Gender Equality Publication: Inside the Ivory Tower

narratives Jan 23, 2019

Inside the Ivory Tower
Narratives of women of colour surviving and thriving in British Academia

This publication generates voice and visibility for the lived experiences of women of colour and seeks to inform policy and practice around race and gender equality in higher education. Find out about the strategies that women of colour have had to develop to be successful in academia, which is a space dominated primarily by whiteness and patriarchy.

Author / Editor Dr Deborah Gabriel and Shirley Anne Tate
Published November 2017

Gender - like other facets of identity have always been approached institutionally from a monocultural standpoint, through essentialised categories that make up 'protected' characteristics within equality and diversity policy. This has contributed to the exclusion, invisibility and stagnant career progress of women of colour, since their needs are only considered as an afterthought. As a consequence, gender equality initiatives in higher education are largely centred on 'promoting diversity' rather than strategic interventions to address barriers to equality, especially in relation to White privilege.

As a political and educational mission, Inside the Ivory Tower: Narratives of Women of Colour Surviving and Thriving in British Academia, aims to generating voice and visibility for the lived experiences of women of colour, as well as utilising those experiences to inform policy and practice around race and gender equality.

It is co-edited by Dr Deborah Gabriel and Prof Shirley Anne Tate. Contributors to the book are: Prof Claudia Bernard, Dr Jenny Douglas, Dr Ima Jackson, Dr Josephine Khwali, Prof Heidi Safia Mirza, Dr Elizabeth Opara, Aisha Richards and Dr Marcia Wilson.

In each chapter, the contributors’ experiences are told through compelling narratives that draw on Black feminist theory to analyse how racism manifests in day to day experiences within faculties and departments, from subtle microagressions to overt racialised and gendered abuse. It touches on common themes such as invisibility, hypervisibility, exclusion and belonging, highlighting intersectional experience. The book positions academia as a space dominated by whiteness and patriarchy where women of colour must develop strategies for survival and success amid raced and gendered discrimination.

Its origins lie in the Black Sister Network (BSN) - a dedicated platform within Black British Academics to empower women of colour, established by Dr Gabriel. The research was developed as a strategy to combine all the elements of BSN’s mission into collective research. BSN’s mission focuses on building solidarity and collective activism; developing strategies to address marginalisation; undertaking critical research on race and gender and exploring women of colour experiences through counter-narratives.

Speaking on the first anniversary of the book’s publication, Dr Gabriel says: “I developed Ivory Tower to promote critical consciousness and agency among the books reader’s as key tenets of a Black Feminist standpoint.  I hope that it helps to educate people on the subtleties of our day-to-day experiences of inequality but also empower them to contribute to change.”

Dr Gabriel has just agreed a contract with UCL Institute of Education Publishers for the sequel, Transforming the Ivory Tower: Critical Consciousness, Agency and Models for Gender Equality and Social Justice, due to be completed in the autumn of 2019.