A Review of
Intersectionality in the field of education: A critical look at race, gender, treatment, pay, and leadership
Despite the feminization of teaching, white men hold most educational leadership roles
Oppressive structural policies and practices in higher education prevent racial and gender minorities from bringing meaningful systemic change.
Macias and Stephens use an intersectional lens to examine the role of race and gender in the treatment, pay, and leadership in education. Intersectionality, a term initially coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, allows for analysis of the compounding, overlapping power structures that disenfranchise women of color. The authors found that women of color, particularly Latinas, experience multiple levels of systemic oppression resulting from intertwined systems of disadvantage.
Latinas not only face structural barriers and microaggressions but are also the least compensated for their work. Specifically, Latinas barely make over half of what white men make compared to white women, who make 76% of their white male counterparts. Latinas interested in working in education face many obstacles: limited opportunities for college preparation in high school, few financial resources, lack of social capital, and low salaries compared to other disciplines. Despite the small population of Latinas serving in leadership roles, they experience racial prejudice and differential treatment. Although ignoring stereotypes, informal mentoring, and forming networks of support have helped Latinas overcome these barriers, roadblocks continue to be systemic and pervasive.
Dr. Angela Macias is an Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at California State University-Dominguez Hills. She previously served as a public-school teacher for ten years and researches student engagement and systemic barriers in education, specifically for Latinx populations. Sophia Stephens served as a graduate teaching assistant while she was at California State University-San Bernardino.
Methods and Findings
Using an intersectional analytical framework in the literature review, the researchers call attention to the compounding effects of racial and gender barriers in the workplace. Research indicates that women are treated worse than their male counterparts in job treatment, salary, career advancement, and leadership opportunities. Women in management roles often have higher expectations of their female employees and feel a greater sense of competition with their female employees, despite being more likely to mentor other women. Racial minorities also experience prejudice not only in hiring practices but in salary and career advancement. While the demographics of public schools have become more racially diverse, educators’ demographics remain primarily white. Although the proportion of women in leadership roles has steadily increased by seven percent nationwide in the last three decades, Latinx administrators only make up four percent of the increase. Marginalized Latinx students often experience institutional abuse and lack knowledge, guidance, and support through the college application process, including preparation for standardized tests. Individuals who are both gender and racial minorities are placed at the intersection of these systems of oppression, therefore experience both gender- and race-based inequities.
Despite progress in education, institutional policies and processes impede the progress for women of color who face compounded discrimination at the intersection of gender and race. One may think that token hiring to increase educators’ diversity would improve the working environment for women of color in education. However, the authors caution against token hiring to meet diversity quotas since more women and minorities in education and leadership do not alleviate inequities. Instead, organizations must address the oppressive structures across recruitment, hiring, training, pay, leadership, and promotion to eliminate the systemic policies and practices that hurt marginalized individuals.
The feminization of the field of education has created an unexpected power structure where leadership positions continue to be male-dominated despite the majority of educators being women. Among the few women leaders in education, women of color represent an even smaller minority as racial minorities continue to be underrepresented. With the promising increase in Latinas pursuing teaching careers, administrators should use an intersectional lens to improve gender and race inequities to reduce attrition in education. Educational leaders must be trained on intersectionality to ensure that solutions implemented to solve one inequity problem does not compound other underlying oppressions. Finally, educational leadership programs should embrace a social justice lens and curriculum to prepare school principals and leaders to address microaggressions and structural racism.
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