The Double-Edged Sword of “Othermothering” for African American Women Faculty With Families: Essentials for Mentor Programs at HBCUs

The Double-Edged Sword of “Othermothering” for African American Women Faculty With Families: Essentials for Mentor Programs at HBCUs

Kyla Marie Sawyer-Kurian (North Carolina Central University, USA) and Wanda B. Coneal (Saint Augustine's University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4071-7.ch008
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) have historically been both vital and beneficial as they have educated, trained, and nurtured many African Americans throughout the years. Research indicates that there are some disparities between men and women faculty at HBCUs. The chapter will review research which discusses factors that may impact African American (AA) women faculty specifically AA women faculty with families (AAWFWF) within the academy at HBCUs. AA women faculty report spending a great amount of their time supporting, mentoring and nurturing students on academic and personal matters also called “othermothering.” While HBCUs have been a haven for students, some challenges and barriers arise for AAWFWF including bias toward caregiving, bias avoidance, unequal pay, collegial incivility, and difficulty maintaining work/life balance. Formal mentoring has been shown to be beneficial for AA faculty. Strategies to create a healthy environment for AAWFWF are presented and recommendations for an AAWFWF mentoring program at HBCUs are given.
Chapter Preview


In my journey through the ranks of faculty to administrative positions as dean, provost, and now president of an HBCU, I can attest to the need for formal and informal mentoring to build a successful and fulfilling career...The increasing demand for greater diversity among university faculty has placed the spotlight on the dearth of underrepresented minorities among the ranks of tenured faculty…we must develop guidelines that help early career faculty to be successful, while fulfilling their career and personal goals. ~Juliette B. Bell, Ph.D., President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD

The origin of mentoring is traced to ancient Greece to Mentor—a wise teacher and trusted advisor—who was asked by his friend King Odysseus, to watch over his son Telemachus. As the King embarked on the lengthy voyage to fight the Trojan war (Bilimoria, 2011), Mentor became “Telemachus' teacher, coach, counselor and protector, building a relationship based on affection and trust” (MentorCoach, 2017). A modern version of a mentor is “one who facilitates professional and personal growth in an individual by sharing insights, providing encouragement, and opening doors” (Bilimoria, 2011, Slide 3). Further, mentoring is “synonymous with the process by which we guard and guide others. Mentors seemingly “adopt” those placed in their care” (MentorCoach, 2017, para. 1).

Research studies of college and university faculty indicated that women “have fewer mentors and face greater professional isolation, slower rates of promotion, and increased likelihood of leaving an institution before gaining tenure than do their male counterparts” (Wasburn, 2007, p. 57-59). Generally speaking, female faculty who are caretakers (women faculty who care for children, spouse, parents, other family members or dependents) experience challenges with success in the academy and maintaining their family life. Women faculty report more stress about balancing work and family and feel that they have less support from their colleagues and less support from their academic department. Dr. Shelley Fisher, director of Stanford’s American Studies program and professor of English, said “The bottom line is: yes, you can have it all, but not at the same time. It’s virtually impossible to be the kind of parent you want to be, the kind of researcher you want to be, the kind of teacher you want to be, all at the same time. There’s only 24 hours in the day– it does not compute” (Schaffer, 2013, para. 5-6).

It is widely accepted that effective mentoring provides faculty, particularly African American women, with tools that are essential to negotiating success (Evans & Cokely, 2008; Jordan-Zachery, 2004; Perna et al., 2009; Schaffer, 2013; Washburn, 2007). Mentoring has shown to have many benefits for faculty protégés/mentees (these terms can be used interchangeably), mentors, and the institution. The benefits of mentoring include higher success in the academy as demonstrated by professional leadership, recipients of grants, and publishing of articles and books. Those who were mentored were more successful than those who were not mentored. Also, those who were mentored reported greater vocational and job satisfaction (Queralt, 1982). With the benefits of receiving mentoring potentially exponential (Trower, 2012), faculty mentoring is too valuable to be left to chance (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, 2014). “That mentoring makes junior faculty more productive and satisfied scholars means that institutions with mentoring programs are likely to see more fruitful scholarly returns from their junior faculty,” (Trower 2012, p. 130).

Fortune, Byrd, and Cook (2015) investigated female faculty mentoring at four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in a North Carolina including a research, public, co-ed institution; a comprehensive, public, co-ed institution; a private, all women institution; and a private, religious-based, co-ed institution. Five major themes emerged from four focus groups (n = 25) including:

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: