Yorkshire academics star in exhibition celebrating Black female professors

A university in Yorkshire is celebrating the inclusion of two of its professors in a groundbreaking photographic exhibition to highlight the presence and excellence of Black women in British academia.

Pictured (left to right): Professors Engobo Emeseh and Uduak Archibong MBE. The pair are among 40 phenomenal women celebrated in first photographic exhibition to honour the presence of black women in British academia. Photo credit: Bill Knight OBE. The portraits were taken by the photographer who travelled across England and Wales to capture the images.

Professors Uduak Archibong MBE and Engobo Emeseh, from the University of Bradford, have been featured in the exhibition: Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors.

The exhibition showcases 40 black female professors who are either working now or have worked in the last three years across the UK. The powerful project has moved online, after the London exhibition was cancelled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Speaking about their inclusion in the exhibition and its broader significance, Professor Archibong, the director of the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity, said: "The exhibition showcases the hard work, resilience and success of black female professors in the UK.

Professor Archibong,the director of the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity,said:The exhibition showcases the hard work, resilience and success of black female professors in the UK". The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight OBE, who travelled across England and Wales to capture the images. Photo credit: Bill Knight

"People will look at this and see hope".

Professor Archibong, who provides strategic oversight for equality, diversity and inclusion across the Bradford-based institution, added: "It is about changing perceptions of what a professor looks like and creating role models for future generations. In addition, it highlights the intersectionality of race and gender".

The body of Professor Archibong's research has provided the evidence base for the development and application of cultural solutions and diversity interventions in public, private and third sector organisations. She is Fellow of the West African College of Nursing and Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2015 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her services to higher education and equality.

Professor Engobo Emeseh, head of the School of Law, at the University of Bradford. Photo credit: Bill Knight OBE.

She said: "There is a feeling that we have been in this struggle for a long time and while the numbers are increasing, we need to ask why the journey is so slow and how we can agitate the system to make it quicker. But this is a step in the right direction."

The exhibition was researched and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, from Goldsmiths University of London, who has been examining the career experiences and strategies of black female professors at UK higher education establishments over the past three years.

There are 19,285 professors in UK universities. Fewer than one per cent of professors in the UK are black despite increases in overall levels of academic staff.

Black women are three times less likely to be professors than their white female counterparts and represent the smallest group (0.27 per cent) of professors in UK universities.

Professor Engobo Emeseh, head of the School of Law at the University of Bradford, is a leading voice for change and environmental justice, working with civil society groups, intergovernmental organisations and national governments.

She said: "We have very few black women professors in the UK and to have two out of the 40 on this list at Bradford is something to be celebrated and speaks to our status as a university, which prides itself on inclusion.

"I also hope it proves motivational for students who come from backgrounds not necessarily too dissimilar to ours".

Professor Emeseh is also a member of the Bayelsa State of Nigeria Oil and Environment Commission, tasked with the responsibility of developing a set of informed recommendations that lead to the development of a new legal framework that ensures accountability for the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry in the state.

She said: "While I am proud of each and every one of these women, it is a reminder of how far the journey has been to get to where we ought to be.

"There is almost a sense that this shouldn’t be a news item in 2020, that we should have already gone much further ahead."

The exhibition: Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors can be viewed here. The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight OBE, who travelled across England and Wales to capture the images.

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