A touring exhibition profiling Britain’s Black women professors is on display outside Great St Mary’s Church and in Senate House Yard until 20 December 2021.
I am delighted that many more people will now get to see the exhibition and discover more about these professors, at its current new location in Cambridge.
Dr Nicola Rollock, Senior Adviser (Race & Higher Education) to the Vice-Chancellor
Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors features 45 photographs and biographies of inspiring Black women academics, including award-winning author Bernadine Evaristo, poet and playwright Joan Anim-Addo, and the first woman ever to be appointed head of a UK dental school, Cynthia Pine. It was commissioned and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, Senior Adviser (Race & Higher Education) to the University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, and was first shown at London’s Southbank Centre last year.
Photographer Bill Knight OBE – twice winner of the Portrait of Britain competition – travelled across England, Scotland and Wales to capture the images of professors across a broad range of subjects including law, medicine, creative writing and sociology.
Presented in a series of weatherproof structures, the portraits will be on display outside Great St Mary’s Church and in Senate House Yard until 20 December 2021 – timed to coincide with Black History Month 2021. Members of the public can enter Senate House Yard to view the portraits between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, except on days when ceremonies are taking place.
As well as celebrating the achievements of these women, the exhibition aims to highlight racial inequality in British academia and provide a platform for debate about what it takes to reach the highest level of academic scholarship.
Fewer than 1% of professors in the UK are Black despite increases in overall levels of academic staff, with Black women representing the smallest group when both race and gender are considered together.
They are three times less likely to be professors than their White female counterparts and half as likely as Black men.
The exhibition follows research carried out by Dr Rollock examining the career experiences and strategies of Black female professors at UK universities.
Dr Rollock said: “Initial plans for a UK-wide tour of Phenomenal Women had to be placed on hold due to lockdown. However, I am delighted that many more people will now get to see the exhibition and discover more about these professors, at its current new location in Cambridge.
“The sector is failing Black women and needs to be purposeful and explicit in its efforts to retain and promote them.”
Dr Kamal Munir, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (University Community and Engagement) at the University of Cambridge, said: “The University is committed to creating an inclusive environment which welcomes and nurtures talent from all backgrounds. Ensuring staff diversity is a sector-wide issue for universities, and one that we take very seriously. We have revisited our guidance on staff recruitment as just one of our efforts to effect change in this area, however we are yet to appoint any Black women as professors. We know we have much more to do.
“We are delighted to host Phenomenal Women. The exhibition presents an important opportunity to highlight the barriers to progression facing these women, recognise their achievements and to help us create a more diverse environment, one that is truly inclusive of all available talent.”
Portraits on display in Senate House Yard can be viewed by members of the public between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. However, because of planned University ceremonies, the portraits will not be accessible to the public at the following times:
- Tuesday 19 to Monday 25 October 2021
- Monday 1 to Thursday 4 November 2021
- Wednesday 24 to Monday 29 November 2021
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