African American Women in America: Underrepresentation, Intersectionality, and Leadership Development Experiences

Date of Conferral







Barbara Turner


American conglomerates are accountable for the underrepresentation of African American women (AAW) in high-ranking roles. Though some progress is documented, this study revealed that inequalities and stereotypical practices still exist. This transcendental phenomenology study explored the leadership development and lived experiences of 25 high-ranking AAW. All participants worked in private or public sectors, resided in America, and held high-ranking positions within the last 5 years. The goal was to explore the lived experience of AAW and uncover any strategies used to address the influence of intersectionality on leadership development that could abate barriers and create career pathways for forthcoming AAW leaders. During the literature review process, the education sector emerged as the most studied area, exposing substantial gaps in literature concentrated on other sectors. For this study, a broader range of industries was explored that could enhance existing leadership and management practices and augment the body of knowledge in multiple sectors. The theory of Black feminism guided the study, and the conceptual framework of intersectionality corroborated the intersecting barriers caused by gender, race, and class unique to AAW. Purposive samples and open-ended questions designed to guide semistructured interviews, supported by the modified van Kaam data analysis technique, were implemented. The social implications of this study go beyond simple diversity in the workplace to highlight a highly resilient and capable talent pool of AAW who bring new perspectives to senior leadership roles that will enhance organizational resilience, contributing to the economic growth of the organizations they lead.

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