How Racism Against BIPOC Women Faculty Operates in Social Work Academia


  • Sameena Azhar Fordham University
  • Kendra P. DeLoach McCutcheon Syracuse University, School of Social Work



Racism, Social Work, Academia, Faculty, Women of Color


In this article, we seek to highlight the ways in which we, as two female social work faculty members whose racial/ethnic identities fall into the categories of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC), have experienced racism and White supremacy within predominantly White institutions in the United States. We seek to clarify that these experiences are not unique to any particular institution or university, but rather reflect systemic racism and the upholding of White supremacy in higher education in social work throughout the United States. We highlight the differential vulnerability faced by BIPOC women in academia, which are often unaddressed in the pursuit of what is seen to be an egalitarian or colorblind merit review. Bearing in mind our reflexivity on our positionalities, we share personal narratives regarding our own marginalization within White spaces and the emotional labor that we are often asked to carry for the institutions within which we work. We will elucidate experiences of tokenization or assumed intellectual inferiority by our peers. Given the current sociopolitical moment and the heightened awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within universities, we also reflect on how institutions of higher education, and particularly schools of social work, can move beyond simply hiring more people of color or conducting diversity trainings to ensuring that BIPOC women are more fully included in their roles within universities as faculty, administrators, staff and students.


Adams, M. E., Bell, L. A. E., & Griffin, P. E. (Eds.). (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Ahmed, S. (2012). On being included: Racism and diversity in institutional life. Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. [feministkilljoys]. (2020, August 28). Use is a life question.

American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare [AASWSW]. (2020). The grand challenges of social work: Eliminate racism.

American Psychiatric Association [APA]. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). APA.

Anand, R., & Winters, M. F. (2008). A retrospective view of corporate diversity training from 1964 to the present. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(3), 356-372.

Anderson, E. (2015). The white space. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 1(1), 10-21.

Arao, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces. In L. M. Landreman (Ed.), The art of effective facilitation: Reflections from social justice educators (pp. 135-150). ACPA Books and Media.

Arnold, N. W., Crawford, E. R., & Khalifa, M. (2016). Psychological heuristics and faculty of color: Racial battle fatigue and tenure/promotion. The Journal of Higher Education, 87(6), 890-919.

Atkins-Loria, S., Macdonald, H., & Mitterling, C. (2015). Young African American men and the diagnosis of conduct disorder: The neo-colonization of suffering. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(4), 431-441.

Azhar, S., Alvarez, A. R., Farina, A. S., & Klumpner, S. (2021). “You’re so exotic looking”: An intersectional analysis of Asian American and Pacific Islander stereotypes. Affilia, Online first, 1-20.

Azhar, S., Dasgupta, S., Sinha, S., & Karandikar, S. (2020). Diversity in sex work in India: Challenging stereotypes regarding sex workers. Sexuality & Culture, 24, 1774-1797.

Aziz, A., & Azhar, S. (2019). Social exclusion and official recognition for Hijra in Bangladesh. Journal of Research on Women and Gender, 9(1), 3-19.

Barbezat, D. A., & Hughes, J. W. (2005). Salary structure effects and the gender pay gap in academia. Research in Higher Education, 46(6), 621-640.

Bell, D. A. (1995). Who's afraid of critical race theory. University of Illinois Law Review, 1995, 893-910.


Bell, L. A. (1997). Theoretical foundations for social justice education. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook (pp. 3-15). Routledge.

Bellas, M. L. (1999). Emotional labor in academia: The case of professors. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 561(1), 96-110.

Bery, S. (2014). Multiculturalism, teaching slavery, and white supremacy. Equity & Excellence in Education, 47(3), 334-352.


Bingham, T., & Nix, S. J. (2010). Women faculty in higher education: A case study on gender bias. In Forum on Public Policy Online (Vol. 2010, No. 2). Oxford Round Table.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). Greenwood.

Breuning, M., Fattore, C., Ramos, J., & Scalera, J. (2021). The great equalizer? Gender, Parenting, and scholarly productivity during the global pandemic. PS: Political Science & Politics, Online, 1-5.

Burke, K., Duncan, K., Krall, L., & Spencer, D. (2005). Gender differences in faculty pay and faculty salary compression. The Social Science Journal, 42(2), 165-181.

Cabrera, N. L., Franklin, J. D., & Watson, J. S. (2016). Whiteness in higher education: The invisible missing link in diversity and racial analyses: Whiteness in higher education. ASHE Higher Education Report, 42(6), 7-125.


Carr, P. L., Ash, A. S., Friedman, R. H., Scaramucci, A., Barnett, R. C., Szalacha, L. E., Palepu, A., & Moskowitz, M. A. (1998). Relation of family responsibilities and gender to the productivity and career satisfaction of medical faculty. Annals of internal medicine, 129(7), 532-538.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2020). Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020.

Cocchiara, F. K., Connerley, M. L., & Bell, M. P. (2010). “A GEM” for increasing the effectiveness of diversity training. Human Resource Management, 49(6), 1089-1106.

Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Collins, P. H. (2012). Social inequality, power, and politics: Intersectionality and American pragmatism in dialogue. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 26(2), 442-457. https://doi.ord/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190459239.003.0009

Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2015). CSWE Educational and Policy Accreditation Standards.

CSWE. (2017). 2017 Statistics on social work education in the United States.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241-1299.

Cress, C. M., & Hart, J. (2009). Playing soccer on the football field: The persistence of gender inequities for women faculty. Equity & Excellence in Education, 42(4), 473-488.

Dancy, T. E., Edwards, K. T., & Earl Davis, J. (2018). Historically white universities and plantation politics: Anti-Blackness and higher education in the Black Lives Matter era. Urban Education, 53(2), 176-195.

DeLoach McCutcheon, K. P. (2019). Willie Gertrude Brown and the unsettling of Black settlements: Lessons for community-engaged practice and social work education. Urban Social Work, 3(1), 110-128.

Denson, N., Bowman, N. A., Ovenden, G., Culver, K. C., & Holmes, J. M. (2020). Do diversity courses improve college student outcomes? A meta-analysis. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education [Advance online publication].


Dewitt, K. (2021, May 4,). What you need to know about Idaho’s new critical race theory law. ABC4 News.

Duncan, P. (2014). Hot commodities, cheap labor: Women of color in the academy. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 35(3), 39-63.


Durr, M., & Harvey Wingfield, A. M. (2011). Keep your ‘N’ in check: African American women and the interactive effects of etiquette and emotional labor. Critical Sociology, 37(5), 557-571.

Executive Office of the President of the United States. (2020, September 4). Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies: Training in the federal government. Russell Vought, Director. Washington, D.C.: Office of Management and Budget.

Feagin, J. R. (2013). Systemic racism: A theory of oppression. Routledge.

Feagin, J. R. (2020). The white racial frame: Centuries of racial framing and counter-framing. Routledge.

Feisthamel, K. P., & Schwartz, R. C. (2006). Racial bias in diagnosis: Practical implications for psychotherapists. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 9(2), 10-15.

Folley, A. (2021, April 3). Tennessee GOP advance bill opposed to teaching of critical race theory. The Hill.

Fouad, N. A., Gerstein, L. H., & Toporek, R. L. (2006). Social justice and counseling psychology in context. In R. L. Toporek, L. H. Gerstein, N. A. Fouad, G. Roysircar & T. Israel (Eds.), Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision, and action (pp. 1-16). Sage.

Galanter, C. A., Hundt, S. R., Goyal, P., Le, J., & Fisher, P. W. (2012). Variability among research diagnostic interview instruments in the application of DSM-IV-TR criteria for pediatric bipolar disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(6), 605-621.

Garrison-Wade, D. F., Diggs, G. A., Estrada, D., & Galindo, R. (2012). Lift every voice and sing: Faculty of color face the challenges of the tenure track. The Urban Review, 44(1), 90-112.

Gasman, M. (2016, September 20). The five things no one will tell you about why colleges don’t hire more faculty of color. The Hechinger Report.

George, L. J. (1997). Why the need for the Indian child welfare act? Journal of Multicultural Social Work, 5(3-4), 165-175.

Gunter, R., & Stambach, A. (2003). As balancing act and as game: How women and men science faculty experience the promotion process. Gender Issues, 21(1), 24-42.

Gutierrez, L. M. (1990). Working with women of color: An empowerment perspective. Social Work, 35(2), 149-153.

Gutiérrez, L. M., & Lewis, E. A. (1999). Empowering women of color. Columbia University Press.

Harley, D. A. (2008). Maids of academe: African American women faculty at predominately white institutions. Journal of African American Studies, 12(1), 19-36.

Hart, J. (2016). Dissecting a gendered organization: Implications for career trajectories for mid-career faculty women in STEM. The Journal of Higher Education, 87(5), 605-634.

Häuser, W., Bialas, P., Welsch, K., & Wolfe, F. (2015). Construct validity and clinical utility of current research criteria of DSM-5 somatic symptom disorder diagnosis in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 78(6), 546-552.

Hikido, A., & Murray, S. B. (2016). Whitened rainbows: How white college students protect whiteness through diversity discourses. Race Ethnicity and Education, 19(2), 389-411.

Hitchcock, L. I., & Sage, M. (2020, August 17). Actions that White social work educators can do now for racial justice [Blog Post]. Teaching and Learning in Social Work.

Holladay, C. L., & Quiñones, M. A. (2005). Reactions to diversity training: An international comparison. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(4), 529-545.

Hounmenou, C. (2012). Black settlement houses and oppositional consciousness. Journal of Black Studies, 43(6), 646-666.

Hummelen, B., Pedersen, G., Wilberg, T., & Karterud, S. (2015). Poor validity of the DSM-IV schizoid personality disorder construct as a diagnostic category. Journal of Personality Disorders, 29(3), 334-346.

Johnson, G. E., & Stafford, F. P. (1974). The earnings and promotion of women faculty. The American Economic Review, 64(6), 888-903.

Kaplan, S. E., Gunn, C. M., Kulukulualani, A. K., Raj, A., Freund, K. M., & Carr, P. L. (2017). Challenges in recruiting, retaining and promoting racially and ethnically diverse faculty. Journal of the National Medical Association, 110(1), 58-64.

Kaufmann, E. (2006). The dominant ethnic moment: Towards the abolition of 'whiteness'? Ethnicities, 6(2), 231-253.

Krukowski, R. A., Jagsi, R., & Cardel, M. I. (2021). Academic productivity differences by gender and child age in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Women's Health, 30(3), 341-347.

Lasch-Quinn, E. (2017). Black neighbors: Race and the limits of reform in the American settlement house movement, 1890-1945. UNC Press Books.

Lewis, K. R. (2018). Racism, Black college students’ mental health, and the efficacy of diversity and inclusion initiatives: A case study. [Doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina].

Lipson, S. K., Kern, A., Eisenberg, D., & Breland-Noble, A. M. (2018). Mental health disparities among college students of color. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63(3), 348-356.

Lorde, A. (1984). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Sister outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1, 10-14.

Martinez, M. A., & Welton, A. D. (2015). Straddling cultures, identities, and inconsistencies: Voices of pre-tenure faculty of color in educational leadership. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 12(2), 122-142.

McChesney, J. (2018). Representation and pay of women of color in the higher education workforce. College and University Professional Association for Human Resources [CUPA-HR].

Menges, R. J., & Exum, W. H. (1983). Barriers to the progress of women and minority faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 54(2), 123-144.

Miller, D. (1999). Principles of social justice. Harvard University Press.

Nadal, K. L., Erazo, T., & King, R. (2019). Challenging definitions of psychological trauma: Connecting racial microaggressions and traumatic stress. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 11(2), 2-16.

National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work [NADD]. (2020, September 1). Anti-racism statement [Press release].


National Association of Social Workers [NASW]. (2017). NASW code of ethics.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Fast facts: Race/ethnicity of college faculty.

National Research Council. (2013). Seeking solutions: Maximizing American talent by advancing women of color in academia: Summary of a conference. National Academies Press.

National Science Foundation. (2015). Survey of Earned Doctorates: Who earns a U.S. Doctorate?

Neufeld, A., & Harrison, M. J. (2003). Unfulfilled expectations and negative interactions: Nonsupport in the relationships of women caregivers. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 41(4), 323-331.

Ortega, F. J., & Feagin, J. R. (2016). Framing: The undying white racial frame. In C. P. Campbell (Ed.), The Routledge companion to media and race (pp. 31-42). Routledge.

Padilla, A. M. (1994). Ethnic minority scholars, research, and mentoring: Current and future issues. Educational Researcher, 23, 24-27.

Palfrey, J. (2017). Safe spaces, brave spaces: Diversity and free expression in education. MIT Press.

Patton, L. D. (2016). Disrupting postsecondary prose: Toward a critical race theory of higher education. Urban Education, 51, 315-342.

Phinney, J. S. (1990). The multigroup ethnic identity measure: a new scale for use with adolescents and adults from diverse groups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7(1), 156-176.

Porter, S. R., Toutkoushian, R. K., & Moore III, J. V. (2008). Pay inequities for recently hired faculty, 1988-2004. The Review of Higher Education, 31(4), 465-487.

Razack, N., & Jeffery, D. (2002). Critical race discourse and tenets for social work. Canadian Social Work Review/Revue Canadienne De Service Social, 19(2) 257-271.

Renzulli, L. A., Grant, L., & Kathuria, S. (2006). Race, gender, and the wage gap: Comparing faculty salaries in predominately White and historically Black colleges and universities. Gender & Society, 20(4), 491-510.

Rideau, R. (2019). “We're just not acknowledged”: An examination of the identity taxation of full-time non-tenure-track Women of Color faculty members. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2019 [Advance online publication].


Ruiz, N. G., Horowitz, J. M., & Tamir, C. (2020). Many Black and Asian Americans say they have experienced discrimination amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Pew Research Center.

Russell, J. A., Brock, S., & Rudisill, M. E. (2019). Recognizing the impact of bias in faculty recruitment, retention, and advancement processes. Kinesiology Review, 8(4), 291-295.

Said, E. W. (1979). Orientalism. Vintage Books.

Sandler, B. R., & Hall, R. M. (1986). The campus climate revisited: Chilly for women faculty, administrators, and graduate students. Association of American Colleges.

Saugeres, L. (2000). Of tidy gardens and clean houses: Housing officers as agents of social control. Geoforum, 31(4), 587-599.

Shillington, A. M., Gehlert, S., Nurius, P. S., Delva, J., Hooyman, N. R., Manderscheid, R. W., & Palinkas, L. A. (2020). Commentary: COVID-19 and long-term impacts on tenure-line careers. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 11(4), 499-507.

Shimizu, C. P. (2016). Equal access to exploitation and joy: Women of color and Hollywood stereotype. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 33(4), 303-321.

Solórzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2001). Critical race and LatCrit theory and method: Counter-storytelling. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14, 471-495.

Spanierman, L. B., & Soble, J. R. (2010). Understanding Whiteness: Previous approaches and possible directions in the study of White racial attitudes and identity. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (pp. 283-299). Sage Publications, Inc.

Stoelker, T. (2020, October 21). GSS helps organize national teach-in on police brutality and systemic racism. Fordham News.

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Nadal, K. L., & Torino, G. C. (2008). Racial microaggressions and the power to define reality. American Psychologist, 63(4), 277-279.

SWCAREs. (2020). SWCARES mission.

SWHelper. (2020). Anti-racism virtual summit agenda.

The Steve Fund. (2020). Adapting and innovating to promote mental health and emotional well-being of young People of Color: COVID-19 and beyond. A Report from The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force, Fall 2020.

Thelin, J. (2004). A history of American higher education. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Thomas, G. D., & Hollenshead, C. (2001). Resisting from the margins: The coping strategies of Black women and other women of color faculty members at a research university. Journal of Negro Education, 70(3), 166-175.

Turner, C. S. V. (2008). Women of color in academe: Experiences of the often invisible. In J. Glazer-Raymo (Ed.), Unfinished agendas: New and continuing gender challenges in higher education (pp. 230-252). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Turner, C. S. V., & González, J. C. (2011). Faculty women of color: The critical nexus of race and gender. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 4(4), 199-211.

Ventura, J., & Wong, J. S. (2020). Stepping up and stepping back as scholars of color: Taking care of students and ourselves in troubling times. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(2), 174-182.


Vera, E. M., & Speight, S. L. (2003). Multicultural competence, social justice, and counseling psychology: Expanding our roles. The Counseling Psychologist, 31(3), 253-272.

Ware, L. (2000). People of color in the academy: Patterns of discrimination in faculty hiring and retention. Boston College Third World Law Journal, 20(55), 55-76.

Williams, B. N., & Williams, S. M. (2006). Perceptions of African American male junior faculty on promotion and tenure: Implications for community building and social capital. Teachers College Record.

Winkler, J. A. (2000). Faculty reappointment, tenure, and promotion: Barriers for women. The Professional Geographer, 52(4), 737-750.