A Contemporary Portrait of Black Women Student Affairs Administrators in the United States


Although Black women are the most represented minoritized group among U.S. higher education administrators, they continue to lag behind White women and men in terms of leadership in the student affairs profession, which may be exacerbated by their relative underrepresentation in graduate programs in education. Further, beyond generalized narratives about the aggregated experiences of Black women in higher education, little is actually known about the status and ambitions of contemporary Black women in student affairs. A secondary analysis of archival data extrapolated from a program evaluation survey provided preliminary insight into the educational and professional characteristics and aspirations of 401 Black women student affairs administrators who participated in the African American Women’s Summit. Findings revealed that the majority of participants had earned master’s degrees, were employed as assistant deans/directors, and were earning between $30,000–$49,999 annually. The most represented student affairs functional areas among participants were Housing and Residential Life Programs, followed by Multicultural Student Programs and Services. Most participants were employed at large, public, 4-year, predominantly White institutions. Further, despite hesitations about enrolling in doctoral programs and persisting in the profession, many participants still aspired to terminal degree completion and senior-level leadership. The data were interpreted in relation to existing research about the career pathways of chief student affairs officers and suggest that more specific strategies are needed to facilitate the promotion of Black women into student affairs leadership positions. While the findings of this study focused on a specific group of Black women student affairs administrators and thus should be applied cautiously, the portrait offered contributes to the scant body of literature about Black women employed in student affairs and suggests interim strategies that may be used to ameliorate their underrepresentation in the field.


Counseling, Leadership and Special Education

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Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education