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How Leadership Potential Can Be Heightened Through Mentorship: Women’s History Month 

Navigating the dynamic landscape of higher education in Florida as a Black woman academic presents a unique set of challenges in today’s political climate. However, amidst these challenges lies an opportunity to catalyze transformation for future generations. As minority women, we often find ourselves in spaces where representation is lacking, our voices may be marginalized, and the path forward appears uncertain. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black faculty represent only about 6% of all faculty in colleges and universities. Furthermore, 2% of full and 5% of assistant professors are Black women. Many Black women in academia struggle to find support from mentors and influential figures who can advocate for their advancement into leadership positions. Navigating one’s career becomes even more daunting when access to cultural or social capital is limited.  

From my journey as an undergraduate student to a doctoral candidate, my mentors have instilled in me the belief that my presence in this space is a personal triumph and a legacy for those who came before me and those who will follow. This conviction has been my guiding light throughout my higher education journey. As a faculty member at a predominantly white institution (PWI), I intentionally mentor, coach, support, and empower minority women in academia. Mentorship is a powerful tool through which I aim to model the type of servant leadership needed in education.  

Creating Space for Empowerment 

Minority scholars at PWIs require spaces where their backgrounds, cultures, and experiences are celebrated rather than viewed as obstacles. Creating a supportive environment is essential in academia, where imposter syndrome, discrimination, and systemic barriers are pervasive. Holding space for my scholars fosters a sense of belonging and validation, reassuring them that they are not alone in their journey. Transparency and openness cultivate a nurturing ecosystem where women uplift each other, advocate for change, and strive for equity and inclusion. By sharing stories of resilience and overcoming challenges, we foster a culture of collaboration and support, enabling collective learning and growth. Embracing our identities fully and standing in solidarity, we amplify each other’s voices and advocate for one another’s advancement. Through transparent communication, we dismantle barriers and forge connections that empower us to confidently navigate academia.  

You may notice that I use the pronoun “we” often, not only because I, too, am a woman but also because my scholars are my peers; we are a collective.  

Leading Beyond Titles 

Creating an environment where scholars feel loved, empowered, and self-assured is not a task —it is leadership. You do not need a formal leadership position to lead. In today’s higher education climate, women must leverage their voices and influence in any capacity they hold in academia. The value lies not in the title but in the power of our voice. Through mentorship, we can build a robust support system for education leaders. Together, we can cultivate an environment that celebrates diversity and empowers all scholars to realize their full potential as women and professionals. 



Erika Moore, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education and an AACTE Holmes Scholar.

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