Promoting Change for Black Female Counselor Educators Through the Use of the Kaleidoscope Career Model

By Natasha Barnes and Kenya Johns

Black female counselor educators are a population in academia who have very unique experiences. Challenges are two-fold for this population, as they contend with racial and gender biases of administration, colleagues, and students (Wilder et al., 2013). While working to overcome biases and stereotypes placed on them in higher education for being a double minority, Black female counselor educators also are key in mentorship and support for underrepresented populations, recruitment and retention of minority students, and the expansion of research through diverse research agendas (Wilder et al., 2013). Given the positive impact that Black female counselor educators have on the profession and recruitment and retention efforts, their overall wellness should be addressed. Although there is limited research, from that research we reviewed, six themes emerged. The six most common career issues of Black female counselor educators are: low representation/high influence, mentorship/networking, discrimination, imposter syndrome, dual identities, and decreased wellness.

Career Issues of Black Female Counselor Educators

Low representation/high influence is characterized as the Black female educator being the primary representation of diversity in their predominantly White college or institution (PWI). Miller (2018) stated that race and ethnicity of the educator makes an impact on student learning. Within this space, the Black female educator typically has to take on the role of mentor, diversity advocate, and representation for all minority groups. This often leads to burn out and extra obligations to their workload (Myers et al., 2016). In addition, the lack of mentorship and networking opportunities continues to be a barrier for minority students, especially Black female counselor educators (Oller et al., 2021).

Discrimination is also a challenge that Black female educators regularly experience (Myers et al., 2016; Oller et al., 2021). The discrimination ranges from microagressions to direct insults. While in the academic space, this group is often subjected to discrimination by their peers, adminstration and even students. Research has shown that this particular group receives higher negative reviews in their teaching evaluations than their non-Black peers (Williams, 2015). This type of discrimination often adds to burnout, mental health concerns and poor views of self.

In addition, imposter syndrome is a serious concern for Black female educators as well. For example, Black female educators may hold various degrees and certifications but lack the ability to find value in their place within the education community due to some of the previous concerns mentioned. Imposter syndrome creates a feeling of doubt and feelings of inadequacy (Tulshyan & Burey, 2021).

Black female educators often have dual identities between their professional identity and their personal identity. Dual identities are often referred to in conversation regarding “code switching” and are taxing on the development and health of Black female educators. An example of code switching includes but is not limited to the language that the Black female educator uses while in the workplace. For example, a Black female may use standard English in the workplace comparatively using African American Vernacular English (AAVE) while with their family or close friends. It is not uncommon for Black female counselor educators to believe that they cannot be their true authentic selves within their college or university and this only adds to the challenges they face as professionals.

Overall, decreased wellness is the outcome Black female counselor educators experience. From the various career issues this group experiences, there is also a concern regarding the overall opportunities to participate in appropriate self-care (Schmidt et al., 2014). This group often plays major roles in various areas that do not physically allow for the space for self-care to take place. This is a challenge and is very important to be addressed as Black female counselor educators are already a marginalized group and their representation is needed in the field of counselor education.

What is the Kaleidoscope Career Model?

When considering the many challenges faced by Black female counselor educators, it is important to consider a model that addresses the work values of this population. The Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM; Mainiero & Sullivan, 2006) was developed to provide insight on how individuals change careers based on the options available and choices that best fit their current needs and work values. Specifically, the KCM provides a metaphorical view of women’s careers. The KCM incorporates three concepts identified as the ABCs of the model - Authenticity, Balance, and Challenge. Authenticity focuses on an individual’s desire for purposeful work, being genuine to self and others, and following one’s passion while inspiring others. Balance addresses the need to think of career as a part of a system instead of the entire system - considering how work will impact the other important aspects of the system. Challenge identifies the need for a career that is stimulating, provides opportunity for growth, and the ability to advance. By using this model to view the needs of Black female counselor educators, recruitment, retention, and overall wellness could increase.

Promoting Change Using the KCM

When considering Black female counselor educators, there are several ways that non-Black counselor educators, as well as Black counselor educators can use the KCM to promote change in the career development, planning, and overall wellness of this population:

  • Authenticity - gain knowledge about the values and beliefs of Black female counselor educators; consider this when assigning tasks and responsibilities, scheduling events and activities, etc.
  • Balance - understand the need for balance when it may not be articulated; just because she can, does not mean she should
  • Challenge - advocate for advancement and promotion of Black female colleagues who are doing the work and seeking the opportunity to excel in the profession and grow their identity as a counselor educator

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Supporting Development While Addressing Concerns

The experiences of Black female counselor educators are a serious concern. As there is a growing push to continue to increase diversity in the field of counseling education, there is also a need for better policies and support for Black female counselor educators. Using the Kaleidoscope Career Model offers a structured approach to reviewing and supporting the development of Black female educators while also addressing the barriers that are cause for concern.



Mainiero, L. A., & Sullivan, S. E. (2006). The opt-out revolt: Why people are leaving companies to create kaleidoscope careers (1st ed.). Davies-Black Publishers.

Miller, C. C. (2018, September 10). Does teacher diversity matter in student learning? New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/upshot/teacher-diversity-effect-students-learning.html

Myers, J., Trepal, H. C., Ivers, N., & Wester, K. L. (2016). Wellness of counselor educators: Do we practice what we preach? Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy, 3, 22-30. https://doi.org/10.1080/2326716X.2016.1139479

Oller, M. L., Lindo, N., & Li, D. (2021). Faculty of color’s mentorship experiences in counselor education. Counselor Education and Supervision, 60, 112-128. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12193

Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., Postmes, T., & Garcia, A. (2014). The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: a meta-analytic review. Psychology Bulletin, 140, 921-948. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035754

Smith, L. C. (2015). Alterity models in counseling: When we talk about diversity, what are we talking about? International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 37, 248-261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-015-9241-8

Tulshyan, R. & Burey, J. (2021). Stop telling women they have imposter syndrome. Harvard Business School Publishing.

Wilder, J., Bertrand, T., Osborne-Lampkin, L. (2013). A profile of Black women in the 21st century academy: Still learning from the “outsider-within.” Journal of Research Initiatives, 1(1), 27-38. https://doi.org/10.7709/jnegroeducation.82.3.0326

Williams, D. (2015). White racial identity, color-blind racial attitudes, and multicultural counseling competence. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21, 440-449. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037533




Natasha Barnes 2022 CoverNatasha Barnes, Ed.D, GCDF, CCC, NCC – Dr. Natasha Barnes is a counselor educator at Southern New Hampshire University and Delta State University. She is an advocate for social justice and career development/planning in the African American community and works to create space for Black females in all professions, especially counselor education. To further her work on these issues in the profession, Dr. Barnes is active in ACA divisions as a co-chair of the Diversity Committee, with the National Career Development Association as associate editor for Career Convergence, and a co-chair of the Counselor Education Task Force with Counselors for Social Justice. Natashabarnes.ed.d@gmail.com



Kenya JohnsKenya Johns, Ph.D, LPC, NCC, CAADC, CCTP, ACS – Dr. Kenya Johns is a full-time faculty member at Geneva College and active clinician in private practice. She has a strong professional identity that focuses on diversity, equity and justice and wellness. Throughout her work, her goal is to create and sustain opportunities for social justice initiatives and better treatment of BIPOC individuals both professionally and socially. Drkenyajohns@gmail.com

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