Manchester academic in exhibition celebrating Britain’s Black female professors

A University of Manchester academic is featuring in an exhibition of UK Black Female Professors at the Southbank Centre in London.

The portrait of Dawn Edge, who is Professor Mental Health and Inclusivity, will appear in Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors in the unique free outdoor exhibition.

Commissioned and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, and photographed by Bill Knight, it features portraits of 45 professors, current and Emerita, across a broad range of subjects including law, medicine, creative writing and sociology.

The exhibition runs from 10 October – 8 November 2020, timed to coincide with Black History Month, and is presented along the Southbank Centre’s popular public riverside promenade The Queen’s Walk.

The exhibition is based on the work of Dr Rollock who researched the experiences of Black female professors at UK universities over the past three years.

The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight, who travelled across England, Scotland and Wales to capture the images.

Professor Edge said: “As The University of Manchester’s first and currently only Black woman Professor, I’m especially honoured to be featured in this excellent exhibition.

“I wanted to take part because I want my role to inspire greater diversity in academia in general and at Russell Group universities in particular as there are just a handful of of us at the moment and that really needs to change.”

Dr Rollock’s 2019 research showed the barriers faced by Black women as they worked to navigate their way through Higher Education and the strategies they used to help them reach professorship.

According to the Guardian among 21,000 academic staff at professorial level, only 140 identify as black.

But according to Dr Rollock’s research, in 2019 there were just 25 Black women professors- or just 0.12% of the total.

This means that Black women are three times less likely to be professors than their White female counterparts and half as likely as Black men.

The ‘Phenomenal Women’ portraits and the respective professors’ biographies are now being presented outdoors, in a series of weatherproof structures specially designed with social distancing guidelines in mind.

Dr Rollock said: “I am thrilled to be working with the Southbank Centre on this exhibition. As one of London’s leading Arts’ venues, it is a fitting space in which to help draw attention to just how few Black female professors there are in the UK and to highlight their achievements.”