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Public Policy and Administration


Frances Goldman


Research shows that women’s leadership development can be fostered through gender-based mentoring. However, even when involved in gender-based mentoring relationships, African American women face additional challenges due to the intersectionality of their race and gender, often known as “double jeopardy.” The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how this intersectionality shapes African American women leaders’ perceptions about their gender-based mentoring experiences from the perspectives of both mentors and protégés. The theoretical framework for this study was Black feminist thought. One research question and two subquestions addressed the role of intersectionality, the benefits and challenges of gender-based mentoring, and strategies for success in the absence of mentoring relationships. Data were collected through two focus groups, conducted in Washington, DC with 10 African American women who held General Schedule 12 or higher positions in the federal government and who had experience with gender-based mentoring relationships. Group and individual level data were coded and categorized using micro-interlocutor analysis. Results centered on the (a) significance of intersectionality, (b) difficulty in finding and maintaining mentoring relationships, and (c) organizational barriers, such as the concrete wall. Two overarching themes described (a) the complexities embedded in the phenomenon and (b) the feelings of resignation about the challenges and complexities. There were four recommendations with implications for social change related to diversity and inclusion practices, leadership development, organizational development, and overall employee development for African American women and other minority populations.