Dr. Janaka Lewis serves as UNC Charlotte's Director of Women's and Gender Studies, specializing in 19th century African American literature, African American women writers and Black feminist theory. Upon her entry as the Director of Women's and Gender Studies, Lewis was a current UNC Charlotte professor of English, focusing on African American literature. Lewis serves within her department by creating curriculum, hiring faculty, sitting on committees, teaching classes and managing research.
Lewis says there are advantages to being a woman within her position because of the opportunity to form networks with people impacted by similar issues. "These do not have to only be women, but whoever contributes to the community that supports women's rights to exist, have equal opportunities and be treated equitably," said Lewis.
When considering the hardships that present themselves alongside being a female in such a crucial profession, Lewis highlights a struggle to access equal opportunity. Both obtaining equal job positions and equal pay prove to be discriminatory differences regarding gender, she says. Next to the difficulty in obtaining equal treatment is the difficulty in receiving "visibility."
"Visibility can be more difficult as a woman, and specifically as a Black woman," said Lewis, adding that she has experienced this discrimination personally through her professional life.
The prominence of discrimination is highlighted by Lewis clarifying how it requires a male voice to be speaking for a message to be truly heard more often than not. Similarly, work systems are 'replicated' free from female involvement to gain power.
"Discrimination may be explicit but is often woven throughout every layer of our society," said Lewis.