to their faculty. Additionally, for 2020, the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic took place during the FSSE administration and therefore may have had a slight impact on Black women faculty’s responses during that time period. Although researchers intentionally chose to analyze descriptive statistics and only conduct within-group comparisons due to our critical frameworks (Sablan, 2019), our analyses do little to understand Black women faculty perceptions and motivations regarding their current positions, what they value, and how they spend their time. Referring back to our positionality statement, the women who made up the research group interpreted the findings in ways that may be different from other interpretations and that should be taken into consideration. Additionally, researchers also understand that other salient identities, such as sexual orientation and (dis)ability, were not disaggregated in the analyses and should be taken into consideration in future analyses. We are aware of the more critical lens that CRF calls for in researching intersectional identities, and the current study is a step in the direction of more critical quantitative analysis of Black women faculty and their experiences in higher education. Lastly, previous research has indicated that Black women’s hesitancy to share on certain topics is due to skepticism of the confidentiality process (Bonner, 2001). As we look at our results and discussion, we recognize the importance of putting our findings in conversation with other scholarship and research on Black women in the academy.


It is a natural reaction for researchers and readers of quantitative work to situate their thinking in terms of comparisons. Readers may look at the findings here and wonder, “But how does that compare to other faculty?” or “But is that normal?” and we challenge our readers with such questions to reflect on that initial reaction. Qualitative explorations are not held to a standard of comparison in telling the stories of its participants, and we challenged ourselves to do the same. Instead of trying to understand the experiences of Black women faculty by looking at them above, below, or beside other faculty, we aimed to understand them on their own, singularly telling their story without supporting characters. Admittedly, taking a non-comparative stance was an unusual task, and we had little guidance from the field. We hope that this step in broadly understanding the context of Black women faculty opens the door to future large-scale studies and educational development practices that further explore the nuances, perceptions, decisions, and actions of Black women faculty on their own. Guided by CRF, our entire framing of the discussion brings awareness to the inequities that shape the experiences of Black women faculty. Although negative components of their experiences are discussed, we frame their experiences in a manner supported by CRF that does not place blame on Black women for the barriers they face but rather places responsibility on the oppressive structures embedded in the higher education system that they have to navigate.

We wanted to better understand the experiences of Black women faculty by investigating who they were, where they were employed, how they spent their time, and what they valued. Black women faculty were primarily found in non-tenured positions, with 43.5% employed at institutions that have tenure systems. That a large portion of our respondents are in non-tenured positions may not be as surprising considering how few Black women are employed as faculty members across the nation. However, with only 32.4% of this sample being employed at HBCUs, questions arise as to how much HBCUs contribute to the patriarchal norms that are often found at PWIs. HBCUs are continually found to be positive and supportive climates for Black students overall (Cokley, 2000; Outcalt & Skewes-Cox, 2002) but were found to be hostile environments for women faculty members (Renzulli et al., 2006). Although Black women faculty still experienced gender equity issues at HBCUs, they still preferred the HBCU campus climate over climates experienced at PWIs (Renzulli et al., 2006). It is important, however, to celebrate the success of Black women in addition to noting inequities. Despite their underrepresentation within systems that were not created with them in mind, many Black women faculty are finding pathways to success, and their accomplishments are worth recognizing. Finding ways to further support Black women faculty and continuing to remove the barriers they have and continue to face are important goals for higher education.

Regarding discipline, Black women faculty overall were primarily appointed in the social sciences, education, and health profession fields. These three disciplines fit within the current narrative of Black women faculty as caretakers and nurturers of students and communities. It is critical to note, however, that Black women faculty are represented in all the disciplinary areas in this study. Black women faculty are present in all areas of academia, yet this presence often goes unnoticed and uncelebrated. Although their consistent underrepresentation in higher education is unacceptable, we don’t want to focus so heavily on the failures of our academic system that we forget to uplift the voices of the Black women faculty that we have. Educational developers can continue to uplift the voices of the Black women faculty by ensuring that they are included in conversations that impact how students are taught and developed within their respective institutions.

It is also important to recognize that at HBCUs, institutions intended to support and strengthen Black students and faculty, we see Black women faculty more represented in fields such as biological sciences and engineering, even with a non-significant chi-square finding. Perhaps in these spaces, even with gender equity issues, Black women are relatively more encouraged and supported in STEM fields. At non-HBCUs, however, Black women are underrepresented in biological sciences and engineering and overrepresented in social sciences. A series of factors could contribute to Black women faculty being more represented in service-oriented fields compared to STEM fields, including marginalization, hostile racial climate, and limited social capital leading to departure during their pursuit of STEM degrees (Borum & Walker, 2011; Charleston et al., 2014; Leath & Chavous, 2018). However, it bears repeating that HBCUs create a special culture that generally supports Black people. Educational developers seeking strategies to improve Black women faculty’s connections with students and institutional communities at PWIs should be more intentional about examining what works within HBCU environments.

Fairly common narratives exist about the experiences of Black women faculty, including how they are treated as caretakers of both students and their colleagues, are overwhelmed with responsibility for diversity initiatives and training, are underrepresented in both race and gender, and fulfill many roles for which they are not rewarded. In reviewing what the literature knows about Black women faculty, we see a similar story told again and again, and we in no way want to dismiss any of these stories. On the contrary, we hope to strengthen these narratives by broadly focusing on Black women faculty throughout academia, across many institutions, and in all fields. Research on Black women faculty focuses attention on the concept of “othermothering,” or enhanced time supporting students that could be better aligned with fields known for being more nurturing (Mawhinney, 2011–2012; Sawyer-Kurian & Coneal, 2018). Black women faculty once hired find an extra service expectation placed on them to mentor students of color and perform invisible service (Porter et al., 2020). Their extra service is evident in our findings, as Black women spend about as much time with research activity as they do service activities. Although we did not examine how their activities would differ by institution type in relation to Carnegie Classification, this finding points to the need to reexamine the faculty-wide emphasis on research and production over time spent on the development of students, which should be standard regardless of institution type. The current imbalance leaves Black women faculty with guilt over choosing to help their students, sometimes at the detriment of tenure and promotion.

We see the pattern in these stories from the past in our current overview of who Black women faculty are, how they spend their time, and in what they value. We see their stories across different institution types, across all disciplinary fields, and in various aspects of the measures we studied. We hope that our work draws together the individual stories that have been told before, both to broadly show academia that these stories are not isolated to particular institutions, departments, or programs but rampant throughout higher education and to communicate to the Black women faculty throughout the academy that we see them, we hear them, and we support them.

Implications and Future Directions

Research and Assessment

Our study aimed to take a different approach when analyzing descriptive information about Black women faculty. The exclusion of between-group comparisons allowed CRF to guide researchers in their up-close examination of Black women faculty’s journeys and experiences while demonstrating complex analyses are not needed to understand their experiences. Reddick et al. (2020) discussed how we cannot continue assuming that generalized approaches for faculty will adequately apply to Black faculty given their racialized realities. Not only should educational development researchers always consider how systemic inequities factor into the knowledge and experiences of Black women faculty, but disaggregated and intersectional descriptive information can also become extremely valuable to use in multiple ways. For one, educational developers can be more intentional in naming whose perspectives they are pulling from to create resources and support for development. In this way, they create explicit opportunities to vocalize how valuable Black women faculty are to institutional transformations. Another way is through assessment practices by which disaggregated results give more insight into discovering what Black women faculty are doing in and out of their classrooms on specific campuses. Having an idea of who they are, where they are, what they value, and how they spend their time can become a great first step to understanding their experiences. Therefore, increasing knowledge about Black women faculty’s specific experiences is mutually beneficial, as educational developers can better understand how to serve Black women faculty’s needs while hopefully creating spaces where they feel seen and supported in their faculty roles.

Once baseline knowledge is established about Black women faculty and their experiences, more detailed analyses are needed to continue understanding Black women faculty’s specific perceptions of their institutional environments and how institutions can continue to work on increasing support to both attract and retain Black women in the academy. Broadly, it is imperative to consider how Black women faculty experience specific institutional environments, as we see specific types of institutions yield a different sense of belonging. For educational development offices and centers, these perceptions can factor into how much they feel welcomed and supported by educational developers on their campuses. More research and assessment should be conducted to determine how Black women faculty see educational developers contributing to their academic journeys and how well educational development programming aligns with their values based on the results of this study.


Our findings suggest that Black women spend a significant amount of their time teaching and that approximately two-thirds of respondents value diverse perspectives and/or incorporate them into their curricula, which aligns with previous research (Griffin, 2019). However, there tends to be a reliance on Black women, and other faculty of color, to be the spokespeople for these issues in the curriculum even though it can negatively impact their opportunities for advancement (Perlow et al., 2014). Recognizing that students may be resistant to these topics, particularly when addressed by Black women, it is important for educational developers to find ways to release the burden placed on Black women by ensuring that their programming promotes all faculty implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion topics in their pedagogical practices (Tuitt et al., 2018). All faculty, staff, and administrators should support Black women in their work, share responsibility of incorporating diversity and equity concepts in learning environments, and call out campus community members who may be consciously or unconsciously causing harm with their actions.

Educational developers hold a unique position to support Black women faculty to cope with racial and gendered stressors. Harley (2008) points out that Black women faculty cope with the barriers of higher education by focusing on multiple facets of their health and by being self-validating all while navigating their institutions’ cultures. Also, given the information from our findings about what Black women faculty value in educational spaces, educational developers should develop culturally relevant programming that assists Black women faculty in implementing a more holistic approach to their faculty workload. Higher education as a whole must become more aware of the rampant racism and sexism embedded in the culture, and educational developers should always be considering structural oppression as they assist Black women faculty in their practices. When Black women faculty receive help that aligns with who they are and what they aim to accomplish as faculty, it can make the academy less isolating and may improve their retention rates.

An initial glance of these scenarios might also yield thoughts about programming and resources that could help Black women faculty better approach these issues in their classrooms, but, again, more programming and resources that do not consider the combination of racism and sexism will not fix these issues. A suggestion is to create mentorship opportunities and faculty learning communities specifically for Black women to network, grow, and share resources and find support for their faculty practices (Montgomery et al., 2014). This form of targeted programming would be a good example of recognizing the cultural aspects to the development of Black women faculty and providing them with culturally validating support that further affirms that they belong in academia.


In this study, most Black women faculty respondents held positions that do not lead to tenure status. Griffin (2019) noted barriers in the tenure and promotion processes and summarized a few key aspects that impact the number of tenured Black women faculty in the academy:

How the work of women and men of color is judged, experiences with social isolation and a lack of support, and how work allocated are fundamentally shaped by campus climate, the behaviors and biases of students and colleagues, and the racism and sexism inherent in campus structures and systems. (p. 311)

Considering the low number of Black women holding tenured faculty positions in this study and within the larger higher education landscape, there needs to be a shift in the tenure and promotion process, and educational developers should become a part of this conversation. If Black women faculty are spending extra time mentoring, advising, and nurturing students, particularly students of color, it suggests that non–Black women faculty are not doing enough. An area of development for all faculty would be bringing in the communal and caring aspect that Black women faculty already bring to the student experience. This shift of development for all faculty would help lift a heavy burden off of Black women faculty because students would be assured that they can receive the same type of care from multiple faculty members throughout their educational experience. Educational developers helping non–Black women faculty incorporate the values of Black women faculty in their practices may also give institutions the push they need to reevaluate what is considered in tenure and promotion processes. Reshaping the tenure process to include what Black women value challenges Whiteness embedded in the current tenure and promotion structure, which currently upholds systemic barriers that restrict Black women faculty’s access to the coveted professional freedom of tenure. In response to the findings of this study and others’ work conducted on Black women faculty, educational developers can become strong advocates for helping shift tenure and promotion processes because they are more aware of how the current system’s inequities do not acknowledge and value the efforts of Black women faculty.


This study presented a counternarrative of Black women faculty within quantitative higher education research by using CRF to center their experiences and highlight some of their values to identify how educational developers can better support them in their faculty roles. Black women faculty frequently find themselves in a double bind. The multiple minority statuses they hold, including other marginalized identities, impact how they navigate society. The hardships Black women experience in society translate to higher education, as institutions continue to uphold exclusionary practices that reject Black women faculty and what they have to offer. Institutional stakeholders have ample opportunities to acknowledge and accept the experiential knowledge Black women faculty bring to institutional spaces, but tokenizing Black women, using them only as diversity experts and as the voice for all racial/ethnic minoritized issues, is not an adequate method to demonstrate their value. Educational developers and institutions at large are charged to acknowledge Black women faculty’s values and perspectives while creating and sustaining equitable environments that support and uplift them in development and retention and promotion processes.


Christen Priddie, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University. She centers her scholarship on connecting her critical lens to quantitative methods. Her research interests include examining equity and anti-blackness for Black STEM students and Black women’s experiences at multiple levels in higher education.

Dajanae Palmer earned her PhD in Higher Education at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research interests are in examining and uplifting the experiences of graduate students, feminist methodologies, and the use of critical race theory to analyze the systems of domination in higher education. Her dissertation focused on the use of sista circles as a counterspace for Black women doctoral students as they navigate gendered racial microaggressions in the academy.

Samantha Silberstein, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Her research examines students’ co-curricular learning and student affairs pedagogy, Whiteness in higher education, and the role of methodology in learning and liberation.

Allison BrckaLorenz, PhD, is an Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Postsecondary Research. She helps people use data to make improvements on their campuses and uses data to highlight the experiences of traditionally marginalized subpopulations. Her research interests focus on the teaching and learning of college students and the accompanying issues faced by faculty, the socialization of graduate students, and the experiences of small and understudied populations.


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