PhD Student & NYU Urban Doctoral Fellow Fatima Mabrouk Takes on Workplace Microaggressions
In spring 2018, as a newly minted NYU Silver MSW graduate entering New York City’s non-for-profit mental health workforce, Fatima Mabrouk was disheartened to find herself and other social workers of color overlooked for job promotions, given unequal pay, unrecognized for their achievements, and chastised for their communication style. Now, as a rising third-year NYU Silver PhD student and member of the 2023-24 cohort of NYU’s Urban Doctoral Fellowship program, she is centering her research on Black women social workers in the urban not-for-profit sector with the goal of mitigating such microaggressions in the future.
“Most social workers when they graduate from MSW programs enter into this nonprofit world,” Fatima explained. “They could be working in schools, social services agencies, hospitals, and yet data from those settings on microaggressions and discrimination towards workers is overlooked.” To fill that gap, Fatima will interview Black women social workers working in not-for-profit mental health settings in New York City about their day-to-day practice experiences. Among the questions she seeks answers to are how they cope with those microaggressions and the effect they have on their mental health and job performance; whether they have reported those microaggressions; what type of support, if any, they have received from organizational leadership; and what protective mechanisms they rely on and how they have built resilience.
Fatima said her intention from this research is “to model what organizational leadership can do to stop the perpetuation of these harms and to model it in the voices of Black women social workers. As people who both live these experiences every day and are deeply familiar with their organizational mission statements, they are uniquely qualified to show their organizations how they can do better.”
Not-for-profit organizations play an outsized role in social service provision in cities like New York, making Fatima’s research interest a perfect fit for the Urban Doctoral Fellowship Program. Open to current and prospective doctoral-level students from across the University and limited to up to 15 fellows per cohort, the fellowship includes up to $3,000 in research funds, a cross-NYU Urban Research Seminar featuring leading scholars from different areas who are researching urban issues, networking lunches or dinners following the seminars, and opportunities for fellows to present their work for feedback in front of their peers and NYU faculty. “This is a prime opportunity for me to build community with other scholars doing amazing work, create collaborations, and make my work stronger,” said Fatima.
The Importance of Mentorship
Fatima applied for the fellowship with the encouragement and support of her PhD Program mentor, Associate Professor Doris Chang. “One of the many things I love about Dr. Chang is that she makes me fall in love with research every single time I talk with her. It’s always a learning experience. And every time I share a draft of a proposal or application, she makes me think rigorously about it and puts my work and my voice at the forefront.”
In fact, Fatima said, the strength of the mentorship more than anything else is what made her choose NYU Silver’s PhD Program. “Of course, I’m biased because I earned my master’s here,” she said, “but browsing through doctoral programs, the mentorship at Silver really stood out. I know I’m in a nest filled with other scholars who want to see me and other students succeed. And then, yes, the expertise of the brilliant faculty was also a factor. For instance, I'm taking a grant writing class with Dr. Raghavan, and who I am now in regards to grant writing is so different from who I was three months ago. I’ve learned so many valuable survival tips and mechanisms to be a great researcher. The training in the program has been remarkable so far.”
After she earns her PhD, Fatima hopes to create her own interdisciplinary lab that centers longitudinal data analysis on microaggressions in the workplace. “I am open to possibilities and opportunities,” she said, “but ultimately I want to follow this data to come to a point where we are making actionable findings and protocols to mitigate discrimination at work.”