Experiences With Imposter Syndrome and Authenticity at Research-Intensive Schools of Social Work
A Case Study on Black Female Faculty
Keywords:Authenticity, hyper/invisibility, inclusion, imposter syndrome, social work faculty
TThere is little known about the experiences of Black women in schools of social work, specifically those situated within research-intensive (R-1) Carnegie-designated institutions. Experiences of imposter syndrome and authenticity often result in negative experiences and poor professional outcomes for Black women in academia. This study explores Black women social work faculty members’ sense of self through the prisms of imposter syndrome and authenticity. Social work is of particular interest in that it espouses a code of ethics and core values of service that if applied to the cultures within these schools, Black women may have more equitable experiences. This article presents qualitative findings from nine in-depth interviews with Black women faculty members at R-1 universities. Findings revealed that Black women faculty member’s experiences of imposter syndrome impacted many facets of their professional experiences from moments of paralysis to potentially unhealthy over-productivity. Findings also highlight Black women faculty members’ concerns around their colleagues’ professional and personal perceptions of them and this often prevented these women from presenting their authentic selves in academic settings. Despite these barriers, some women chose to remain authentic regardless of possible backlash in refusing to assimilate into the dominant White culture. Black women scholars cannot survive and thrive in social work education unless institutions build trust with these women by respecting their diverse backgrounds, race-related research interests, and range of methodology.
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