By Dr. Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey
Major questions need to be raised to identify how African-American women can break through the glass ceiling in higher education. Since the 1800s, African-American women have been involved in educational processes in meaningful ways despite challenges to our efforts and advancements.
Have you ever wondered why African-American women experience the “double whammy” of race/ethnicity and gender? In the 21st Century, some African-American women in higher education administrative positions still face barriers in the workplace. According to Blakesdale, many researchers suggest problems for African-American women administrators stem from the issues of perceptual bias that provide resistance to women’s intellectual capacities from being used to their fullest. At the intersections of racism and sexism one finds:
(a) underrepresentation and isolation leading to tokenism;
(b) lack of power and respect leading to lack of influence and authority;
(c) prejudgments of inability, incompetence, and overly demanding families; and
(d) sex segregation of work and gender spill over leading to inequities in or retarded advancement, promotion, and pay at male-dominated institutions.
While not blatant, these stereotypes are present and persistent nonetheless. According to Howard-Hamilton, “These stereotypes and inequities continue to exist and create barriers as Black women work towards gaining educational and economic parity” (p. 24).
Have you ever experienced being overlooked for a promotion or advancement, stereotyped, and/or discriminated against? The summer of 2016, I conducted a qualitative research study, which explored and compared the perceptions of challenges and barriers to career advancement for African-American senior-level women administrators at Historically Black and Predominantly White public and private colleges, and universities (HBCU and PWI) in North Carolina. The theoretical framework of Herzberg et al., a model that hypothesized a two-factor theory, guided this study. The research was designed to capture sociocultural factors, assess administrators’ demeanor, interpersonal work relationships, overall perceptions, coping mechanisms, and determine barriers.
Face-to-face and phone interviews were conducted with the research participants. Both the hygiene and motivational factors were identified as the predictor of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction throughout the interviews. Herzberg et al. outlined factors that lead to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The Two-Factor theory divided motivation and job satisfaction into two groups of factors known as the motivation factors and hygiene factors. The motivator factors or satisfiers include achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and possibility of growth. Hygiene factors or dissatisfiers include company policy, supervision, relationships with supervisors, work conditions, relationship with peers, salary, personal life, and relationship with subordinates, status, and job security.
The results of the research indicated that because of stereotypes, as a result of race, age, gender were hygiene factors, the women had to be more persistent and find alternatives to succeed. Seven of the fourteen women voiced concerns about the perceptions of challenges and barriers related to their current senior-level position. Three of the participants were employed at HBCUs, three participants were employed at PWIs, and one participant was employed at UNC-GA. The question is why is it that African-American women with credentials similar to White females and males are less likely to serve in senior roles continue to surface. African-American women do not gain advantage from either race or gender. From their stories the hygiene factors, lack of respect, questions of competence, isolation, underrepresentation, professional dissatisfaction, and the lack of support from other administrators effected their daily lives as senior administrators and played a significant role in their journey to senior-level administrators.
The women in this study provided rich insights into their progression into senior-level administrative roles concerning issues of ascertaining their place in the system, the external view, and being omitted, as the obstructions to progression and mentoring. Limited studies have explored the sociocultural factors that impact senior-level women administrators in higher education. Studies that solely examined the experiences of African-American women senior administrators in North Carolina were unable to be identified. These findings play an essential role in understanding each of their experiences, as well as the impact of being at a Historically Black or Predominantly White Institution. The voices in this study supplied a great deal of data about what it means to be a senior-level administrator and how African-American women are viewed in these roles.
Attempts must be made to address the issues that confront African-American women such as being treated like the help; outsiders; keeping them away from the table; having a voice and discounting their experiences, skill set and value to higher education because of their race, age, and gender. I strongly recommend that higher education leaders educate people about the damaging and inaccurate stereotypes of other groups. The discussion of stereotypes and attitudes in a safe environment would allow participants an opportunity to explore and possibly re-think stereotypes. Individuals can reassess their prejudices and biases and hopefully begin to effect change within them.
Sistah’s, how are you educating people about the damaging and inaccurate stereotypes, or do you feel silenced?
Dr. Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey is the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at Towson University. Bonnie is an advocate for Higher Education and the future of students. She is passionate about Identity Development and Self-Esteem in Women (particularly in African American women), researching HBCUs and PWIs through the years, and working with individuals with disabilities.
 Blakesdale, S. H. (2006). The untold story: African-American women administrators’ alchemy of turning adversity into gold. Urbana, IL: Forum on Public Policy.
 Howard-Hamilton, M. F. (2003). Theoretical frameworks for African-American women. New Direction for Student Services, 103(3), 19–27.
 Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
 Herzberg, F. (1966). The motivation to work among Finnish supervisors. Personnel Psychology, 18(4), 393–402.
 Herzberg, F. (1976a). One more time: How do you motivate employees? In M. M. Grunberg (Ed.), Job satisfaction—A reader (pp. 17–32). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
 Herzberg, F. (1976b). The managerial choice: To be efficient and to be human. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.
 Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1993). The motivation to work (Reprinted.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.