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Barriers Facing Women Of Color: New Research From GVSU Alumnae

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Grand Valley State University logoTwo community forums are being hosted by Grand Valley State University’s Division of Inclusion and Equity.  The events will reveal research done by two Grand Valley Alumnae.  They look at barriers facing women of color looking for leadership positions in West Michigan.  The event kicks off several to be hosted for Women’s History Month.

“This work is what we’ve always called a head and heart merger. It emerged from both of our lived experiences  navigating the people, power and politics nuances often being the first and only woman of color in leadership spaces.”

That’s Shannon Cohen. She and fellow Grand Valley State University Alum, Patricia Sosa VerDuin recently wrapped up research about race, gender and leadership.  The pair conducted the research as W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Fellows.  They will present “Invisible Walls, Ceilings and Floors: Championing the Voices and  Inclusion of Female Leaders of Color in West Michigan.”

“We kept seeing quantitative data that would talk about racial disparities and racial gaps in leadership within our community, but there were never any qualitative data to accompany those numeric stats that really got to the root causes that answered the why for us.  So that was the void that we wanted to fill.”

Cohen and VerDuin surveyed 120 women of color, ages 30 to 60… then followed with focus groups to learn more about their successes and struggles at work and home.  She says she hopes their work changes the typical quantitative headline.

“There was another article that talked about ‘700 retirements coming, more minorities and women wanted’. We keep seeing these numerically driven headlines, but numbers can’t tell root causes, we can say a problem exists here, but we don’t know why a problem exists. And this data is about adding a qualitative lens to the quantitative discussion.”

Cohen says they’re presenting their research March 2nd at noon on GVSU’s Allendale Campus and again March 16th on the Pew Campus. The events are hosted by Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity and are free and open to the public.