Underrepresentation of Latina Faculty in Academia

Underrepresentation of Latina Faculty in Academia

Raquel Sapeg
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2783-2.ch006
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This chapter explores the contributing factors of the underrepresentation of Latina faculty in tenured positions in one higher education institution through a qualitative case study. The narratives from eight tenured Latina faculty in one state public four-year university in the southeast area of the United States were analyzed to identify barriers or supports these minority faculty experienced while working to achieve tenure. Five main themes emerged from the analysis: organizational exclusionary practices, white male-oriented culture where resources are used to benefit white males, demoralizing microaggressions from white faculty, the university leadership's lack of action and accountability to address diversity and inclusion challenges, and the lack of support networks and mentoring. This chapter addresses various reasons higher educational institutions need to remove barriers that negatively affect recruitment and retention of Latina faculty and provides recommendations to academic leaders to implement and hold everyone accountable to an inclusive academic environment.
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The 21st century university landscape has evolved in response to increased diversity in the general population and the movement towards a more global economy, as reflected in the races, ethnicities, genders, and ages of its students, faculty, and administration. Unfortunately, however, the level of ethnic diversity among faculty--particularly Latina faculty--has not kept pace with larger changes in the population and workforce (Kanter, 2011). As more Latino students enter college, Latina faculty are critical in serving both minority and non-minority students in an inclusive environment.

The general problem is that only a third of the 3% Latino faculty in higher education are Latinas, demonstrating a crisis in academia (U.S. Department of Education, 2019b; Machado-Casas, Ruiz, & Cantu, 2013). Among the many consequences of this statistic is the severe lack of Latina faculty to serve as mentors and supporters. Hispanic students thus find it more difficult to navigate their way to and through college, which can contribute to a never-ending cycle; less prepared Latinos lack the role models they need, and therefore are less likely to fill those roles for younger generations who aspire to attend college (Santos & Reigadas, 2002). The impact on the broader community is an immeasurable loss of talent to society (Gonzalez, Murakami, & Nunez, 2013).

This chapter showcases a qualitative case study of underrepresented Latina faculty in a public state four-year university in the southeast area of the United States, and explores through their lived experiences how and why such underrepresentation persists. Framing the case study is a brief historical background leading to the present academic environment, and an overview of contributing factors to underrepresentation. The objective is to identify the practices, disparities, and barriers that contribute to the underrepresentation of Latina faculty, present new directions and ways of functioning in response to the new faces on campus, and suggest changes that higher education administration can make to support Latina faculty in securing tenure. Reflecting and responding to growing multi-ethnic and racial student populations by proactively focusing on the recruitment and retention of Latinas (Sanchez at al., 2013) would not only increase representation of Latina scholars, but contribute to a more equally diverse and inclusive academic environment, and help universities compete on more global scale.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Organizational Inclusionary Practices: Organizational inclusionary practices move beyond diversity management practices to allow different perspectives to be valued, accepted, and integrated into the decision-making processes to direct organizational performance

Work-Life Balance: Work-life balance describes how individuals balance the requirements of their job and still meet the needs of their personal life.

Mentoring: Mentoring is a process of supporting another individual of lesser experience to excel in a particular area or an educational or professional capacity.

Diversity Management: Diversity management is a system of strategies to help organizations attract and retain a diverse workforce in terms of their ethnicity, age, race, and other attributes.

Latina(s) and Latino(s): The attribute of Latino or Latina describes a male or female from Latin America or Latin America descendent. Latinas reference only females. In certain contexts, Latinos may describe only males in a group or a group of both males and females.

Tenure: Tenure describes the full-time position of a professor at a higher education institution with individual educational liberties, financial gains, and opportunities for promotion in administration. To obtain tenure in many universities, the faculty candidate must favorably perform over the years, depending on the institution.

Microaggression: The term microaggression is used to describe an implicit assault towards a person to produce a sense of fear, stress, or humiliation to embarrass, intimidate, or undermine the victim’s credibility and value.

Organizational Culture: The organizational culture describes the norms or behaviors that are established and are considered acceptable.

Student Perspectives: Student perspectives describe the impact that minority faculty, particularly Latina professors, have on college students. The student’s perspective considers their perceptions concerning the student’s level contentment with how diverse the faculty is within the institution and that diversity affects their education.

Higher Education Administration: Higher education administration includes a university’s leadership team consisting of the president, department heads, and governing board.

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