Inside the Ivory Tower

…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 book uses 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.


This book was developed by Dr Deborah Gabriel for the Black Sister Network and is part of a wider project focused on race and gender inequality in academia. Inside the Ivory Tower: Narratives of Women of Colour Surviving and Thriving in British Academia, is the key output for Phase 1 of this project. The editors of this book are Dr Deborah Gabriel and Prof Shirley Anne Tate. The contributors to this book are: Prof Claudia Bernard, Dr Jenny Douglas, Dr Ima Jackson, Dr Josephine Kwhali, Dr Heidi Safia Mirza, Dr Elizabeth Opara, Ms Aisha Richards and Dr Marcia Wilson.


Paperback: Available from Trentham Books   & Price £24.99

Ebook: Available from Ebooks Price £24.99     Kindle edition Price £19.99


Book launch at University of the Arts London on 10 Nov 2017 

Book launch at  the Open University in Milton Keynes on 16 Dec 2017 

Book launch at University of East London on 26 January 2018

Book launch at Goldsmiths University, London on  Fri 18 May 2018


Book launch at Leeds Beckett University on  Fri 29 June 2018

Book launch & Black History Month Event at Bournemouth University in *October 2018

* There will be no further book launches after October 2018, as the Ivory Tower project moves onto the next phase. This will include focus groups with readers of the book. If you are interested in participating in a future focus group please contact us or subscribe to our newsletter for further updates.


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view the articles on our press page



“This book really should be mandatory reading for all of those within Universities: for VCs seeking to effect more socially just and inclusive HE institutions, for Deans and HR managers on hiring committees and for colleagues to gain an insight in to the  barriers that women of colour of face in their daily professional lives and for those women of colour beyond the authors of this book, to know that they are not alone in their struggle.” Read the full review by Professor Heather Savigny

“A must-read for anyone working in a British University. The ten narratives cover the personal experiences of a black woman academic. Each story is both heart-breaking in its description of racism and sexism, but also inspiring in how each woman continues to overcome these barriers. Recognition of many anecdotes brought a wry smile to my face. The writers speak of the casual racism, sexual violence and snobbery endemic in universities. They ask for greater understanding from colleagues and for protection against harassment from their employers. Each writer is able to employ critical race theory to make sense of their experiences. As such, it makes an excellent introduction to concepts such as intersectionality, white privilege, and the poverty of much modern discourse around diversity: “black bodies in white spaces.” A brave and principled stand against the overwhelming silence around racism in the higher education sector.” Read the review by Udeni on Goodreads

“Inside the Ivory Tower provides visceral and personal viewpoints of what it is to be a Black female academic. Exploring these perspectives through ten immersive chapters, the reader is taken on a journey through the Ivory Tower from a Black feminist perspective. With the opening pages relaying themes of sisterhood and solidarity, the tone is clearly set and the narratives that will be explored are defined. One of the book’s editors, Dr Deborah Gabriel, the founder of Black British Academics and creator of the Ivory Tower project, dedicates the opening poem to ‘Black feminists, past and present’ who pave the way for women of colour ‘to challenge the Eurocentric mentality’ and ‘unpack the mechanics of raced and gendered discrimination’. With these themes in place, the reader is fully prepared to begin the journey through the narratives.” Read the full review by Jasmine Aloma on

“I would suggest that Inside the Ivory Tower meets all the requirements for the admission of expert evidence before a Tribunal, adjudicating on a case of race and/or gender discrimination, and/or before a body, such as the Law Commission, dedicated to reform of the law. What the expertise of the authors would tell such a Tribunal or law reform body is that the legal concept of victimisation is an inadequate tool with which to protect employees who seek to challenge the forms of racial and gender harm prevalent within the contemporary university space.” Read the full review by Patricia Tuitt, Legal Academic 


“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, School of Politics & International Relations, Queen Mary University of London


“This pioneering collection draws on critical race studies to centre the marginalised female voice that 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.”

Professor Kevin Hylton, 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


“Wow! What a powerful volume (and a great title – with a fine cover design). A white male academic, I found myself cringing at many of the tales related in the book. I do hope your valuable work, with that of your contributors, helps matters move in the right direction. Congratulations on bringing the project to a published fruition.” Professor Michael Reiss

“The book is an absolutely useful resource for Black academics. It is both inspirational and insightful into the challenges we face, and highlights good strategies to counter them. I enjoyed reading it and will signpost others to it. It was a pleasure reading it and I’m sure I will keep reading it again and again.” Irine Mano

“I am so pleased to know that you have arrived at this important milestone. My congratulations to you all! Deborah Husbands

“I am so proud of you! This is the beginning of a huge new movement in Black Academia.” Raona Williams

“Well done and congratulations. I cannot wait to read this book.” Karen Carberry