Florence Bonner, Ph.D.
Rebecca Reviere, Ph.D.
Co- Director

“The African American Women’s Institute"
Howard University
P.O. Box 590492
Washington, D.C.
(202) 806-4556
Fax (202) 8069263

Howard University


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Academia versus Industry for African American Women in Engineering: A Comparison of the Political Environments.
Taylor, Valerie E.

The number of African American women in the field of engineering is extremely small. Numerous discussions have been focused on the political climate as a deterrent factor. It is unclear whether the industry or academia has the better political climate for African American women. The goal of this panel is to have an open discussion about the political climate in the industry versus academia. In particular, the discussion will focus on the politics that occurs when one attempts to progress in her field either through the publication of papers, invited presentations, satisfied product deadlines or the tenure and promotion process.

Surviving the Tenure Track: African American Women in the Professorate.
Thomas, Veronica G.

For individuals in the academy, obtaining tenure is a significant milestone in one’s career. African American women, however, are less likely to hold tenured positions in institutions of higher education than their White male and female counterparts. Given the competing demands of work and family life, as well as the political climate at many colleges and universities, the tenure track can be particularly stressful for African American women. Tenure decisions, like other decisions in the workplace are not made in an atmosphere free of race and gender bias. Discriminatory attitudes oftentimes result in differential evaluations of African American female faculty. Three major systematic factors which may negatively influence tenure reviews and decisions regarding the overall "worth" of African American women in the academy include the fact that: (1) all female faculty, including African American women in the academy, tend to receive lower economic rewards in terms of salaries and associated fringe benefits than men, (2) and white female counterparts, and (3) there is generally a devaluing of the work of African American female faculty in the academy.

This presentation will offer effective strategies for coping while on the tenure track and for increasing the likelihood of a successful tenure review. These approaches stress reliance on African American women’s inner strengths and intrapsychic resources, socio-cultural factors, and professional connections. Emphasis will be place on the importance of establishing certain personal and professional patterns early in one’s academic career. The development of mechanism for "regrouping" in the event of a negative tenure review will also be offered.

A Psychology of African American Women: Crossing Boundaries with New Perspectives.
Thomas, Veronica G.

Within the last two decades, feminist psychologists (mostly White) and African American psychologists (mostly male) have been fairly successful in focusing attention on the need to transform psychology from a science focusing exclusively on the behavior of White male human and male animals to one in which the behavior of women and people of African descent are considered. Despite the fairly recent attention given to the issue of diversity in the field of psychology, there is still almost a paucity of theorizing and empirical research on African American women. Mainstream psychology has consistently excluded, misrepresented, or trivialized the life patterns of African American girls and women. The fact that African American women belong to two groups who have been traditionally relegated to low status in this society probably contributes significantly to the invisibility of this population in theories and research in psychology.

The experiences of African American women have formed a unique context for their study in psychology. Their uniqueness stems from the fact that they stand at the crossroads of two of the most well developed ideologies in American--one regarding women and another regarding African Americans. If psychology is indeed the science of behavior, the systematic neglect of study of certain segments of the population is problematic and results in a psychological knowledge base that is faulty, inadequate, and incomplete. Therefore, one challenge to the field of psychology is to identify, isolate, and explain the unique experiences of African American women and the impact of these experiences on the attitudes, motivations, behaviors, and psychological well-being of this population.

This presentation will discuss the systematic devaluing of African American women in the field of psychology, and it will challenge the discipline to become more inclusive. In particular, the objectives of this presentation are threefold: (1) to provide a meaning and implicit set of core values for a "psychology of African American women," (2) to introduce a comprehensive model for better understanding factors influencing the psychological study of African American women, and (3) to present a framework for reconstructing psychology to ensure that theoretical and empirical work on African American women is valued and well-grounded.

African American Women and the Challenge of Fibroid Tumors.
Tolliver, Derise E.

Uterine fibroid tumors are one of the most common health problems experienced by women, in general, during their reproductive years. It is estimated that at least 40% of premenopausal American women live with these growths. The incidence of fibroids in African American women, however, is 3 to 5 times higher than in their European American counterparts, with no clear reason why. This paper discusses the health challenges that uterine fibroid tumors pose for African American women, considers the contexts within which the tumors flourish, and highlights a number of healing options available to those who are living with this problem.

Women and Kinship Politics in Cote d'Ivoire.
Toungara, Jeanne M.

Women's political activism among the diverse ethics of Cote d’Ivoire had been largely kinship based until the recent transition to multiparty democracy forced them to support candidates whose platforms extend beyond the narrow limitations of regional or ethnic concerns. This paper highlights women's roles as mothers and kingmakers among the Malinke, Queens and state formers among the Baule, supporters and leaders of party sub-sections in the Parti Democratique de Cote d'Ivoire, Assemblywoman and Ministers at the national level and, finally, major players in multiethnic parties in politics. Ivorian women have made an important leap from family to national politics and are leading the way toward an emerging national agenda.

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Staying in the Pipeline: African American Females and the Pursuit of Graduate Degrees in Science.
Walters, Nancy B.

V. Tinto’s (1975)-retention model provided the theoretical framework for this study of the academic and social integration of academically talented African American female students into the graduate science degree pipeline. The site for this study was the Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program of the University of Minnesota. This program recruits academically talented undergraduates from throughout the nation for participation in two months of research academic study, and orientation to science graduate and professional programs. The qualitative data source consisted of one-on-one interviews of four African American female summer program alumni. The results demonstrated the importance to the program alumni interviewed of the challenging academic research work, the personally confirming peer group socialization and the supportive student faculty

interactions. The study showed the importance of programs like these for helping African American female students plan upper level college study and graduate/professional school enrollment.

Kara Walker, Harriet Jacobs and a Sentimental Romancing of Black Dixie.
White, Artress B.

This essay explores the connections between Harriet Jacobs’ 1861 freedom narrative and how it served as an influence for the controversial artwork of visual artist Kara Walker. The work looks at the genre of narrative memoir and the hazards it holds for African American women via cultural stereotypes, and then segues to a discussion of how images of Black female desire have been influenced by images of White sexuality. The paper concludes with a discussion of the dangers of subverting stereotypical images in order to edit cultural frames of reference and the types of responses it can garner from academic and Black arts communities.

Teaching Black Women’s History and Other Stories: Ruminations of a Young Black Female History Professor.
Williams, Rhonda Y.

"Teaching Black Women’s History and Other Stories" is a series of contemplation’s about daily events which reveal issues confronted by a neophyte Black female professor who, like many others, has a minimal (if non-existent) support system and/or cohort of other Black female professors at the university where she works. In this "diary-paper," she is a new, young professor in the academy who wrestles with the problems in the classrooms, as a way to approach broader issues of invisibility, pedagogy authority, and professorial expectations.

The paper is comprised of primarily four stories: "Pedagogy: Teaching Change, Teaching to Change and the ‘Nine Lives’ of Typicality" is a discussion of establishing and incorporating a pedagogy of transformation and what happens when a professor, dedicated to such a pedagogy, is confronted with a moment when the notion of progress and change is ambiguous at best; when the monstrous concepts that demean and thwart humanist struggle are reincarnated. "On Preparation and Alienation" is a discussion of classroom dynamics and exchange both among students and between students and instructor in the Black Women’s History course. How should one deal with ill-prepared students or unprepared students, racial insensitivity, silence, frustration, and alienation that can emerge in the classroom? "The ‘Rho-Rho’ Incident" raises the issues of authority, legitimacy, and mentoring between Black female professors and primarily Black female students. I conclude the diary with "You Probably Didn’t Even Know" What does it mean to be viewed as a role model? This short piece unveils the pressure one feels (and the needs we also have as professors), especially when "you" are one of very few, and you are trying to keep psychically healthy, keep your soul in-tact; and fight for a greater purpose in White academe.

Teaching Black Women’s History and Other Stories does not offer all the answers as much as the examples, particularly in the form of situations, conversations, and dialogues with the students. The issues she raises are far from being resolved; the class is in itself in motion. For that reason alone, this paper is necessarily a work-in-progress. It is also an example of Black feminist pedagogy in practice, the voicing, negotiating, and compiling stories--attempting not only to document, but also to work through the critically and daily challenges in the academy. It is through this process that she makes an attempt to change and grow as a professor, a critical thinker, and young Black woman dedicated to the struggle and change.

Going to the Show: Black Female Spectatorship, Subjectivity and Sexuality in the 1930s.
Winand, Angela

This paper will examine the career of African American journalist Alice Dunbar-Nelson as a cultural critic who turned her eye to motion pictures and devoted a considerable portion of her regular weekly columns: "From a Woman’s Point of View," "Une Femme Dit," and "As in a Looking Glass," to recording and sharing her responses to Hollywood film with her readers. Materials edited by Gloria T. Hull, including not only newspaper columns but also Dunbar-Nelson’s diary, provide the sources for exploring some important questions concerning the historical development of Black female subjectivity: How did Dunbar-Nelson negotiate her relationship to this emerging commercialized art form in an era of Jim Crow? How did Dunbar-Nelson respond to the presentation off Black female actors in stereotypical roles and images? How did Dunbar-Nelson connect her appreciation for the novelty and excitement of motion pictures to her love for dramatics and her earlier career as a writer of short stories?

The Ultimate Balancing Act: Black Women in Corporate America and the Challenges of Balancing Work and Family Life.
Wolfe, Leslie R.; Tucker, Jennifer; Smooth, Wendy G.; Bradford, Martina L.; Girton-Mitchell, Brenda; & Williams, Elynor.

As the presence of women of color increases in corporate America at all levels—executive and management, professional and administrative—the workplace is changing. But is this changing workplace keeping pace with the needs of African American women who are struggling to balance the demands of their work and personal lives with their own ambitions for successful careers? The Center for Women Policy Studies, along with the Kwasha Lipton Group of Coopers and Lybrand (now Price Waterhouse Coopers), conducted the National Women of Color Work/Life Survey with over 1500 women of color in 16 Future 1000 companies to answer this and a host of other questions about workplace cultures.

At this session, the Center will present its survey finding and a panel of senior level African American women from several corporations will discuss the findings and their implications for workplace policy. The discussion will address such issues as the coping strategies African American women use to balance their work and personal lives while advancing their careers, the link between work/family and diversity, the intersection of sexism and racism in the corporate workplace and the essential elements of supportive, nurturing workplace cultures for African American women. This session also will offer participants an opportunity to explore the workplace similarities for African American women in the academy and corporate America.