Inside the Ivory Tower

Narratives of women of colour surviving and thriving in British Academia


This research places the perspectives, experiences and career trajectories of women of colour in British academia at the centre of analysis. It positions academia as a space dominated by whiteness and patriarchy where women of colour must develop strategies for survival and success amid raced and gendered discrimination. The authors draw on Black feminist theory to examine how race and gender shapes the experiences of women of colour in British academia and how racism manifests in day to day experiences within faculties and departments, from subtle microagressions to overt racialised and gendered abuse. It touches on common themes such as invisibility, hypervisibility, exclusion and belonging, highlighting intersectional experiences.

Editors: Dr Deborah Gabriel & Prof Shirley Anne Tate


Prof Claudia Bernard

Dr Jenny Douglas

Dr Deborah Gabriel

Dr Ima Jackson

Dr Josephine Kwhali

Prof Heidi Safia Mirza

Dr Elizabeth Opara

Aisha Richards

Prof Shirley Anne Tate

Dr Marcia Wilson

Publisher: Trentham Books

Publication Date: 1st November 2017

Where To Buy

Paperback: Available from 

Inside the Ivory Tower is being republished in 2024 by Black British Academics


Academic Reviews

Ivory Tower review for Gender, Work & Organizations

Ivory Tower review for Political Studies Association



“This book expertly and elegantly weaves together the analytical, the affective and the political in a forceful engagement with race and racism in the academy. The strength of the book is gathered through its intersectionality and, especially, its focus on women’s experience. As such, the book is a must-read for all scholars and students interested in and affected by the British academy’s racialized environment.”

Professor Robbie Shilliam, Kreiger School of Arts & Sciences, John Hopkins University




“…the marginalised female voice…is in constant conflict with an education system that at one level understands gender disparities while at the same time reducing the protests of women to privileged identities easily identifiable in the eyes of the most influential stakeholders, White, middle class, straight men. The authors in this collection should be applauded for their critical insight and transgressive methodologies…The desire for intellectual and political syntheses should be consistently welcomed in the academy and it is in this spirit that all should welcome as an essential text the important stories of Black women academics and their lived realities in the Ivory Tower.”

Emeritus Professor Kevin Hylton, Former Head of the Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Research Centre, Leeds Beckett University


“The testimonies of women of colour in the academy have tended to remain in the shadows, whitewashed by the structures of the Ivory Tower, dismissed as anecdotal evidence, rather than acknowledged as data indicating individual and structural forms of exclusion. This timely book starkly captures what the recent metrics of under-representation of women of colour actually means in academia.  It amplifies the nuances of experience at the same time as encouraging agency in the face of tenaciously resistant-to-change systems of privileged activity. It is essential reading for anyone genuinely interested in improving the conditions of all women in contemporary higher education.”

Professor Vicky Gunn, Glasgow School of Art