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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Lack of diversity in leadership roles

Justice Jackson’s story is a shared experience among Black women 

On April 7, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination, making her the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. While we celebrate what is a historic victory for our country, we acknowledge the grueling process and scrutiny Jackson had to undergo to get to this point, as well as how overdue this moment is.

The way Jackson was treated during the Senate confirmation hearings underscored the double standards and injustices Black women face. Jackson is extremely qualified for this position, having an Ivy League education and a career that includes working as a Supreme Court clerk, public defender, sentencing commissioner, district judge and U.S. Court of Appeals judge.

Even with her impressive qualifications, Jackson was subject to racist, sexist and outright ridiculous questioning and attacks. Despite this, Jackson remained the picture of grace. This injustice is, unfortunately, not unique to Jackson but experienced by virtually every Black woman. 

Black women are constantly held to an incredibly high standard, especially compared to their white and male counterparts. For example, while Justice Kavanaugh’s response to claims of sexual misconduct was seen as him passionately defending himself, any slight change in Justice Jackson’s tone or demeanor would have villainized her. 

The number of barriers Black women face while trying to hold positions of power contribute to the lack of representation in our country. 

Jackson is the 116th justice to serve on the Supreme Court, yet she is the first and only Black woman. This type of underrepresentation is all too familiar for women of color, especially Black women. Only 70 Black women have served as federal judges, making up less than 2% of judges. 

This type of underrepresentation is not limited to legal settings, as it exists in a wide variety of leadership positions, including higher education. Our own university is a prime example of this, as we have very few Black women in leadership roles. 

According to the latest information available from St. Joe’s, Black women make up 10% of university leadership; Black faculty only make up 4.4% of our university’s faculty; three Black women faculty are tenured as of 2019; one provost out of eight is a Black woman; and one associate dean out of eight is a Black woman. There are also no Black women in department chair or board of trustees positions. 

Representation is not superficial, but something that deeply matters and can positively affect our communities. Underrepresentation in leadership roles can be problematic for a wide variety of reasons. In order to best serve the needs of diverse groups, the people who lead should be able to understand these needs. 

Having only one group of people represented not only sends a message about who is valued and able to excel, but also discounts the importance of diverse opinions. As an institution that values diversity, we must uphold diversity at all levels, especially in leadership roles. 

Any space that hopes to sufficiently serve all members of its community must ensure that proper and fair representation is achieved. 

From Jackson to all of the Black women leaders at our university including faculty members, ​​program directors, committee chairs and more, we are thankful for the work Black women do and acknowledge the challenges that come with being a Black woman in a predominantly white space. 

As a university, and in any space, it is important that the people we put in positions of power are reflective of the diversity in our community. 

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