Exhibition celebrating Britain’s Black female professors includes Professor Marilyn Holness

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Southbank Centre presents an outdoor exhibition titled 'Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors' celebrating Britain's Black female professors and includes Roehampton's Professor Marilyn Holness OBE.

Image - Exhibition celebrating Britain’s Black female professors includes Professor Marilyn Holness

Image credit: Bill Knight.

Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors is a celebration of Black British academics is open to the public in a unique free outdoor exhibition. Commissioned and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, and photographed by Bill Knight, it features portraits of 45 professors across a broad range of subjects including law, medicine, creative writing and sociology.

Among the 45 women being celebrated is Professor Holness, Director of Student Engagement at Roehampton. Professor Holness’s career spans over 30 years and includes teaching, leadership and management in schools, further and higher education, training and consultancy, publications and professional practice research. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of Southlands College and of the Royal Society of the Arts. In 2009 she was awarded and Order of British Empire for Services to Teacher Education.

Fewer than 1% of professors in the UK are Black despite increases in overall levels of academic staff. Black women represent the smallest group when both race and gender are considered together. They are three times less likely to be professors than their White female counterparts and half as likely as Black men. There are 19,285* professors in UK universities in total according to a 2019 report by AdvanceHE. 12,795 are White males, 4,560 are White women. There are 90 Black men and 35 Black women.

The exhibition results from the work of Dr Rollock who undertook academic research examining the career experiences and strategies of Black female professors at UK universities over the past three years. The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight, who travelled across England, Scotland and Wales to capture the images. Dr Rollock's 2019 research showed the barriers faced by Black women as they worked to navigate their way through higher education and the strategies they used to help them reach professorship.

The exhibition runs from 10 October - 8 November 2020, timed to coincide with Black History Month, and is presented along the Southbank Centre's very popular public riverside promenade The Queen's Walk. For more information please visit the Southbank Centre website here. 

The exhibition is sponsored by Paul Hastings, UCU, Pearn Kandola, Wellcome Trust and Baker McKenzie and supported by Runnymede and the Mayor for London.