The Researcher: An Interdisciplinary Journal Special Issue Women in the Academy Volume 30, Number 2 Fall 2022 Published semi-annually at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi, The Researcher: An Interdisciplinary Journal is a peer-reviewed journal that welcomes scholarly submissions from all disciplines. General Editor Candis Pizzetta, Jackson State University Special Issue Editors Leticia Perez Alonso, Jackson State University Monica Flippin-Wynn, Gardner Institute Preselfannie W. McDaniels, Jackson State University Shanna L. Smith, Jackson State University © 2022 All Rights Reserved U.S. ISSN: 0271-5058 Permission to reproduce material from articles published in The Researcher is managed on behalf of The Researcher by the general editor. In order to gain permission to reproduce material under The Researcher copyright, contact The Researcher general editor at [email protected] The editorial staff of The Researcher is pleased to present this special edition entitled “Women in the Academy.”
Table of Contents Volume 30, Number 2 Fall 2022 ORIGINAL ARTICLES The Impact of Gendered Expectations on the Female Academic 1 Body (of Work) Candis Pizzetta Collaborative Mentoring and The Interim Department Chair: 9 Feminist Administrative Models and Leadership for Change Letizia Guglielmo, Corinne L. McNamara, and Teresa P. Raczek The Resilience of Black Women in Academia 25 Myleah Brewer, Savaughn E. Williams, and Michelle D. Wilsons A Pilot Study: Exploring the Psychological Demise among 51 Women of Color in the Academy Patrice R. Jenkins, Kristie Roberts-Lewis, Pedro M. Hernandez, Donovan Segura, and Vanessa Greensdale Between “dare to lead” and “rising strong”: South Asian women 75 and challenges to leadership Umme Al-wazedi Distance Mentoring & Virtual Collaboration Between Black Women 89 Faculty: Navigating Academic Waters Shanna L. Smith and Arlette Miller Smith Power in Powerlessness: Creating Space to Tend the Flame 107 Grace A. Loudd Black Women in Academia: Of What Then Did You Die? 125 Keisha McIntyre-McCullough, Carolyn Reid-Brown, Alicia G. Edwards, and Rona Moore Olukolu The Intersectionality of Gender and Race for Black Women in STEM 141 and STEM Education: Women RISE Barbara L. Howard, Jennifer Young Wallace, and Marilyn Evans
The Impact of Gendered Expectations on the Female Academic Body (of Work) Candis Pizzetta Jackson State University Discussions of gender equality in academia often focus more on publication and promotion than on the differences in equity related to gendered social expectations and how those expectations negatively impact female academics’ agency in both their work and personal lives. By exploring the ways that public discussions of women in academia frame female academics’ professional service and personal care responsibilities, we can identify the impact of this discourse and move toward changing it. The usual argument both relies on a gender schema and engages in a form of rhetorical staging, in which the claim that the inequities in female academics’ service obligations and in women’s care responsibilities are a choice of service over research and personal over professional. Rhetorical staging also sublimates the impact of the gender schema in the discussion of inequity, making the issue one of recognition of a choice rather than recognition of a socially embedded inequity that requires a solution. This false dichotomy suggests that female academics can either take the path of male academics and be devoted professionals, remolding female academics in the image of the male academic or can avoid the demands of the researcher’s life and choose a path that is less demanding and less valuable to the university. By examining the impact of inequities in professional service and personal care duties as an imbalance in the institutional and social expectations for female academics, we can identify rhetorical approaches that acknowledge the realities of social expectations and service and care burdens on female academics and can open dialogue on how the academy can center evaluation on teaching, service, and research collaboration in order to construct a more equitable professoriate. By contextualizing the expectations for academic productivity in terms of the rhetoric surrounding it, we can better examine how gendered social norms influence the way that teaching, service, and scholarship are valued. One obstacle to redefining the rhetorical construct arises from the gendered nature of the professoriate in higher education, with the definition of high-quality research practices built around the solo researcher as the ideal. Research universities were designed by and for men, and while there are ongoing attempts to adjust university policies to provide more flexibility for child-rearing and other personal care responsibilities, the nature of tenure as a reflection of a researcher’s achievements as a solo or lead author or researcher prioritizes the masculinist view of research. Instead of viewing years 1
2 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) of collaborative research and student-engaged research and teaching as the goal of the accomplished academic, most of the academy valorizes the lead researcher as the ideal. A high percentage of female academics are not able to or are not willing to define their careers according to this model, what Benachop and Brouns (2003) call the “Olympus model” (p.194) and Teelken, Taminiau, and Rosenmöller (2021) define as the result of “the monastic image of the scientist” (p. 839). This imbalance continues despite the increase in female participation in the ranks of full-time faculty in higher education. In 2018, women were 50% of full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, up from 33.2% in 1987 (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). Yet, in 1999, only 24% of full professors were female (Trower, 2001), and almost twenty years later in 2018 that number has increased to only 33.5% (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). As the purposes of the university include both educating students and producing research that can be translated into some larger social or scientific good, the current model that rewards the researcher rather than the fully engaged teacher-scholar does not align with the actual objectives of academic work. Expectations for academic productivity arise from Western cultural norms that conflate the intellectual value of academic research with the idea of the “genius,” a conception that is rooted in the Latin gignere, to give birth or bring forth, and that has evolved to indicate a high level of ability and remarkable individual talent. As Knights and Richards (2003) argue, academic production is shrouded in masculine norms and values surrounding the rational and competitive pursuit of knowledge that facilitates the conquest of nature and the control of populations …. This masculine normative framework is not only reflected in the academic output of theories and publications but also in the often disembodied and technically rational way in which knowledge is debated and discussed. (p. 214) This view of the organization of higher educational institutions as privileging male life patterns has slowly been acknowledged but rarely been applied to the rhetorical context of the discussions and examinations of what the structure of reward in the professoriate means for the way that the female body fits into a male academic space. The demands on the female body in terms both of service to the university (Guarino and Borden, 2017) and care duties outside the workplace are often grueling. Thus, even when female academics meet the research productivity standards for tenure and promotion, especially promotion to full professor, they do so not by merely meeting but by far exceeding the expectations for male academics in terms of research, teaching, and service (Pyke, 2014; Falkenburg, 2003). The view that academia is a meritocracy places the onus for success on female academics while ignoring the structural and social obstacles that make the shape of their experiences in higher education so different from those of men. The masculinist approach to merit reinforces the idea that academic position is meritocratic and ignores the gender schema that is applied to female academics. When Benachop and Brouns (2003) define the Olympus model as primarily male, they contrast it with the mostly female “Agora model,” which centers around the social responsibility of
The Researcher 3 scientists and promotes a “strong interaction between the production of knowledge, transmission and translation of knowledge” (p. 208). The Olympus and Agora models are interpretive theories identified both to explain the dissimilar experiences of men and women in the academy and to highlight the benefits of the Agora model for science. In addition, Deem (2003) and Fuegen, Biernat, Haines, and Deaux (2004) explore how higher expectations of women both in the academic work environment and at home increase the divergence between male and female academics’ experiences in higher education. This research notes that these increased expectations occur simultaneously with the socialized expectation that women’s personal characteristics are more aligned with communal tasks and mutual goals, like nurturing or service to others, or in the academic context, advising and mentoring students and serving on committees. This suggests that the demands on female academics’ time will not decrease as long as this gender schema so heavily informs the assessment of faculty merit. When the gender schema is applied to men and women to measure their competence, the result is that women have to perform more work at a higher standard in order to be judged as competent as men in the same field A review of the reality of female academics’ care responsibilities must include university and professional service, family care, and contributions to community organizations. Women are heavily over-represented in campus service roles without any significant corresponding reduction in their teaching roles or in the expectations for research productivity (O’Meara, 2016). There is considerable research on this inequity and some attempts to follow up on the consequences of this on the productivity of women academics. Although a variety of barriers to gender equity in faculty rank exist, often the discourse focuses on individual-level responsibility, suggesting that it is the unwillingness to refuse extra service or to limit contact with students that reduces female research productivity. Blaming the female academics who are expected to perform this service fails to acknowledge these root issues (Guarino & Borden, 2017; Pyke, 2011; Deem, 2003). Successful researchers often disparage other faculty who take on service tasks, and it is most likely that the successful researchers are senior, male faculty and the faculty with heavy service loads are female and more junior. A key process in moving toward gender equity in higher education will include initiating campus conversations about equity in service, incorporating university and professional service into tenure and promotion considerations, and protecting the time of female academics, especially BIPOC academics, in terms of their on-campus responsibilities. To focus more on changing expectations for women in the academy, we need to document the inequities in the service requirements in academia and explore how those inequities align with the trends in the larger society that enforce expectations for women to take on care burdens in their personal lives. Documenting the impact of gender schema will allow a more thorough dismantling and reconstruction of the rhetorical context of discussion around equity in academic tenure and promotion. As most academics believe that they are a force for social change and the growth of knowledge, it is difficult to make them accept that the standards within the academic world reinforce the inequities in unpaid, unrecognized, or
4 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) in other ways uncompensated labor. The gendered nature of our culture creates mental preconceptions, implicit biases, about the nature of the role of women, even women in academia. While individual institutions may occasionally find solutions to boost the productivity of female researchers, the overall growth in the number of women engaged in research does not compare to the growth of women, especially women of color, as a percentage of students in higher education over the last few decades. Researchers are already examining attitudes toward female academics as caregivers and the impact that caregiving has on their productivity and chances for promotion (Elg and Jonnergȧrd, 2003; Krefting, 2003; Hughes, Schilt, Gorman, & Bratter, 2017). These studies indicate a strong correlation between time spent on caregiving and a reduction in research productivity. The bulk of the research focuses on female academics in their childbearing years and on the ways that childbearing and childrearing disrupt the tenure process for female academics (Crosby & Williams, 2001; Fuegen, Biernat, Haines, & Deaux, 2004; Cech & Blair- Loy, 2019). The expectation that careers are made in the early years after graduate school means women academics are more likely to have small children during those years and to be primary care givers as well as academics, causing them to seem less productive because their productivity is measured solely in terms of their research productivity during that brief period. Yet, the solution may not be simply stopping the tenure clock when women academics have small children. The patterns of women’s lives are fundamentally different from those of men’s lives. There are other care demands on the time of female academics. Beyond childcare, female academics care for other family members, aging parents, siblings with disabilities, and often take on additional care responsibilities if they are connected to their community or have a strong religious affiliation. What has not been thoroughly examined is the impact of these care burdens on women’s bodies and how that time and emotional energy may ultimately decrease the size or scope of their body of work. Bailyn (2003) argues that in order for academia to be truly equitable for both male and female academics, men and women must have equal opportunities and face equal constraints. To move toward equity, we must first alter the rhetorical context of our dialogue on equity to allow the university to lead in challenging and changing gender schema. The underlying social norms and expectations that reinforce the hierarchy of work before family as the ideal will ensure that inequities in promotion and tenure for male and female academics will continue. The only viable solution for the academy remains to reframe the way that we value work as an individual pursuit rather than a communal one. As long as the goal for researchers and tenure-track academics remains a commitment to research before other responsibilities, then female academics will be disadvantaged no matter the efforts made by institutions to support faculty with family responsibilities. To change the rhetoric that we use and expect others, university administration in particular, to use regarding the barometers of academic productivity will require open dialogue about shifting expectations and the way that we discuss those expectations. We measure success in academia by a single standard rather than by a sliding standard that recognizes the challenges of heavy teaching and service loads. In academia, we have long resisted the idea of
The Researcher 5 keeping set hours or tracking our time the way that the vast majority of workers do the world over. For us, academic creativity is not to be confined by the clock. Inspiration may strike at any time of the day or night. Yet, the truth is that creativity takes time. Inspiration does not come to those whose minds are filled with other duties, and if that time is spent in other duties, teaching, service, student support, not to mention family responsibilities, then there can be no time for the focused thoughts that are the prerequisite for originality. The gender schema of our social order will not change rapidly, if it changes at all, but the academy can change the rhetoric around the expectations for scholarly productivity to establish more responsive university structures that value service and model support for faculty with varying levels of research productivity. Beyond the “just say no” mantra that many female academics are told to invoke, we need to investigate and experiment with new social models on campus, perhaps even providing social and behavioral re-programming and empowerment for female academics when they join the academy. Most female academics bring with them attitudes about female service and communal responsibility prior to joining a university (O’Meara, 2016). The idea of female service inculcated into us by the larger society allows for more collaborative work and better outcomes for communities. Yet, it limits the opportunities female academics have in the male- structured research spaces in higher education. Academics can be at the vanguard of social change, but in terms of service responsibilities, we are often in lockstep with the expectations of the larger society. This shift in expectation setting may be the single most important step in empowering women in academia to increase their representation in the ranks of full professors. Ultimately, empowering female academics to embrace research collaboration, service, and teaching as valuable to the academy means empowering them to control their bodies. We do not consider the ways that societal expectations translate into control of women, including women academics, in terms of how their bodies are used to meet the needs of the family, community, or, in this case, the university. Creative power, the power to ask significant questions or to drive inquiry into new areas of research or thought is ultimately the power to control how we use our bodies. Discussion with women academics about reducing and controlling their service should be framed in this way to help visualize the impact of excessive service on their bodies and bodies of work.
6 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) References Bailyn, L. (2003). Academic careers and gender equity: Lessons learned from MIT. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 137-153. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.00008 Benschop, Y., & Brouns, M. (2003). Crumbling ivory towers: Academic organizing and its gender effects. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 194–212. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.2003.10.issue-2 Cech, E.A., & Blair-Loy, M. (2019). The changing career trajectories of new parents in STEM. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(10), 4182–4187. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1810862116 Crosby, F.J., Williams, J.C., & Biernat, M. (2004). The maternal wall. Journal of Social Issues, 60(4), 675-682. Deem, R. (2003). Gender, organizational cultures and the practices of manager academics in UK universities. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 239-259. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.t01-1-00013 Elg, U., & Jonnergȧrd, K. (2003). The inclusion of female PhD students in academia: A case study of a Swedish university department. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 154- 174. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.00009 Fuegan, K., Biernat, M., Haines, E., & Deaux, K. (2004). Mothers and fathers in the workplace: How gender and parental status influence judgments of job-related competence. Journal of Social Issues, 60(4), 737-754. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0022- 4537.2005.00413.x Guarino, C.M., & Borden, V.M.H. (2017) Faculty service loads and gender: Are women taking care of the academic family? Research in Higher Education, 58, 672-694. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-017-9454-2 Hughes, C.C., Schilt, K., Gorman, B.K., & Bratter, J. (2017). Framing the faculty gender gap: A view from stem doctoral students. Gender, Work & Organization, 24(4), 398-416. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12174 Knights, D., & Richards, W. (2003). Sex discrimination in UK academia. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 213-238. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.t01-1-00012 Krefting, L.A. (2003). Intertwined discourses of merit and gender: Evidence from academic employment in the USA. Gender, Work & Organization, 10(2), 260-278. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.t01-1-00014 O’Meara, K. (2016). Whose problem is it? Gender differences in faculty thinking about campus service. Teachers College Record, 118, 1-38. Pyke, K. (2011). Service and gender inequity among faculty. PS: Political Science & Politics, 44(1), 85-87. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096510001927 Teelken, C., Taminiau, Y. & Rosenmöller, C. (2021) Career mobility from associate to full professor in academia: micro-political practices and implicit gender stereotypes. Studies in Higher Education, 46(4), 836-850. https:doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1655725
The Researcher 7 Trower, C.A. (2001). Women without tenure, part 1. ADVANCE Library Collection. Paper 279. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/advance/279 U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Table 315.20. Full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity, sex, and academic rank: Fall 2015, fall 2017, and fall 2018. Retrieved at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_315.20.asp U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Table 315.10. Number of faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by employment status, sex, control, and level of institution: Selected years, fall 1970 through fall 2015. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_315.10.asp
8 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022)
Collaborative Mentoring and The Interim Department Chair: Feminist Administrative Models and Leadership for Change Letizia Guglielmo, Corinne L. McNamara, and Teresa P. Raczek Kennesaw State University The position of department chair has been theorized from a variety of perspectives in the scholarly literature on leadership and administration. Although consensus exists surrounding the complexity of the position and its often-staggering scope given “that chairs play an instrumental role in nearly every aspect of departmental life” (Hubbell & Homer, 1997), scholarship also suggests that at least some of this complexity may be due to the lack of preparation many department chairs face given the varied circumstances that lead them to administrative work (Acker, 2014; Acker & Millerson, 2018; Armstrong & Woloshyn, 2017; Berdrow, 2010; Bryman, 2007; Czech & Forward, 2010; Gonaim, 2016; Hecht et al, 1999; Kruse, 2020; Mullen, 2009; Peterson, 2016; Spiller, 2010; Wolverton et al, 2005). Within this established body of scholarship, a number of areas remain undertheorized, including the role of mentoring in helping chairs to prepare for or find support while serving in the position and the added complexity of the work for those serving in an interim role (Boyle et al, 2016; Davis & Cone, 2018; Rud, 2004). Equally underexplored are the decisions women faculty make in choosing to lead, especially when they are choosing to serve in interim positions. In this article, we engage this complexity from three distinct perspectives as first-time, white, cis-gender, straight women interim department chairs serving in the humanities and social sciences while navigating the role with a feminist leadership agenda. Furthermore, we explore the role of collaborative and reciprocal mentoring in offering mutual support for department chairs in ways that aligned with our feminist leadership principles and our individual motivations and goals for pursuing department chair work. Through this collective reflection, we aim to add to the literature on department chair mentoring and demonstrate the potential for small collaborative networks to support and foster growth in both leadership and strategic negotiation essential to department chair work. Collaborations like these allow participants to problem-solve, to draw on shared expertise in response to key issues, and often to speak up with shared authority when voices are marginalized. To both theorize and perform the collaborative nature of this mentoring experience, we include individual narratives and collective reflections, offering a model for collaborative mentoring for women department chairs, one grounded in principles of feminist leadership. 9
10 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) Feminist Administration and Decentered Leadership In current scholarship, models of feminist administration and leadership are most often characterized as decentered, collaborative, and guided by shared goals and values. Feminist leaders seek to lead with rather than to lead over, and their processes and decision-making are typically informed by lived experience and a multiplicity of voices and perspectives. Scholarship on feminist administration explores the ways in which feminist leaders seek to disrupt hierarchical, top-down models often cited as ideal leadership, advocating for structures grounded by collaboration, shared ownership, and co-constructed priorities and solutions. Furthermore, intersectional feminist leadership is quite often supported by collaborative and critical practices that may find their foundations in consciousness-raising groups associated with Black feminist activism, and with feminist rhetorical strategies like intervention and interruption that highlight and amplify marginalized voices and perspectives and support equity and inclusivity (hooks, 1994; Collins and Bilge, 2016; De Welde et al, 2019; Guglielmo, 2012; Mohajeri et al, 2019; Ratcliffe & Rickly, 2010; Reynolds, 1998; Rinehart, 2002; Sinclair, 2012). For leaders guided by feminist principles, reflective practices and collaboration may serve as recursive tools for maintaining commitments to feminist goals and for finding solutions that draw on a diversity of lived experience. A particularly developed scholarly conversation on feminist administration exists in writing program administration (WPA), and here we identify a number of key threads that also apply to the work of department chairs given their work in academic department and regular contact with students and faculty. For chairs, feminist approaches to administration have the potential to promote agency and buy-in among faculty colleagues while facilitating shared power and collective problem-solving within the department community (Miller, 1996/2002,). Dickson, 1993; Cambridge & McClelland, 1995; Gunner, 2002; Kelley-Riley et al, 2002). This “fluid” administrative structure, replaces traditional with “flattened” hierarchies, characterized by “community, shared responsibility, and open exchange of information, ideas, and criticism” among the group regardless of status (Gunner, 2002, p. 254-255). Scholars also acknowledge challenges that may arise when leaders enact feminist leadership within administrative structures that are largely hierarchical. Ratcliffe and Rickly (2010) argue, for example, “that the dominant trope for performing feminist administration is oxymoron—the ability to keep two contradictory ideas in one’s mind and still function effectively” (xiv; see also Gunner, 2002; Miller, 1996/2002). Although department chairs who are dedicated primarily to the implementation of institutional policies imposed from above ultimately may be successful in the eyes of some upper administrators at many institutions, they remain detached from local or departmental realities and the collaborative intellectual inquiry that results from decentered administrative structures, as we will illustrate later in this text. Ultimately, feminist leadership models facilitate trust, stress “moral and ethical issues” and allow for “freedom to act upon good ideas” (Dickson, 1993, p. 152). With a department chair to “initiate and facilitate” the collaborative process, feminist leadership “accommodates collaborative working relationships; promotes information sharing and shared decision
The Researcher 11 making; responds to problems, input, and initiatives; and expands/extends not only to those within [departments], but also to those who are affected by them” (Kelley-Riley, D. et al, 2002, p. 133, 135). Department decisions and initiatives—especially those that grow out of and contribute to major institutional initiatives—require the collective buy-in of faculty, department chairs, deans, and provosts. This kind of leadership requires collective effort, grounded by principles of feminist administration and “ideological critique” (Gunner, 2002). Feminist leadership models create space for innovation, draw upon the strength of individual faculty members, allow opportunity for building problem-solving strategies, encourage experimentation, and foster mentoring. Collaboration within these administrative models may also contribute to or foster scholarship among department chairs and faculty explicitly tied to institutional politics and local realities. This kind of intellectual inquiry produces better local programs, offers faculty vested interest in department goals, and provides professional development opportunities for administrators and faculty. As the following sections will illustrate, these foundations of feminist leadership underscored our individual motivations and leadership goals as interim department chairs and our collaboration and mutual mentoring. Principles of feminist leadership not only guided and informed our work at the department or micro-level, but also facilitated macro-level feminist leadership as we found ways to lead collectively outside of our departments. Telling the Story of Three Different Paths to Interim Chair Our paths formally and physically crossed in July 2019 during an orientation event for new department chairs, school directors, and college deans at our university. The three of us had been faculty in the same college of humanities and social sciences for a number of years and had worked together in pairs in various ways leading up to our interim department chair terms. Yet it was our shared experience in this new role that prompted us to connect initially as we considered and negotiated the details of the interim chair positions and later as we began work in the role in summer 2019. This collaboration began casually as we scheduled lunch for the week following the orientation and recognized the support we might find in collectively navigating this shared experience. During the car ride to that first lunch, we began to discover our varied motivations for pursuing the interim chair position and our broad goals for the coming year. These motivations and goals—as well as the circumstances surrounding the interim chair positions we were filling—also shaped our needs in terms of mentoring and support. Common among these goals, however, was a commitment to working with department colleagues and advocating for faculty. Teresa: Because of Department Chair term limits, the previous chair in my department was returning to full-time teaching and research. At the time, the Interim Dean wanted to hold off on a national search for a new Department Chair until the new Dean was hired, opening the position of Interim Chair in our department. I had built my career as a field archaeologist, spending up to five months each year in India abroad excavating or analyzing artifacts, but for family reasons, I needed to shift away from field work and stay closer to home. With field research on hold, I was looking for a new set of intellectual challenges and saw chair work as
12 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) a viable avenue. Because of my experience in museum administration from my pre-graduate school days, I was familiar with many of the responsibilities of the chair including strategic planning, budgeting, and coordinating between departments. I used that experience as a springboard to jump into the work. As I took on the role of Interim Chair, I knew that I would apply for the position of Chair and that I was essentially undertaking a year-long interview. With that in mind, I drew from ongoing conversations among the faculty to create a short list of three tightly focused and achievable goals so that I could show my colleagues how I could effectively lead and work with them to support the needs of the department. These included increasing efforts to recruit students to our majors, expanding outreach to alumni, and engaging in fundraising. I envisioned the work of managing a department of faculty like managing a team of archaeologists or managing a large lab: everyone is responsible for their own work and has their own interests, but the PI facilitates collaboration towards a common goal and finds resources for the overall project. As a feminist PI, I emphasize collaboration, listening, attending to equity, and recognizing that research is only one piece of the lives of team members. However, despite my previous experience in administration, I found that I needed additional training, support, and mentoring in order to accomplish the goals that I had set. Corinne: I vividly remember standing in a colleague’s office when she asked me if I had ever considered serving our department as Interim Chair. The question surprised me because until that point, I had not considered pursuing a leadership position for a couple of reasons. First, I did not have any training to lead. Second, having small children at home seemed to be a major hurdle to serving in a leadership role that surely would be demanding of my time as well as emotional and cognitive energy. After getting over the shock of the question, I began to carefully consider the proposition, and in doing so, I was flooded with questions. What would be the responsibilities of the Interim Chair role? Which of my skills would translate well to this work and which would I need to sharpen or develop? How would this new role and work preparing for it affect my family? How would serving as interim chair impact my relationships with my colleagues while I served as interim chair? Would they be permanently changed after my interim year, especially if I returned to faculty status? What leadership goals could I accomplish during this interim year? Initially, so much of my internal dialogue in considering these questions was influenced by the extremes of bivariate factors—fear and courage, safeguarding and vulnerability, competency and inadequacy—and pitting the importance of my family against my drive to be successful and further challenged in my career. As time passed, I realized that I did not want to make choices based on my insecurities. Instead, I started to focus my energy on a plan for my success, regardless of whether I became interim chair and regardless of whether that led to the permanent chair position. To that end, I began with a proximal search for leadership training by looking in-house. Although I had yet to commit to applying for the interim chair position, I decided to learn more about the literature on mentoring faculty at various ranks and attended a workshop at
The Researcher 13 my institution. Although I had studied psychology and people most of my life and had already mentored thousands of students and scores of faculty, I realized there was so much I had yet to learn about mentoring and leadership. Moreover, mentoring faculty and doing so through the lens of a feminist, collective leadership approach was a motivating factor for me to consider pursuing a leadership position. Discussions with my family and some mentors helped me realize that I was very interested in being interim chair, learning more about the institution from the lens of a department chair, supporting faculty from that platform, and making meaningful contributions and change to our department. I decided to move forward in announcing my interest to the dean of the college. Considering the heavy workload and high expectations, impending steep learning curve, likely impact on my family and relationships with my colleagues, determining what I needed professionally for this opportunity to be worthwhile was necessary. How could the university invest in me in a way that would benefit the faculty in our department and my own professional development? I asked that the college support my participation in the HERS Leadership Institute (HLI), a program to develop women leaders in higher education, which would facilitate skill building in numerous areas, including self-knowledge of leadership capabilities, institutional awareness, diversity of thought, and mentor networking. I reasoned that although the timing of my participation in HERS, would take place after my interim year, that experience would sharpen my leadership skills should I decide to apply for the permanent chair position. At the very least, the experience would provide a broader and richer vantage point from which I could contribute as a faculty member. Further, participation in the HLI would give me a chance to peer into another realm of administrative and leadership opportunities. Ultimately, I was selected to participate in the pandemic summer of 2020 HLI cohort, a unique and perfectly timed experience that facilitated connection and peer mentoring with other women leaders and development of leadership skills. In preparation for the HLI, I met with upper- administrative leaders of my institution and worked on homework assignments that led to a better understanding of the meaning of inclusive leadership and an increased self- and institutional awareness. Deepened knowledge and heightened awareness informed my leadership goals and better prepared me to implement collective collaboration strategies and facilitate mutual mentoring in my role as chair. Letizia: The decision to serve as interim department chair was both sudden and complex for me. Truthfully, I had no immediate intention of serving as department chair or of pursuing additional administrative positions in the Spring of 2019. As is often the case for many teacher- scholars in rhetoric and writing studies and in departments of writing and English, I had worked extensively with our First Year Composition program, serving as both the inaugural Assistant Director and for one term as Interim Director of Composition during a particularly difficult transition in our department (see Guglielmo & Daniell, 2018). While I loved the program and the deep intellectual collaborations that I had developed with colleagues over many years, I came to understand that I could do more meaningful and personally fulfilling work as a colleague rather than as an administrator. The program’s growth and the size and
14 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) scope of responsibilities made it difficult to focus primarily on the work I found most rewarding: professional and faculty development and collaboration with colleagues. This interest in faculty development had motivated me to apply for a half-time Faculty Fellow position with our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), an opportunity that allowed me to work with colleagues across the university on various areas of faculty success across career stages. As is sometimes the case with new opportunities, the opening for the Interim Department Chair position came at the end of my first semester as a Faculty Fellow. At first glance it did not seem to align with the work I was pursuing at the time. Committed to the department and to my colleagues and to seeing the department successfully weather a moment of challenging transition, I immediately went to work brainstorming what next steps could look like for the department, including proposing a co-chair structure to colleagues and our Interim Dean. At the time, the job of chair in the Department of English was much too big for one person, as the department had grown significantly for many years without a restructuring of leadership support. Recognizing a moment for collective reflection, I also wondered if it might make sense for the department to postpone a national search for an additional year to allow us time to reflect and regroup before inviting a new chair into the space. I offered these suggestions as a colleague concerned about our next steps and committed to collective problem-solving yet not as a bid for the interim chair position. In the end, I was encouraged by colleagues to apply for the position, despite my reluctance. I continued to lobby for a co-chair structure for the interim year given an interest in and commitment to decentered and collaborative leadership structures and to leadership that would draw on and prioritize a multiplicity of voices and perspectives. When it was clear that none of my colleagues with whom I had worked closely were interested in a co-chair position, I decided that if I was willing to co-chair, I was also willing to put my name forward as a solo interim chair. This decision would mean significant shifts in my own professional plans and my work at CETL, but I felt the department chair work was important. As I continue to reflect on that decision, two realities remain clear and significant: my colleagues’ encouragement to apply for the position played a significant role in my decision to move forward, despite still believing that administration was not my long-term path . I also believed that my experience and commitment to working with colleagues to solve complex programming issues, to collaborative mentoring, and to faculty development would serve me well in the position in this time of transition. In a particularly challenging moment in the department during the previous semester, I had, with the permission of our former department chair, organized a listening session as a faculty member concerned about our department’s future. The event was well-attended and generated meaningful conversation, and although I had no intention of applying for a department chair position at the time, I suspect that move resonated with colleagues who encouraged me to apply for the position. Open forums would become an important and recurring strategy for listening to faculty voices and for implementing shared decision-making during my interim term. More than anything else, it was
The Researcher 15 that sentiment for healing, collaborative problem-solving, and collective action that would guide my vision for chair work. From the beginning of my interim term, I had decided I would not apply for the permanent department chair position, and I saw my role squarely as trying to steady the ship and restore open communication and trust as we prepared to invite a new chair to our department. Although I recognized a need for both just-in-time support and professional development, I found myself less willing to invest time in activities that pulled me away from the immediate needs of the department and individual colleagues and the endless stream of day-to-day tasks and emergencies that would inevitably fill my days. While I needed help with the logistics of the position in many cases, I found myself relying on prior knowledge and experiences directing programs, engaging in mentoring activities, and collaborating with my colleagues as the foundation for how I approached the bulk of my work as department chair. In many ways I believed (perhaps mistakenly) that prior faculty work had prepared me for the position. All: Taken together, our individual narratives make clear that each of our approaches to the interim chair position was informed by our personal and professional goals and also shaped needs for support, professional development, and mentoring during our interim terms. Although these individual goals varied, as did the specific circumstances surrounding interim terms in our departments, we shared a common interest in collaborating with colleagues to facilitate change and to reach collective goals. We also approached chair work with excitement about and interest in the mentoring that we identified as an essential part of feminist leadership. Finding colleagues with whom we could share our struggles and ask questions was a recurring need for the three of us given lack of contact with previous chairs in some cases, feelings that our relationships with colleagues had changed, and realization that, depending on our decisions about next steps, we were in year-long interviews for permanent chair positions. Our commitment to feminist administration ultimately facilitated our collaboration as a source of mutual support and a strategy for shared leadership that extended outside of our individual departments. Identifying Sources of Support as Interim Chairs Support for new department chairs is essential given the complex nature of the work and the individual tasks that are necessary for running a department. Just-in-time support can come from a variety of sources—both internal and external to the department—and may involve staff, faculty, and other campus administrators as well as representatives from HR, Academic Affairs, and other campus offices. In many cases, those who can offer this kind of support may be established in their positions and can quickly facilitate the work of a new or interim chair through a familiarity with processes or institutional knowledge. However, each of our situations varied in terms of support given the size of our departments and the turnover in administrative positions that our institution was facing. Our experiences also demonstrate that the need for this support is often made more complex for interim chairs who may unexpectedly find themselves in the position and in its liminal spaces. In general, we did not
16 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) have time in that interim year to fully “learn the ropes” or to implement boundaries to keep us “less elastic,” what Acker and Millerson (2018) suggest department chairs develop over time to begin to manage the feeling that a department chair’s work never really ends. We also were taking on these interim positions in times of significant transition for our university, our college, and in various ways, our individual departments, which meant the stakes and the circumstances surrounding the work could be high and fraught. These institutional transitions became magnified when the pandemic hit in the spring of our interim terms. Situations like ours are surprisingly common for women leaders not only because women are often appointed to academic leadership positions in times of significant change, but also because gendered expectations may shape perceptions of leadership success, what is described in the scholarly literature as the “glass cliff” (Acker and Millerson, 2018). Gendered assumptions about leadership styles may identify women leaders as more empathetic and as better suited for moments of transition or crisis and given that organizational change or upheaval may also mean decreased compensation for leadership positions, women may be disproportionately undercompensated when taking on these interim roles despite having to manage all of the responsibilities of the position (Burjek, 2022; Peterson, 2016). As part of the same college, we all were appointed by an interim dean and would begin our interim positions under a newly hired dean (beginning his term as we began ours) who would set a vision for the college and shape an agenda for eleven department chairs. In addition to support for day-to-day duties, our new roles also facilitated professional development that would provide us with both leadership skills and opportunities to interact with department chair colleagues across the university. As a number of scholars have explained, in their roles as department chairs, faculty move from what are often student- focused positions that combine teaching, research, and service to administrative positions that both shift and expand the audience and scope of their daily work (Acker & Millerson, 2018; Armstrong & Woloshyn, 2017). During our terms as interim chairs, professional development was offered most frequently by our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in collaboration with the offices of Academic and Faculty Affairs and included both informal learning opportunities (workshops on leadership development and on navigating annual and multi-year faculty reviews, for example) and collaborative brainstorming and reflection on topics related to our work as department chairs, broadly defined. Our individual motivations and goals for the work, discussed earlier in this article, also shaped the additional professional development resources we needed and sought out. With a longer view of department chair work given her interest in applying for the position and in demonstrating for department colleagues her ability to meet shared goals, Teresa for example, reached to a variety of sources: peer support, including friends from graduate school who became department chairs at other institutions; discipline-specific professional association trainings and workshops; and university sponsored training and professional development. Motivated to learn more about the institution through the lens of a department chair, to support faculty, and to make meaningful contributions to and change in her
The Researcher 17 department, Corinne focused on external training through the HERS Leadership Institute, which would foster self-knowledge in leadership, institutional awareness, diversity of thought, and mentor networking, essential professional resources that would continue to support her work whether or not she applied for the permanent position. Letizia came into the position with the goal of reorganizing the chair administrative structure in order to make the department chair position more sustainable and to begin addressing some of the challenges the department had been facing in recent years in terms of faculty review, support, and morale. Because she envisioned returning to regular faculty work at the end of the interim term, she was interested in continued growth as a faculty member, colleague, and academic professional, yet not fully invested in professional development opportunities that signaled an interest in continued administration. Regardless of our immediate and long-term goals, our common experiences as interim department chairs guided by feminist leadership principles facilitated an investment in collaboration in seeking additional mentoring and support during our interim terms. Collaborative Mentoring and Mutual Support Recognizing a shared experience and a source of mutual support in our first lunch as interim chairs, we set a recurring weekly lunch date that allowed us to seek and offer support from each other over the next twelve months. Because we also were the three interim chairs— the newbies—in our group of eleven department chairs in the college, we likely were visible in an established group of chairs and associate deans who had been working together for multiple years and meeting biweekly as a group. The fact that we are all women also may have been an identifying factor in a leadership position like ours, yet it is worth noting that by the time of our interim appointments, the majority of department chairs in our college—all but three—were women. We felt welcome in the group from the beginning of our terms and encouraged to contribute to discussions. We were also confident in speaking up and offering alternative viewpoints, perhaps as a result of what we perceived as a welcoming environment or equally likely, as a consequence of our interim positions. For each of us, the unspoken charge of the interim role felt like a moment to advocate for department colleagues, students, and programs, and to move toward change where possible, a positioning we brought to these roles through a feminist leadership lens. At the same time, however, there were moments when we experienced the complexity of this insider-outsider status, wondering whether the potential for change that our interim positions might facilitate or call for was welcome. One situation in particular stands out as illustrative of this tension. Early in our interim terms, the chairs in our college were presented with a proposal to significantly change the multilevel review structure for full-time lecturers in our college. Although lecturers were not eligible for tenure, they were eligible for promotion to senior lecturer with an optional pre-promotion review during their third year of full-time teaching in the position. Given the larger number of lecturers in our college, the deans and leaders of individual departments completed a significant number of multilevel reviews each year. Grounded in the belief that this lecturer review process created additional unnecessary
18 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) work, the proposal included omitting some levels of review during the pre-promotion review process. As this change was introduced as a proposal, we assumed we would have the opportunity to collectively explore the multiple ways in which this change would impact lecturers preparing for promotion review, as we feared it would signal a devaluing of their work and status as full-time faculty in the college. Reducing lecturer workload (i.e., the burden of preparing for a pre-promotion review when there was no perceived reward or penalty for a satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress review) was offered as a reason to eliminate the reviews, but no one had asked lecturers in the college if they found the reviews to be burdensome, and their voices were not included during this conversation among the chairs and deans. Two of us then developed a small taskforce among the chairs to further explore this issue, which we identified as signaling insider status and an opportunity to prioritize faculty voices. However, we soon discovered that the taskforce was not charged with investigating the impacts of the proposal but with exploring alternative professional development initiatives that would be taken on at the department level. We found no strong objections from the group to this proposed change, leaving us to wonder how we might pro-actively participate in the development of proposals like this in the future. Perhaps it was also an acknowledgment, as Miller (1996/2002) explains, of the tensions between our feminist leadership principles and “the masculinist administration structures” that we were working in (p. 78-79) and of the “oxymoron” that Ratcliffe and Rickly (2010) point to (xiv; see also De Welde et al, 2019). This positioning—one that aligned with our feminist approach to leadership—inevitably informed our collaboration and mutual mentoring with each other, support that filled in the gaps created by other resources and that provided us with a space to facilitate trust, stress “moral and ethical issues,” and “act upon good ideas” (Dickson, 1993, p. 152), all while engaging in the ideological and institutional critique that inevitably surrounded our work as department chairs. Here, we extend current threads in the scholarship on mentoring that advocate for networks to disrupt traditional and often hierarchical mentoring relationships of novice and expert, and we recognize the need for mentoring among mid-career and late-career women faculty, particularly those in leadership positions (Costello, 2015; Curran, et al, 2019; Goerisch et al, 2019; List & Sorcinelli, 2018). Aligned with Goerisch et al’s (2019) claims, we found our reciprocal and collaborative mentoring of one another to be transformational through the support, skill building, and information exchange it facilitated. Within our informal mutual mentoring trio, a “non-hierarchical, relational and reciprocal mentoring structure” (Yun et al, 2016, p. 449) we discovered comradery, confidentiality, deep listening, and opportunities for strategizing. In more practical terms we created time in our schedules to get up from our desks, to walk outside of our buildings and to the campus dining facility for our lunch meetings, and to have real conversations. Strategically, this collaboration also created opportunities to share ideas and information we were each receiving from upper administration, to try out ideas and responses to requests, and to problem solve, often in ways that allowed us to share power and to speak with a collective voice in our engagement with upper administrators. These discussions addressed, among other topics, hiring and staffing, including how we were each
The Researcher 19 navigating faculty shortages with varied access to part-time and full-time lines; how we might respond, during annual reviews, to the tensions between a new dean’s expectations for faculty productivity and the realities of faculty workloads, lack of equity raises, compression, and inversion; and how we would negotiate a sudden shift to remote learning in March 2020 in response to the pandemic with needs of faculty and students in mind. Underscored by principles of feminist leadership and by shared experience, expertise, and reflection, our lunches took up the feel of consciousness-raising, helping us to recognize that our individual struggles were the result of systemic, institutional practices and that our collective voices could be more strategic than trying to individually negotiate change from the position of our individual departments (Costello, 2015; Curran, et al, 2019; Goerisch, 2019). We used the space to collaborate on responses and actions and to talk through the process as three women colleagues who were experiencing many of the same challenges in our positions but who could provide different perspectives and a fuller, more complete and complex picture of local exigencies. Our collaborations also facilitated much needed reflective space, with opportunities to draw connections among what often felt like disparate parts of our work disconnected from the larger goals we had established for our interim terms. Most significantly, this strategic collaboration also encouraged us to keep moving forward in this work as it became one of the few times and places where we could be honest about challenges and frustrations and could feel encouraged in celebrating each other’s successes. Like so many of our colleagues across institutions of higher education, our state university system’s pivot to remote learning and remote work in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic was immediately followed by a cycle of requests for information on how we would implement various plans: plans for remote teaching, plans for a rotational staff return to campus, plans for social distancing in classrooms in fall 2020 and for rotational hybrid teaching, and the list continued. As had been the case for us from the beginning of our interim terms, human stories and ethical considerations took center stage in our work as we were asked to bring department staff back to campus while students and faculty continued to work remotely during the early summer of 2020. As we had for nearly twelve months, we began strategizing what we felt were minimum requirements for a safe return to campus in the midst of a global pandemic, recognizing that many colleagues were caretakers of vulnerable people and with serious concerns about how women were being disproportionately burdened, and people of color were at a higher risk of death and complications from COVID. Although we were being asked individually to complete spreadsheets and respond to requests, our established process for working collaboratively allowed us to coordinate these responses and our plans to reinforce a similar, collective message of what was and was not reasonable, allowing us to support our faculty and staff in ways that they needed. Notably, this collaborative and mutual mentoring made salient for us the extent to which our interim positions—regardless of our individual motivations and goals—still facilitated meaningful intellectual work when grounded in feminist leadership practices (Gaillet & Guglielmo, 2010). Because a significant facet of our work involved problem solving, we
20 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) collaboratively strategized to secure resources or accomplish our goals, to ask questions, gather data, build arguments, navigate peer review with each other and/or with faculty colleagues in our respective departments, engage collaboratively in competitive review for support of new programs or resources from the Dean or other members of the administration, implement programs, and share results. Our commitment to principles of feminist leadership not only guided and informed our work with each other, but this collaboration also reinforced “community, shared responsibility, and open exchange of information, ideas, and criticism” with our department colleagues (Gunner, 2002, p. 254-255). Conclusion We have explored our varied motivations and experiences as we pursued interim department chair positions, including what that preparation looked like given the circumstances surrounding the position and its inherent complexity as an administrative role. Our goals for the interim position inevitably influenced how we approached and engaged with the work and, ultimately, how we experienced the role of interim chair. Feminist approaches to leadership not only guided our work as interim department chairs, our goals, and our decisions to lead, but they also naturally informed the ways we sought out mentoring and collaborated with each other in approaching the work on a macrolevel. Although we recognize that our individual experiences as profiled in this article may not be universal, we do feel that these narratives continue to demonstrate the complexity of department chair roles, especially for interim chairs, and the potential for engaging that complexity through a feminist leadership agenda. We also encourage readers to consider the implications of our narratives for preparing interim chairs for these roles and, perhaps, for envisioning professional development support for department chairs more broadly. Finally, in continuing to diversify the scholarly conversation on this work, we encourage and invite a multiplicity of voices to amplify, to complicate, and to expand the feminist leadership strands we explore in this text, especially with respect to the experiences of women of color in department chair roles and in terms of how we continue to value and to create space for innovative leadership models that prioritize human stories and lived experiences, facilitate problem-solving, encourage experimentation, and foster mentoring. Coda: At the time of the writing of this article, Teresa and Corinne accepted permanent chair positions in their respective departments following national searches. As planned, Letizia is in her second year as a faculty fellow at CETL, where her work includes facilitating mutual mentoring for department chairs.
The Researcher 21 References Acker, S. (2014). A foot in the revolving door? Women academics in lower-middle management. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(1), 73-85, https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2013.864615 Acker, S, & Millerson, D. (2018). Leading the academic department: A mother–daughter story. Education Sciences, 8(64), doi:10.3390/educsci8020064. Armstrong, D. E. &. Woloshyn, V.E. (2017). Exploring the Tensions and Ambiguities of University Department Chairs. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 47(1), 97-113. Berdrow, I. (2010). King among kings: Understanding the role and responsibilities of the department chair in higher education. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 38(4), 499–514. Boyle, C. J., Chesnut, R., Hogue, M. D., &. Zgarrick, D. P. (2016). The influence of interim deans: More than keeping the ship afloat and warming the captain’s seat. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 8(7), 1-4. Bryman, A. (2007). Effective leadership in higher education: A literature review. Studies in Higher Education, 32(6), 693–710. Burjek, A. (2022). Female leadership development, COVID-19 and the glass cliff. Chief Learning Officer, CLO Media. https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2022/03/21/female-leadership-development- covid-19-and-the-glass-cliff/ Cambridge, B. L., & McClelland, B. W. (1995). From icon to partner: Repositioning the writing program administrator. In J. Janangelo & K. Hansen (Eds.), Resituating writing: Constructing and administering writing programs (pp. 151-60). Heinemann. Chun, E., & Evans, A. (2015). The Department Chair as Transformative Diversity Leader: Building Inclusive Learning Environments in Higher Education. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Collins, P. H., & Bilge, S. (2016). Intersectionality. Cambridge: Polity. Costello, L. A. (2015). Standing up and standing together: Feminist teaching and collaborative mentoring. Feminist Teacher, 26(1), 1-28. Curran, W., Hamilton, T., Mansfield, B., Mountz, A., Walton-Roberts, M., Werner, M., & Whitson, R. (2019). ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Feminist mentoring at mid-career for institutional change. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 26(12), 1721– 1739. Czech, K., & Forward, G. L. (2010). Leader communication: Faculty perceptions of the department chair. Communication Quarterly, 58(4), 431–457. Davis, C., & Cone, N. (Spring 2018). Transitioning from interim to permanent department chair. The Department Chair, 24-25. De Welde, K., Ollilainen, M., & Solomon, C.R. (2019). Feminist leadership in the academy: Exploring everyday praxis. Gender and Practice: Insights from the Field (pp. 3-21). Advances in Gender Research, Volume 27, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
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The Researcher 23 Kruse, S. D. (2020). Department chair leadership: Exploring the role’s demands and tensions. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 1–19. http://advancingwomen.com/awl/awl_wordpress/ Miller, H. (1996/2002). Postmasculinist directions in writing program administration. In I. Ward & W. J. Carpenter (Eds.), Allyn and bacon sourcebook for writing program administrators, (pp. 78-90). Longman. Reprinted from WPA: Writing Program Administration 20(1-2), 49- 65. Mohajeri, O., Rodriguez. F., & Schneider, F. (2019). Pursuing intersectionality as a pedagogical tool in the higher education classroom. In C. Byrd, R. J. Burnn-Bevel, & S. M. Ovink (Eds.), Intersectionality and higher education: Identity and inequality on college campuses, (pp. 166-180). Rutgers University Press. Mullen, C. A. (2009). Challenges and breakthroughs of female department chairs across disciplines in higher education. Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, 29(9), 1-33. Peterson, H. (2016). Is managing academics ‘‘women’s work’’? Exploring the glass cliff in higher education management. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(1), 112–127. Ratcliffe, K., & Rickly, R. (2010). Introduction. Actions Un/Becoming a Feminist Administrator: Troubled Intersections of Feminist Principles and Administrative Practices. In K. Ratcliffe & R. Rickly (Eds.), Performing feminism and administration in rhetoric and composition studies, (pp. vii-xv). Hampton Press. Reynolds, N. (1998). Interrupting our way to agency: Feminist cultural studies and composition. In S. C. Jarratt & L. Worsham (Eds.), Feminism and composition studies: In other words, (pp. 58-73). Modern Language Association. Rinehart, J. A. (2002). Collaborative learning, subversive teaching, and activism. In Ed. N. A. Naples, & K. Bojar (Eds.), Teaching feminist activism: Strategies from the field, (pp. 22-35). Routledge. Rud, A. G., Jr. (2004). The interim chair: special challenges and opportunities. New Directions for Higher Education, 126, 45-54. Sinclair, A. (2012). Not just ‘adding women in’: Women re-making leadership. Seizing the initiative: Australian women leaders in politics, workplaces and communities. eScholarship Research Centre. Spiller, D. (2010). Language and academic leadership: exploring and evaluating the narratives. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(6), 679-692. Wolverton, M., Ackerman, R., & Holt, S. (2005). Preparing for leadership: What academic department chairs need to know. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 27(2), 227–238. Yun, J.H., Baldi, B., & Socinelli, M.D. (2016). Mutual mentoring for early-career and underrepresented faculty: Model, research, and practice. Innovative Higher Education, 41, 441-451.
24 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022)
The Resilience of Black Women in Academia Myleah Brewer, Savaughn E. Williams, and Michelle D. Wilson University of Kansas Socially constructed ideas about race and gender often permeate institutional life at various levels (Collins, 2016). In the United States, the racial hierarchies in place have been crafted from White supremacist ideals and those ideals were the foundation of the ivory tower (Holling, 2019). This discriminatory foundation has taken different forms over time, shifting to aversive racism which is embedded in even the smallest interactions (Gaertner et al., 2000). Aversive racism, the subtle racial behaviors of any ethnic or racial group who rationalize their aversion to a particular group by appeal to stereotypes, is the basis for many of the microaggressions and stereotypes that occur for people of color (Dovidio & Gaertner, p. 62). Black women are uniquely prone to discrimination as their experiences are influenced by gender, race, and many other intersecting identities (Crenshaw, 1989; King, 1988). The current literature has demonstrated that Black women are perpetually underrepresented at predominantly White institutions (PWIs), even with concerted efforts towards recruitment and retention for a more diverse and inclusive university environments (Patitu et al., 2003; Kelly & Winkle- Wagner, 2017). As more Black women enter these spaces, further research is needed to explore how Black women are presently negotiating PWIs. Although past literature has focused on diversity recruitment and retention (Hill-Jackson, 2020; Rosenburg & O'Rourke, 2011; Frølich, N., & Stensake, 2010), there is a dearth of scholarship exploring the communicative acts Black women are utilizing at PWIs (Harris et al., 2019; Robinson-Wood et al., 2015). As Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students experience microaggressions, gendered racism, raced sexism, and oppression in their work and learning environments (Alinia, 2015; Gregory, 2001; Hill, 2019; Hughes & Howard-Hamilton, 2003), their job performance, health, and socialization into the organizational culture are negatively impacted (Gregory, 2001; Patitu et al., 2003; Kelly & Winkle-Wagner, 2017). With the increase of Black women entering academia (Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 2020; Kelly & Winkle-Wagner, 2017; Nzinga, 2020), there is a need to better understand how social support is (not) communicated to Black Women at PWIs (Gregory, 2001; Hughes & Howard- Hamilton, 2003; Patitu et al., 2003; Steele, 2011). Further, research is also needed to better understand if and how Black women use communication to navigate discrimination at PWIs. 25
26 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) While there is some communication research highlighting Black female faculty (Griffin, 2012; Patton, 2004), there is a need for more scholarship to explore the experiences of Black women across the institutional hierarchy, including staff and graduate students. Scholars such as Gregory (2001), Hill (2019), and Hamilton (2003) explore social support and mentoring for Black women faculty in academia, but such studies do not explain if and how Black women across various roles create social support networks as a response to discrimination. This study works to fill this gap by comparatively exploring the experiences of Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students. Literature Review This study is situated within the following bodies of extant literature, including diversity in higher education, stereotypes, intersectional microaggressions, homeplace, and communication theory of resilience. We begin by addressing higher education as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) research to contextualize the value of our study. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education When assessing DEI issues within higher education, there is a prevalent use of the climate survey, which is a functionalist approach that does not give insight into individual experiences and how communication shapes these experiences within an organization. The functionalist approach to DEI climate surveys has meant an overuse of survey methods that do not allow space for thick description (Tracy, 2013, 2020), which gives scholars and practitioners a better understanding of how the participants’ experiences are not only situated within an organizational context, but also representative of experiences within larger institutions. When paired with communication scholarship and qualitative methodologies, DEI research can return to its social justice roots in providing opportunities and access for historically excluded groups, instead of its current economic motive (Ballard et al., 2020). DEI research originally started as organizations responding to civil rights era legislation intended to increase the representation and participation of women and ethnic minorities in different sectors of the United States’ workforce and education (Nkomo et al., 2019). However, this research quickly “moved away from a focus on inclusion processes and toward the business case for diversity, focused on economic outcomes such as group task performance and company financial performance” (Ballard et al., 2020, p. 594). Scholars agree that DEI literature lacks a connection with scholarship in other disciplines, “such as the very relevant work on race and gender in the communication and critical studies literatures” (Ballard et al., 2020, p. 595; Ahonen et al., 2014; Lee Ashcraft & Allen, 2003). This study will answer Ballard et al.’s (2020) call for DEI research to incorporate the rich tradition in discourse analysis from the communication discipline, which can provide insights about how people interact with each other across social category differences, a sociological perspective on the structural factors that govern how people are integrated into their organizational units, or insights from a critical theory perspective that social identity and dimensions of diversity are fluid, evolving, and contextually- based (p. 596).
The Researcher 27 Within a critical-interpretivist paradigm, this study aims to contribute to literature through an ethnographic analysis of the experiences of Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students. By illuminating and critiquing discriminatory practices, PWIs can make DEI a practice—as a noun (i.e., an ongoing accomplishment) (Ballard et al., 2020, p. 605). The first step toward making DEI a practice is analyzing how stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions affect communication. Stereotypes and Intersectional Microaggressions Stereotypes are defined as socially constructed images of a group of people, or marginalized individuals, which negatively portray the group as a means to justify their oppression (Ashley, 2014; Carter-Black, 2008; Holling, 2019). Carter-Black (2008) discussed how negative stereotypes, such as belittling intelligence, are common at PWIs. Holling (2019) argued that stereotypes are utilized to control how Black women are engaging with their jobs and coworkers. Many of the stereotypes that Black women encounter began in colonial slavery such as the Angry Black Woman, Strong Black Woman, Jezebel, Mammy, and Sapphire images (Harris-Perry, 2011; Collins, 2004; Parker, 2001). These stereotypes can lead to long-term health complications such as depression and anxiety symptoms, and loneliness (Donovan & West, 2015; Liao et al., 2020); distress and fatigue (Abrams et al., 2014); and emotion dysregulation and obesity (Giscombé & Lobel, 2005; Harrington et al., 2010; Mitchell & Herring, 1998). The harsh consequences of enduring stereotypes daily reinforce the need for the current study to better understand how Black women navigate the communicative material effects of stereotypes at PWIs and how they use support strategies to counter the effects. Stereotypes are not only enacted by outgroup members, but also ingroup members who reinforce positive and negative stereotypes. For instance, the strong Black woman stereotype is an example of a stereotype reinforced by Black women, through the “I can do it all” mentality (Scott, 2017) that is present in the Strong Black Woman Collective (Davis, 2015). The Strong Black Woman Collective (SBWC) framework “considers how Black women regulate strength in themselves and one another. Reappropriation of the strength image enables refuge from and collective resistance against larger oppressive forces” (Davis, 2015). While this stereotype praises the resilience of Black women, it is important for higher education DEI and communication scholarship to explore the circumstances in which Black women use social support networks—or collectives—to provide refuge from and/or resist larger oppressive forces. To better understand how stereotypes are communicated, it is important to investigate how Black women experience intersectional microaggressions (IMAs) as they are often rooted in stereotypes (Nadal et al., 2015). Intersectionality describes how one’s experiences based on race and gender are not mutually exclusive, rather these social identities intersect, which creates a multidimensional experience (Crenshaw, 1989). When scholarship focuses on individual experiences based on race or gender, it typically excludes the experiences of those who are marginalized in both identities (Nadal et al., 2015). By analyzing how microaggressions can materialize due to intersecting identities, scholarship can better address how marginalized
28 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) identities—in this context, Black women—experience discrimination in academia. Buzzanell (2018) describes microaggressions as “embedded in organizational cultures that are changeable, accumulated, and forecasted” (p.14). The “daily” nature of stereotypes and IMAs should be understood as an accumulated, anticipated and unexpected trigger events that Black women encounter within the context of PWIs (Buzzanell, 2018). Holling (2019) suggested that an IMA perspective allows a deeper understanding of the experiences of individuals who have multiple marginalized identities, such as Black women. Holling (2019) defined IMAs as referring to “everyday (non)verbal and/or environmental images or indignities, regardless of intention, that highlight activation of a controlling image that communicates hostile, disparaging, or negative messages based on two or more intersecting identities” (p. 109). Holling’s (2019) conceptualization of IMAs emphasizes how stereotypes and microaggressions are connected and communicatively used to displace and disparage Black women, especially in predominantly White spaces. This study answers Holling’s (2019) call for scholarship to further explore microaggressions and stereotypes within academia, and how Black women’s communication is affected. Homeplace This study uses the critical conceptualization of homeplace to describe the social support networks Black women use in academia as a consequence of IMAs at PWIs. Homeplace is used to “reaffirm one another and by so doing heal many of the wounds inflicted by racist domination” (hooks, 1990, p. 42). Hooks (1990) described homeplace as a space where Black women have the opportunity to “grow and develop, to nurture our spirits… this task of making a homeplace, of making home a community of resistance, has been shared by Black women in White supremacist societies” (p. 42). Davis (2018, 2019) and Goins (2011) found that one of the key ways Black women confronted or resisted external hostilities was by retreating with other Black women to a safe space where they all processed, supported, and confided in one another. Homeplace is a safe space for Black women to commune with other Black women and learn about ways to manage daily oppressive stress through communicative support (hooks, 1990). In an academic context, Kelly and Winkle-Wagner (2017) found that Black women “finding and using their voices in the academy became a way to push back and resist some of the isolation and racism that the women experienced in the academy, and often the women did so in collectivist spaces with other Black women” (p. 1). The present study seeks to explore how Black women in academia are using these spaces in the presence of institutional and departmental discrimination. Communication Theory of Resilience Next, we will explore communication theory of resilience as a mechanism to understand Black women’s experiences at PWIs. Black women are often described as resilient in their ability to withstand the oppression they face (Boylorn, 2013). Agarwal and Buzzanell (2015) defined resilience as “an individual process that is intersubjectively constructed through co-
The Researcher 29 crafting productive narratives, identities, emotions, and networks that enable reintegration and/or transformation after change” (p. 411). This definition works as a foundational understanding of the communication theory of resilience (CTR) for this study. The process of resilience occurs when a triggering event or turning point is present (Buzzanell, 2010). Trigger events can vary in the permanence, such events can be single or accumulated events that are both expected and unexpected in nature (Buzzanell, 2019). After trigger events occur, such as microaggressions, responses to those events can be anticipatory or reactive, meaning that some individuals utilize anticipatory strategies to be prepared for trigger events, while others must utilize reactive strategies for unanticipated occurrences. CTR could provide a better understanding of how Black women at PWIs might use anticipatory, reactive, or other strategies to respond to stereotyping and IMA. CTR also utilizes five core processes that describe how resilience is created within an individual, which includes: crafting normalcy, legitimizing negative feelings while foregrounding productive action, affirming identity anchors, using communication networks, and putting alternative logics to work. Crafting normalcy involves interacting and talking about how things will get back to normal as well as settling back into relational routines (Buzzanell, 2010, 2018, 2019). Black women’s experiences of being stereotyped and microaggressed at PWIs creates a need to understand what crafting normalcy looks like, and the communicative implications of this act as a step toward resilience. Legitimizing negative feelings while foregrounding productive action involves the act of validating an individual’s experience and feelings, alongside the understanding that life goes on (Buzzanell, 2019). For the current study, this might occur through Black women discussing how a microaggression or stereotype occurred at the PWI. Affirming identity anchors focuses on the identities, identifications, and values that are most salient in general or during a specific time (Buzzanell, 2019). Buzzanell (2019) argued that identities are constructed by and for an individual through being affirmed by others. The affirmation of one’s identity is described positively by Buzzanell (2019), but this could function differently for Black women who encounter stereotypes or controlling images that influence their identities while working at PWI. Using communication networks involves using people, organizations, communities, and nations to seek resources from their connections; stronger networks typically have the resources individuals’ will rely on first (Buzzanell, 2010, 2019). Within this core process there is a link to homeplace as a resource for Black women to maintain. The last core process is putting alternative logics to work, which describes how individuals utilize unexpected linguistic choices to reframe their situation through a different or alternative perspective (Buzzanell, 2019). These processes overall demonstrate the various ways that the process of resilience could occur for an individual (Buzzanell, 2019). CTR offers a frame to better understand resilience strategies employed by Black women at a PWIs, who may experience microaggressions and stereotyping (Buzzanell, 2019). Agarwal and Buzzanell (2015) also offered the conceptualization of resilience labor as a process within CTR. Resilience labor is defined as “the dual-layered process of reintegrating
30 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) transformative identities to sustain and construct organizational involvement and resilience” (p.422). This process is important to our study, as homeplace (or the social support network) utilized in resilience labor could be present through “the dual-layer process of creating resilience in others and themselves through connections to identity/identification networks” (p. 422). CTR offers a space to explore the resilience labor that Black women could be enacting through their potential use of homeplace as a communicative resource to build resilience. Although CTR gives insight into how Black women may cope with microaggressions and stereotypes, resilience as enacted both negatively and positively in the experiences of Black women who work at PWIs has not been fully explored. Through the lens of CTR, we can better understand the process of resilience for Black women during trigger events like microaggressions and stereotypes. Given the literature on stereotypes, IMA, homeplace, and CTR, our study was led by the following research questions: RQ1: How do Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students respond verbally and nonverbally to stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions at PWIs? RQ2: How is homeplace described and created at a PWI for Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students? Methods According to Tracy (2020), ethnography is “research marked by long-term immersion into a culture and by the thick description of a variety of cultural aspects including language use, rituals, ceremonies, relationships, and artifacts” (p. 29). Using ethnographic methods—such as interviews and artifact collection—allowed us to gain a more holistic understanding of the culture of the PWIs in which participants are employed or enrolled. By taking an ethnographic approach to this study, we answered Davis’ (2019) call for communication scholarship to utilize a more open method than the climate survey to gain deeper insight into how supportive communication is used in everyday life for Black women. This was accomplished by using semi-structured interviews and artifact analysis. By exploring the contextual meanings of Black women’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors, we were able to conduct a culture-centered interpretation of their experiences and to critique the discriminatory practices upheld at their Midwestern PWIs. We used artifacts such as climate surveys of participants’ universities to contextual their experiences. Data from the climate surveys provided an understanding of the demographic makeup of the universities and how universities report attitudes and concerns regarding DEI issues. Taking an ethnographic approach allowed us to use thick description as we contextualized Black women’s experiences with stereotypes, IMAs, and homeplace within academia. It is important to use thick description when studying a marginalized community as Tracy (2020) argues that “good qualitative research is characterized by thick description in which behavior and action can be understood from participants’ points of view. This requires immersion, time, interpretation, empathy, and logical inference” (p. 32).
The Researcher 31 Black women’s communication is often perceived to be deviant in comparison to middle- class White communicative norms (Parker, 2001; Hull et al., 1982). To combat this anti-Black perspective, this study explicates contextual meanings specific (Geertz, 1973) to Black women and the predominately white spaces they negotiate using an emic approach—an insider’s perspective (Tracy, 2020). By describing behavior from the actor’s point of view and being context-specific, this study aims to better understand Black women’s verbal and nonverbal responses to stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions; and seeks to understand how homeplace (hooks, 1990) and resilience (Buzzanell, 2010, 2018, 2019) might be cultivated at PWIs. Recruitment Participants were gathered using convenience, snowball (Browne, 1993; Castle Bell & Hastings, 2011; Hill & Thomas, 2000; Tracy, 2013), and network sampling (Becker et al., 2008; Tracy, 2013). To participate in this study, individuals had to identify as Black women faculty, staff, and/or graduate students, who are 18 years and older, and work/study at a PWI. We recruited through Black faculty and staff organizations, Black faculty and staff organizations’ Facebook groups, graduate students of color Facebook groups, e-mails, and personal connections. We also encouraged participants to refer other eligible Black women. Recruiting continued until saturation was met (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Data Collection We conducted 13 semi-structured interviews with women who identified as Black and worked for a PWI. Participants’ ages ranged from 24-73, demonstrating diverse perspectives and experiences. Participants worked/ studied across various departments at their PWIs, demonstrating a range of standpoints. Interviews We utilized semi-structured interviews (Jovchelovitch & Bauer, 2000; Tracy, 2013, 2020) to better understand the experiences of Black women in higher education who encounter stereotypes and IMAs. After recruitment, interested participants were contacted by one of the three researchers to schedule the interview and decide the time and medium. Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, interviews were synchronous, using mediated technology (i.e. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) depending on the participant’s preference. Once interviews were scheduled, researchers placed the participant’s information (name and email) into an Excel document to keep track of participants and the interviewer who conducted the interview. This information was kept on a password protected computer. Once interviews had taken place, participants’ name were replaced with their chosen pseudonym and stored on a password protected computer. Semi-structured interviews were used to allow participants to freely relay their experiences (Maxwell, 2013; Nohl, 2010). This allowed for more emic understandings to blossom, and for the interviewee’s complex viewpoints to be heard without the strict constraints of scripted
32 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) questions (Tracy, 2013, 2020). Additionally, researchers in this study all identify as Black women who are staff and/or graduate students at a PWI and who share experiences with the participants. Our positionality and these shared experiences are important elements of interviewing in helping build rapport and trust with participants. Researcher positionality also informed our epistemology and interpretation of data. The structure of interviews opened with a brief introduction about the study, demographic questions, general questions, and then led into more specific questions about microaggressions and stereotypes (Tracy, 2013). Interviews took 45- 60 minutes to complete, and participants were asked if they would like to participate in member checks at the end to ensure that their experiences were accurately portrayed (Creswell, 2009). Consent was obtained before the start of the interviews for all participants. Consent forms were emailed to participants for a digital signature and returned to the researchers, prior to the scheduled interview. Confidentiality and de-identification of participants was maintained by utilizing pseudonyms chosen by participants during the transcription of interviews. Identity was protected in transcripts, written documents, and verbal presentations of this data. Contact information, transcripts, pseudonyms, written documents, and presentations were stored in separate files on password protected computers throughout the study. The contact information will be destroyed after member checks are conducted at the end of the study. Data Analysis Once interviews were completed, the audio recorded interviews were deidentified by researchers and transcribed using transcription software. We used thematic analysis to evaluate the data from the transcribed interviews (Clarke & Braun, 2013). The first round of coding involved listening and reading through the transcribed interview to ensure accuracy of the transcript. Second, we read through the interviews again to highlight the recurrence and forcefulness of experiences (Scott & Medaugh, 2017). These experiences were organized in an Excel document—each researcher had their own sheet—as codes. These codes included experiences (i.e., racism, sexism, belittling, othering, dismissal), emotions (i.e., fear, frustration, sadness, anger), reactions (i.e., resistance, calling out, communal communication), stereotypes (i.e., angry Black woman, strong Black woman, modern mammy, “Oreo”, unprofessional, aggressive), intersectional microaggressions (i.e., undermining authority, silencing, European beauty standards), and homeplace (i.e., mentorship, family, organizations, friends). Third, we read through the transcriptions again, noting preliminary codes that were seen throughout most of the interviews (Moghaddam, 2006). During this step, codes were grouped in relation to research questions. For example, codes that related to research question two included support system, “people who look like you,” family, and “build community.” Fourth, we came together to discuss the preliminary codes each researcher found. During this step, categories were formed by combining codes across the data. Themes were placed in another Excel document to better attend to the similarities and differences that were present (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Owen, 1984). For example, the aforementioned codes for research question two had the commonality of social support across our descriptions and interpretations. This
The Researcher 33 resulted in the theme “Find Your People”—an in vivo quote from a participant, which was similar to majority of the participants’ advice for other Black women at PWIs. Next, we combined smaller categories into three major themes, and narrowed down our definitions for each (Clarke & Braun, 2013). Definitions were chosen by both descriptive and interpretive exemplars for each theme. We chose exemplars as participants often used identical or similar language and examples in their interviews. For example, both Ayesha and Beth explicitly advised other Black women at PWIs to “Find your people.” Similarly, other participants advised Black women to find a group of people that they felt supported and comfortable with. While their descriptions of social support were worded differently, as researchers, we interpreted their advice as a common meaning. The resulting themes were shared with participants through member checks (Tracy, 2013). Member checks were addressed at the end of interviews and within the consent forms. Participation in member checks is voluntary. During member checks, we sent a summary of major themes with definitions, interpretations, and examples to participants via email. Participants agreed that their experiences were accurately represented. Their responses helped researchers build a more authentic representation of the participants’ experiences (Tracy, 2013, 2020). Findings and Interpretation The semi-structured interviews highlighted the ways in which Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students responded verbally and nonverbally to IMA and stereotypes, and how they described and created homeplace at a PWI. Two primary themes emerged, illustrating Black women’s interpretation of and response to their experiences: Protective Self and Find Your People. Protective Self The first theme that emerged from the semi-structure interviews was Protective Self. This theme as accounts for verbal and nonverbal strategies used to cope with, avoid, reject, and resist trauma associated with the daily triggering events including stereotypes and IMA. These communicative strategies included: (1) using self-care as a way to cope with oppression, (2) avoiding stereotypes by remaining silent or code-switching, hiding emotions after experiencing a microaggression, and (3) resisting oppression by explicitly rejecting stereotypes and microaggressions by challenging and educating perpetrators. From the perspective of the majority of participants, protecting oneself was often a response to triggering events within the workplace. When asked how she coped with microaggressions and stereotypes, Alice, a staff member, responded: They [her White co-workers] all eat lunch at their desks and everything, and I just can’t do that. I have to get away. And that’s my self-care routine I do for myself…go to lunch for the hour.
34 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) In Alice’s experience, taking lunch outside the office allows her to temporarily escape with the oppressive environment of her office. This nonverbal communicative response demonstrates a routine coping strategy that acts as a reprieve from daily triggering events in the workplace. By physically separating herself, Alice was able to mentally and emotionally distance from what she describes as a hostile work environment. Participants also described spirituality as a form of self-care. Angel B, a graduate student, repeatedly described how her faith is her most prevalent coping mechanism. She explained: My faith has really played a very strong role in my life and how I see challenges, right. So, even the scripture talks about how He will strengthen us; that, with Him, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, right. So that scripture has resonated with me, you know. When I'm going through difficult times, what I do, I put my faith in God, because I know this is His promise, right. He has said that, so I go back to Him in prayer. I pray about it, and I trust him to help me, and eventually I know He does. He helps me a lot. This journey wouldn’t have been easy, without God, so my faith again plays a very strong role. Angel B’s use of spirituality is a verbal communicative response to discrimination, which is how she encourages resilience within herself despite multiple instances of IMA she disclosed. While she does not always directly confront perpetrators of IMA, her communication with God through prayer and the Bible is how she best copes with external hostilities. By internalizing scriptures, Angel B was able to protect her mental health because she remembered God’s promises to her. Similarly, Abigail, a staff member, also mentions how her faith was a verbal communicative response to stereotypes and IMA: I prayed a lot. Before that, you know, I was reading because reading takes my mind off of things and it takes me to another place. But I really genuinely prayed a lot. I did, I think, I don’t know off the top my head, I think maybe five or six counseling sessions with my pastor. By utilizing spirituality through prayer, reading, and counseling, Abigail was able to use this verbal communicative response to cope with discrimination and protect herself from the damaging effects of oppression in the academy. Other forms of self-care, or coping mechanisms, participants mentioned were community involvement, writing, exercising, and setting boundaries. While some participants used self-care as a self-protective response to microaggressions and stereotypes, avoidance was also utilized as a response strategy for Black women at PWIs. When explaining how she was microaggressed daily by a new colleague, Ayesha, a faculty member, expressed:
The Researcher 35 I was so frustrated, but I didn’t really know how to cope with that. I really struggled with how to deal with that [microaggression] because at this point, I’m new. You know, how do I assert myself without becoming the Angry Black Woman? How do I speak to some of those power disparities? So, I just sort of let it go. I didn’t say anything. Ayesha’s statement demonstrates how avoidance is used to protect Black women from confirming stereotypes. Ayesha continued stating: Another stereotype I’m mindful of is the Jezebel. So, I’m conscious about that in my attire, because I’m fairly well endowed in terms of my breasts. And so, I often have issues with cleavage and I’m very hyper conscious about what I’m wearing. Particularly when I’m teaching in front of a classroom of people. In Ayesha’s experience, avoiding negative stereotypes using nonverbal communication helped her manage her experiences with stereotypes and IMAs. To protect herself from being labelled the new Angry Black Woman or Jezebel in the department, Ayesha chose to be silent about the microaggressions she experienced from her colleague and avoided wearing clothing that may be hypersexualized by others. Similarly, Cheyenne, a graduate student, described how she avoided the Angry Black Woman stereotype: During work, a lot of times when I give feedback, I’m considered intimidating, even though I do purposely use the sandwich method, because I don’t want to come off as intimidating…the sentiment that is just positive- negative-positive. By using the structure “positive-negative-positive” when giving feedback, Cheyenne uses verbal communication—code-switching—to avoid being labelled the Angry Black Woman. Her use of the sandwich method is an example of code-switching as Cheyenne made a conscious decision to change her authentic communication style—being direct—to accommodate the stereotypical assumptions from her colleagues. This is an attempt to protect herself from IMAs as colleagues may label her feedback and communication as harsh or intimidating. Other participants also expressed that keeping their head down was a way of avoiding being labelled as “difficult” or “over the top” in academia. While she offered an example of how she utilizes verbal communication to avoid stereotypes and IMAs, Cheyenne also explained that she utilizes an opposing strategy by communicatively confronting IMAs. She explained: If something happens in the moment where I feel like “Okay, I need to address it right now”, I will say like “Hey that's not cool”…But even then I have to really think about what I want to say before I say it to make sure that
36 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) I’m still not being perceived wrong … it doesn’t really matter how I come off because their perception of me is already made up. Rather than choosing to be silent, Cheyenne responded to instances of discrimination through verbally challenging her colleague, a form of resistance. She pointed out the microaggression verbally to stop individuals from continuing the instance stereotyping or IMA. This is a form of protective self as Cheyenne wanted to avoid a similar situation in the future. Similarly, Kam, a staff member, expressed that when confronted with a stereotype that she did not identify with, she would explicitly state that she did not relate as a way of avoiding a controlling image of Black women. Kam expressed that when confronted with a stereotype or IMA, challenging the trigger directly was a primary strategy: I always have this sort of self check-in of, like, “Is this an educational moment that this person can utilize? Can I turn this around so this person can get some education?”... [I try to help] someone understand, “what you’re saying isn’t appropriate, here’s why. Here’s how that’s impacted, here’s what you can say differently.” When it’s happening to me just, you know, as a human person operating here outside of the bounds of my job, then I try and do my best to also still be the educational person. However, I’ve also followed appropriate reporting channels… Just kind of depends on what happens and why. In Kam’s experience, rejecting stereotypes and IMAs through education is a form of protecting herself from oppression both professionally and personally. She was protecting her future self, and potentially other Black women, from experiencing the same IMA from the perpetrator in the future. Angel B also used education as a way of protecting herself and others as a form of resistance during a lecture that painted Africa only as a continent of poverty: In a lecture hall we were talking about Africa and examples we were given about Africa was that Africa is-- because I’m from you know that continent- - that Africa is a continent... made up of poor people… I specifically called out the media. That's how the media is portraying Africa—from the wrong lens. By explicitly stating the source of misinformation and correcting the perpetrators, Angel B rejected the stereotypes being communicated at the lecture by educating the audience on the dangers of this stereotype. Participants expressed that challenging through education consisted of verbally asking the perpetrator why they thought that the stereotype was fitting, letting the perpetrator know that their actions/words were inappropriate, how their communication impacted others, and ways they could address a situation/person more appropriately. Through education, participants verbally communicated that they were rejecting
The Researcher 37 oppression to protect themselves. Anne demonstrated how her own recognition of stereotypes and microaggressions occurred stating: I mean, in that case, the individual was White, the individual started using stereotypes when I was talking to them, and they said I was what was the term that they used? I was making it difficult for them. I was triggering them in that they said they had issues in the past with abuse and I was triggering them because of the way I was talking. I became the stereotypical angry Black woman and that’s a way to-to silence me and to disempower me. Anne, like many other Black women in this study, acknowledged the purpose of stereotypes and microaggressions as “a way to silence” and “disempower”. Protective self involves educating self to be able to recognize when an IMA is taking place, and what stereotype(s) is informing the IMA. Protective self is also confronting the perpetrator by challenging the validity of the IMA, a form of rejection. By verbally articulating their rejection and resistance to stereotypes and IMAs, participants were better able to protect themselves from the negative consequences of internalizing discrimination. This theme highlights several key factors of how Black women at PWIs use verbal and nonverbal communication to protect themselves from stereotypes and IMAs. These communicative practices included: (1) using self-care as a way to cope with oppression, (2) avoiding stereotypes by remaining silent or code-switching, hiding emotions after experiencing a microaggression, and (3) resisting oppression by explicitly rejecting stereotypes and microaggressions, challenging and educating perpetrators. The notion of a social support network through communal coping was also a response to stereotypes and microaggression, which emerged in the next theme, Find Your People. Find Your People The second theme that emerged from the data was Find Your People. This theme reflects how Black women in academia build a social support network of similar individuals (in this context other Black women), mentors, and allies (women of color or White individuals) who offer trust, affirmation of experience, advice, and emotional freedom. Before exploring how they participate within a social support network, participants explained where they learned how to take part in this communicative performance of support. A majority of participants described that growing up, they learned resilience from a collective (women in their families or friend groups), and that resilience is a means of survival. Early examples of the utility of social support networks and benefits of communal communication set the precedent of how these Black women in academia sought out sites of refuge—homeplace. When asked where they learned resilience, most participants gave examples of Black women in their families (mothers and grandmothers) that embodied resilience and leaned on one another for support. Kassie explained she observed her mother and aunts embody
38 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) resilience. She explained that “it’s just a way of living.” Kassie’s response is an example of how resilience and collectivity is normalized among Black women. When asked where she found social support, Kassie explained that her mentor, another Black woman, gave her the space to express her feelings when she was confronted with IMAs: I would always talk to my mentor about it. And she was really great about like, reaffirming… sometimes you do start to think like, “well, maybe I was one of the, you know, minority picks. And that’s why I got this”, or “that’s why I was hired because I was a minority”. And she would always reaffirm that, no, “because you had to work extremely hard.” By reaffirming her hard work, Kassie’s mentor reassured her that her accomplishments were based on her merit, not affirmative action initiatives. This reassurance helped Kassie silently persevere through the IMAs and was a reminder that Kassie’s resilience resulted in success. A majority of participants expressed that they translated this need of communal support into their work lives. Participants communicated that having a collective support system was salient at a PWI. When asked what advice she would give to Black women working or attending a PWI Ayesha suggested: Find your people. You know they’re there, but you have to find them… I’ve got a whole group of girlfriends that are Black women in other departments that I’m really tight with and we lean on each other. We’ve been through this whole pandemic doing our writing groups together every day…whenever we come into sticky situations in our departments that are specifically those related to race and gender, we seek out each other’s counsel. And that has been so helpful…these are women who are in disciplines all across the university, that I’ve just sort of gravitated towards and become good friends with but I think that I again because I’ve gone to so many PWIs. That’s just what I know how to do. When describing her collective, Ayesha expressed that her network provided trust, advice, and the space to be authentic. Participants felt that they found these network attributes in the Black faculty and staff organizations on campus, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office, a support group for women of color, and individual relationships with coworkers, family, and friends. Abigail also stressed the importance of strength and trust in a collective at a PWI saying: Be strong. You gotta be strong. Get yourself a support group, an inner circle of people you trust because, like I was just telling somebody yesterday, I’m friendly with everybody. But not everybody’s my friend… And so that’s what I will tell anybody that works in a PWI. Get yourself a core group of people
The Researcher 39 that you trust with unquestionably good morals and character and let them be your inner circle. In Abigail’s experience, she found it important to know those in her support group on a personal level to build trust. Within their respective or similar networks, the majority of participants stressed the importance of trust as they shared their triggering experiences at a PWI. A sense of trustworthiness is essential for these spaces as participants expect to be able to be open without the fear of judgment or rumors. This is accomplished by maintaining relationships within the network. While some participants spoke specifically about networks of Black women, others explained that they also received support from allies and mentors. Anne illustrated this saying: I’m also very lucky and blessed that I’ve had some amazing mentors. And some of them have been White, one of my closest mentors is a White woman but she’s a White woman who’s doing the work to understand. Even though she’s not a person of color, she understands the structural racism classes in different parts of identities. So, she has helped me to understand how to navigate and negotiate those identities and she has been, she has taught me a lot about how to be a first-generation woman of color in academia, how to advocate for myself, how to ask for things that I rightfully deserve. Within these networks, participants can debrief, cope, and disconnect from oppressive forces in the workplace. By listening, participants expressed that they are able to receive and extend advice to members in the collective, and act as a source of support and solidarity. Discussion Rather than analyzing organizations as interpersonal relationships, organizational communication scholars recognize that organizations are systems or networks in which individuals operate (Contractor & Grant, 1996; Monge, 1977; Herrmann, 2020). These systems or networks are reflections of larger institutions. To better understand the experiences and communication of Black women in academia, we must first recognize that academe is fundamentally embedded in an anti-Black, white supremacist culture, which in turn is the same value system used institutionally. The two themes Protective Self and Find Your People provide insight into the communicative strategies that Black women utilize in response to stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions, as well as how homeplace functions as a process of building resilience at PWIs. Protective Self RQ1—how do Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students respond verbally and nonverbally to stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions at PWIs—is answered in the first theme Protective Self. Within this theme CTR (Buzzanell, 2010) aligns with many of the verbal and nonverbal strategies that Black women utilize in responding to and coping with
40 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) intersectional microaggressions and stereotypes at a PWI. Participants accounted anticipatory strategies (Buzzanell, 2010), such as the ritual of having lunch outside of the office away from non-people of color or hiding emotions (sadness, frustration, and anger) to avoid the stereotype of the angry Black woman. Participants also utilized reactive responses (Buzzanell, 2010) where they described unexpected or surprising offensive comments and behaviors that co-workers communicated to them, which often resulted in a direct comment from Black women that either corrected or rejected the stereotype or microaggression. These responses also involved educating the offender on why their actions are wrong. Such strategies are important to Black women to utilize to survive the problematic environment of PWIs. As microaggressions and stereotyping occurred, participants did not respond through crafting normalcy as CTR would suggest, instead the culture of a PWI was described as the trigger event and the norm, demonstrating a dialectical tension in wanting to resist and reject the norm and yet having to exist within the norm to be financially safe (Buzzanell, 2019). Participants discussed using education and sharing their own experiences with those inside the classroom and co-workers to create a better norm. The rejection of a previous norm is a “constant” labor undertaken by Black women at PWIs to remain resilient (Buzzanell, 2019; Steele, 2011). Allie stated “I am not a disadvantaged Black woman” which indicates how the White women she works with perceive Black women in their workspace and reinforces a problematic norm at PWIs. These dialectical tensions demonstrate the difficulty involved in building and maintaining daily resilience. Participants also used alternative logics (Buzzanell, 2010) as a form of resistance to microaggressions and stereotypes and a way to foster resilience while working. Alternative logics for participants involved sarcasm, jokes, and nonverbal messages such as apparel or hair styles as a way to present a non-stereotypic persona to co-workers (Buzzanell, 2010). These strategies are employed to reject and avoid the controlling images placed on Black women by coworkers and supervisors. Sarcasm and jokes were used to subtly and not so subtly point out problematic comments or demonstrate that Black women (like their White counterparts) have degrees and are educated beyond what is often assumed. Clothing and hair style choices were strategically chosen to avoid and reject stereotypes, such as jezebel or ghetto girl (Holling, 2019; Scott, 2017), to attempt crafting normalcy. Strategic style choices are an example of crafting normalcy as participants wanted to avoid IMAs rooted in misogynistic and racist stereotypes by assimilating to dominant style norms (e.g., clothes that do not emphasize curves and/ or straight hair). This strategy was used to nonverbally shift negative race and gender stereotypes away from Black women, yet such acts of resistance were often met with more microaggressions and stereotypes from those who they worked with. Find Your People RQ2—how is homeplace described and created at a PWI for Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students—was answered through the theme Finding Your People. Find Your People illustrated the CTR processes of maintaining communication networks, affirming identity anchors, and legitimizing negative feelings while foregrounding productive action.
The Researcher 41 All participants discussed the importance of creating a support system while working at a PWI. Participants were adamant about creating and/or building community as a necessary resource when employed or attending a PWI. Participants utilized family, friends, allies, and mentors who could listen, offer advice, and allow them to be emotionally free. These networks provided a space where Black women did not have to perform being the “strong Black woman” or code-switch, and allowed participants to utilize the network’s presence (nearby and long- distance) and communication after microaggressions or stereotyping occurred (Kelly & Winkle- Wagner, 2017). The Black women in our study specifically discussed how other Black women were a strong network to have, since similar experiences lead to more understanding, empathy, and development of new strategies to counter daily discriminative actions (Buzzanell, 2019). Black women communing with other Black women, mentors, and allies as a resource speaks to the importance of homeplace as a necessity for building and maintaining resilience at a PWI for Black women. Homeplace offers the safe space where Black women can “grow and develop” as well as strategize past and future ways to resist a predominantly White hegemonic space (hooks, 1990). This study contextualizes how homeplace is created and maintained for Black women in an organizational context. Find Your People gives scholars and organizations an idea of the stereotypes and IMAs that Black women face, and how social support networks are used as a coping mechanism at PWIs. Engaging with similar individuals is important in the CTR process of affirming identity anchors (Buzzanell, 2019). Within homeplace, participants mentioned that the Black faculty and staff affinity groups were an important site where individuals could feel seen and compare microaggressive incidences to create a reservoir of strategies. Networks like the affinity groups and other Black women friends and family create a space where their experiences are not second guessed (Davis, 2019). Participants found that these specific networks uphold their identities and values in an environment where their identity is typically negatively salient. Buzzanell (2019) argued that identity is constructed by and for you, through those around you affirming your identity. This is present within homeplace, where Black women work to encourage and affirm one another’s identity through allowing each other to be themselves without judgement or fear of a trigger event occurring through the rejection of identity. Homeplace is a site for valuing voice, intelligence, and basic humanity—areas which are often deeply challenged in academe for Black women. The affirmation of identity anchors helps build resilience after trigger events occur, and this process takes place predominantly in spaces perceived to be homeplace. The recognition of a microaggression or stereotype as an actual encounter and not an imagined incident or “being sensitive” aligns with the CTR process of legitimizing negative feelings while foregrounding productive actions (Buzzanell, 2010, 2019). Homeplace allows Black women’s experiences to be validated by those who have experienced similar trigger events (Davis, 2019). Upon a trigger event occurring, homeplace acts as a refuge where the event is acknowledged, and strategies are proposed to move forward and continue working
42 Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2022) toward one’s goal at a PWI. This study illuminates how the validation of Black women’s experience are necessary for creating a daily reserve of resilience against trigger events. These daily reserves speak to Agarwal and Buzzanell’s (2015) conceptualization of resilience labor. Black women seek out other Black women as a resource of resilience in developing a sense of homeplace at a PWI. Resilience labor occurs through the mutual sharing of experiences and strategies which reinforce the act of building resilience for others while creating it for oneself “through connections to identity/identification networks” (Agarwal & Buzzanell, 2015, p. 422). This study expands the previous conceptualization of resilience labor (Agarwal & Buzzanell, 2015) arguing that resilience labor is demonstrated in the communicative networks or homeplaces that Black women use. By illustrating the types of stereotypes and IMAs that encourage Black women to mutually share their experiences and strategies, this study converges communication (CTR) and Black feminist (homeplace) theories—creating an intersectional perspective of how resilience labor manifests in communication. CTR (Buzzanell 2010, 2019) as a theoretical framework helped provide an explanation for how resilience is created and maintained in Black women’s responses to microaggressions and stereotypes. CTR (Buzzanell, 2010, 2019) also explains how homeplace is an important resource, or site, of resilience for Black women who work at PWIs. Education scholars and organizations have the opportunity to consider how homeplace sites like an affinity groups can benefit Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students, and can function as a way to solicit feedback on how to enact espoused DEI values. The themes Protective Self and Find Your People demonstrate that Black women are working overtime to resist and endure the microaggressions and stereotypes that are thrown their way daily. Indicating that PWIs are not adequately supporting the Black women they employ and educate. Kelly and Winkle-Wagner (2017) call for more institutional change and this study echoes that call as participants described the lack of institutional support for Black employees and an increased support for White spaces and microaggressive culture. While Black women’s communicative strategies are temporary solutions to their daily trauma, they are not solutions to the problem at hand: lack of institutional support. Such a claim from our participants demonstrates a limitation of this study. More questions about communication between PWIs and Black women, regarding reports about microaggressions, needed to be included. This might have been helpful in determining how PWI environments can change. We suggest four steps toward change. The first step toward change is taking an intersectional approach to DEI trainings across PWI campuses for faculty, staff, and students. This could be accomplished by giving the history and examples of IMAs that marginalized identities often encounter. For example, DEI trainings could give the history of the Angry Black Woman. By connecting its roots in colonial slavery to how it is communicated in IMAs today, trainees may be more likely to internalize the material and assess how they may have microaggressed Black women on campus. Second, we suggest biennial climate surveys to
The Researcher 43 maintain an accurate representation of demographics and cultural climate. These studies should take a mixed-methods approach so that stakeholders are able to use full voice when giving their institutions feedback. Third, we suggest PWIs create boards to hold the institution accountable for proposed DEI programs and initiatives. These boards should count as service and not only fall on the shoulders of marginalized identities, as they are often subject to more DEI related service (Social Sciences Feminist Network Research Interest Group, 2017; Porter, 2007). This board is to ensure that the institution follows through with proposed initiatives and measures success. Lastly, we suggest that when publishing public statements, the university and provost offices should explicitly condemn white supremacy and their past and present participation/ complacency in its ideologies and practices. They should also give detailed steps on how they will commit and are presently working toward anti-racism. We urge institutions to follow Ballard et al.’s (2020) call for institutions to throw away the template that provides cover for the institution and start doing the actual work of anti-racism. Rejecting the fantasy of innocence preserved, it must unequivocally admit organizational injustice and inequity; prioritize the extension of shelter (i.e., meaningful empathy, care, justice, healing, restitution) to those who bear the brunt of constitutive white supremacy in higher ed; and work to unsettle, challenge, and educate those who benefit, including many statement authors (p. 600). PWIs should analyze the specific types of microaggressions and stereotyping that occurs at the institution, for the sake of creating training that adequately captures how microaggressions and stereotypes occur on local campuses. We recommend future scholarship create more effective and in-depth university training by analyzing how Black women communicate with White allies about microaggressions and stereotypes. Continuing this line of research, we also hope to build training practices that protect Black women from these discriminations. Conclusion By converging Buzzanell’s (2010) communication theory of resilience and hooks’ (1990) homeplace, this study explored how Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students respond to discrimination at PWIs. This study explored the experiences of Black women (faculty, staff, and graduate students) and the verbal/nonverbal strategies they use to respond to stereotypes and intersectional microaggressions. This study found that Black women utilize protective strategies to respond to microaggressions and stereotypes and use communication networks, or homeplace, as a resource for resilience. While this study demonstrated value in better understanding the communication of Black women faculty, staff, and graduate students who encounter discrimination at PWIs, there is still a need for systemic change that dismantles the white supremacist culture in which the American higher education system is embedded.
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