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Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors

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Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors

  • Date11 March 2020

The exhibition, Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors, features portraits of 40 professors across a broad range of subjects including law, medicine, creative writing and sociology.

Phenomenal Women

Professor Gloria Agyemang and Professor Lynette Goddard

Royal Holloway’s Professor Gloria Agyemang, Head of School of Management, and Professor Lynette Goddard, Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance, are both featured in the exhibition.

The exhibition was researched and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, Reader in Equity & Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, who has been examining the career experiences and strategies of black female professors at UK higher education establishments over the past three years.

Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors, aims to highlight the presence and excellence of all the women included and provide a platform for debate about what it takes to reach this highest level of academic scholarship. The 40 women have all been professors at some point over the past three years.

The project builds on Dr Rollock’s 2019 research which showed the barriers faced by black women as they worked to navigate their way through higher education and the strategies they used to help them reach professorship.

Fewer than 1% of professors in the UK are black despite increases in overall levels of academic staff.

Black women represent the smallest group when both race and gender and considered together. They are three times less likely to be professors than their white female counterparts and half as likely as black men.

There are 19,285* professors in UK universities in total according to a 2019 report by AdvanceHE. 12,795 are white males, 4,560 are white women. There are 90 black men and 35 black women.

Dr Rollock said: “I want Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors, to challenge perceptions of what a professor looks like, to highlight the intersectionality of race and gender and to showcase the achievements of this under-represented group of academics. As a relatively invisible and unknown entity, these women stand out in their respective fields.” 

She added: “The sector is failing black women and needs to be purposeful and explicit in its efforts to retain and promote them.”

The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight OBE, who travelled across England and Wales to capture the images.

The exhibition will be at London's City Hall from 18 March until the end of the month. Find out more.

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