Date of Conferral







Felicia Blacher-Wilson


Research studies have revealed that African-American women are disproportionately underrepresented in senior and executive leadership positions compared to European-American female and male counterparts at public and private predominantly White institutions, despite their increased representation in university senior leadership positions. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to discover the meaning and understanding of African-American women's career pathway experiences ascending to executive positions at these institutions. Critical race theory and Black feminist thought lenses were used as frameworks to understand participants' career pathways, barriers, and facilitating factors advancing toward leadership. LinkedIn recruitment and snowball sampling led to 9 participants who self-identified as African American/Black multi-ethnic women currently or previously worked in senior and executive-level roles. Each participant's interview was analyzed for codes and themes. Seven themes that emerged suggested that although participants experienced barriers and challenges as impediments, facilitating factors of a strong support system of mentors, role models, and faith enabled them to persevere. The participants reported having inherited a legacy of self-determination, self-reliance, resilience, family, community, and church preparing them for their career pathways. This empowered them to navigate barriers and challenges while taking advantage of facilitating factors into leadership. The positive social change implications of this study provide recommendations to both prospective African-American women aspiring career pathways in senior and executive leaders and the institutions themselves that may increase such leadership at higher education institutions.