Black Women and Science in Higher Education: Not Much Has Changed – Still the Struggle

Black Women and Science in Higher Education: Not Much Has Changed – Still the Struggle

Bonita Flournoy (Year UP Greater Atlanta, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0174-9.ch010
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This chapter gives an account on the experiences of a female STEM faculty member's journey from high school through graduate school, and then entering the workforce as she navigates the high and low points of being a black woman in a science field, as a science educator that will mentor other black women scientists, while also trying to sustain a viable family life. Her introduction to science, the profiles of mentors that provided her a support network, and the barriers that continue to plague black women in their preparation for a career in science, remains as blockades to access, to what is currently considered the most needed competency area to fill the workforce of the 21st century.
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Mentors Past And Present

Historically and currently science has been, and is a career chosen by white males. Too often the contributions of all women in science and invention regardless of color are still unsung.

Dr. Reatha Clark King entered Clark College in 1954. Reatha planned to major in home economics and return home to teach in her local high school. After her first chemistry course, her plans changed. Her chemistry teacher, Dr.Alfred Spriggs, recognized her special abilities and became her mentor. She soon decided to pursue a degree in chemistry. With the help of Dr. Spriggs, Reatha saw that she could excel in science. She graduated with honors and eventually pursued her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago. She faced discrimination and was not offered a suitable position. In 1963 she began her prestigious career at the Bureau of Standards, eventually became a faculty member at York College, and served as the associate dean of natural science and mathematics and dean of academic affairs. She later became President of Metropolitan State University in St. Paul Minnesota, becoming one of the few African American presidents of a major college or university (Sullivan, 2002).

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