In higher education, despite having equivalent credentials, women of color are less likely to be granted tenure, hired for a tenure track position, or promoted as a full professor, chair or dean, than their white counterparts. The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an interactive demographic breakdown of minority professor statistics from more than 400,000 professors at 1,500 colleges.
Recognizing these disparities, a national organizations called such as the Faculty Women of Color in the academy and local organizations such as USI’s Women of Color in the Academy (WOCA) were formed to promote the development and advancement of women of color in academia, and advocate for institutional change. The term “women of color” originated during the 1977 National Women’s Conference and is a mark of solidarity for social justice for women of various ethnic, minority backgrounds.
From subtle micro-aggressions to blatant, harmful remarks or actions, women of color maneuver in environments that often make them feel stigmatized and inferior. “It’s sad when you are made to feel ashamed of your differences, or when you feel talked over or ignored,” said Dr. Veronica Huggins assistant professor of social work. “It caps your growth and creativity.”
While recruiting diverse faculty, staff and students is often at the top of the agenda for universities, retaining them through support, programs and advancement opportunities is where many fall short.
This fall, WOCA at USI was developed with Dr. Sakina Hughes, assistant professor of history serving as president, and Dr. Phoneshia Wells, assistant professor of health services, serving as vice president. The group is open to faculty at all levels, as well as staff and graduate students who are women of color.
Hughes was inspired during the national Faculty Women of Color in the Academy conference where women of color shared stories similar to her own. “There were tears of recognition and of joy. There was so much emotion and excitement at this conference,” she said. “There were women of color, of all ethnicities, from different countries and all different backgrounds. There was a dynamic feeling that we wanted to bring something back to USI.”
The goals of USI WOCA are to create dialogue about issues facing minority women on college campuses and to develop solutions, provide a safe and supportive space, foster collaborations and disseminate information to the USI community through events, lectures and meetings. “I’m very motivated to help bring diversity to our campus,” said Hughes. “This is an opportunity to not only bring diversity, but also to provide role models for our minority populations.”
“Having WOCA on campus is an important gesture,” said Dr. Stephanie Young, interim director of gender studies and associate professor of communication studies. “Our students see it as something USI is doing to support and value them.”
WOCA invites all of the campus community to attend their upcoming Allies Meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19 in University Center, Room 2207. Enjoy appetizers while learning more about WOCA and how you can support their efforts to help diversity grow and flourish on the USI campus.
For more information about WOCA and upcoming events, contact Dr. Sakina Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-465-1224.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia
From left to right: Pam Hopson, Xavia Harrington, Dr. Sakina Hughes, Dr. Stephanie Young, Dr. Veronica Huggins, Dr. Phoneshia Wells, Candace Fairer and Kerseclia Patterson