A Grounded Theory Investigation of Tenured, Women of Color Faculty at Predominantly White, Public, Research Institutions in the Southeastern United States
Faculty evaluation processes that lead to tenure and promotion are biased against Women of Color (WOC) and impact their persistence in their positions, limiting their retention, and reducing diversity in departments across discipline (Griffin, Bennett, & Harris, 2013; Park, 1996). The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of successfully tenured, WOC faculty in order to isolate the institutional structures and climates that supported or hampered their success. The primary research question was how do tenured, Women of Color faculty describe their experiences in the tenure and promotion process at their current and previous predominantly White, public, research institutions. The secondary research question was what, if any, structures or climates of their department or university aided in the ability to achieve tenure. Using constructivist grounded theory methods and critical race feminist theory, findings informed a new theory describing the roles of individual characteristics, institutional structures and climates, and societal systems of oppression and privilege in the success of WOC faculty at predominantly White, public, research institutions. Data from 23 participants was collected through semi-structured interviews and written reflections. The findings of this study indicated that WOC faculty members utilized various forms of community cultural wealth and other strategies to persist in the tenure process within environments influenced by privilege and oppression. In order to remove the burden from Women of Color faculty members, the findings of this study informed a series of recommendations describing how institutional leaders can alter the predominantly White institutional environment to support Women of Color faculty in the tenure process.