Reflections of Black Women Academics at South African Universities: A Narrative Case Study

Matseliso Mokhele


A substantial body of research has established that women academics are under-represented both nationally and internationally with regard to research activity. The issues and obstacles faced by Black women that impede their full participation in the higher education sector are not new. They are old issues that have not yet been fully acknowledged, discussed and resolved (Henry and Glenn 2009). The literature suggests a number of possible factors which lie behind women’s less than impressive research profile such as the fact that women have less discretionary time to conduct research, write papers and attend conferences, particularly if they have dependent children or other caring responsibilities. The long hours associated with research production are hugely gendered. Few women, however, have managed to succeed in spite of this gendered problematic of research in higher education. Even fewer black women, though, have succeeded to establish a research career in South Africa. The present study was undertaken within the context of one university research organisation in the post-apartheid South Africa, where the legal impediments for the success of black women researchers would be expected to have been removed. The major purpose was to explore the narratives of women academics in research, especially Black women who, for the most part have continued to be marginalised in the academe. The paper discusses the experiences of one senior black woman researcher at one large higher education institution in South Africa. Using the black feminist theories as my framework, I examine the various impediments, both personal and structural that mitigate against women’s careers as researchers within the higher education institutions. I conclude the paper by arguing for the need to pay more critical attention to the institutional and structural impediments in order to address more directly the problem of marginalisation of women researchers within South African higher education.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n3p611

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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