Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Cecilia Maldonado

Second Committee Member

Yeonsoo Kim

Third Committee Member

Sterling Saddler

Fourth Committee Member

Sonya Horsford

Number of Pages



The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the intersectionality of race and gender for African American women through their lived experiences of how they developed into leaders. This research study was designed to determine how the intersection of race and gender identities contributed to the elements of leadership development as perceived by eight African American female executives in academia and business. The researcher sought to explore strategies future leaders might utilize to address leadership development and career ascendency for African American females who aspire to leadership roles. A phenomenological research method was most appropriate for this research study to capture the lived experiences of individuals from their perspectives and to develop themes that challenged structural or normative assumptions.

This research study examined leadership development of eight African American female leaders in two distinct enterprises: academia and business. In both sectors, changes prompted by economic challenges, competition, globalization, and demographic projections have significantly challenged the ability to develop leadership capabilities among African American women. While women have been entering the workforce in greater numbers and making progress into management and professional positions, access to senior leadership ranks remains limited for African American women. As evidenced by studies recorded in the literature, it is prudent to investigate the leadership development modalities required to identify and develop African American female leaders.

This qualitative, phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of how eight African American women developed as leaders. The exploration of factors that the participants' considered significant in their development as leaders provided the study data. A phenomenological research method fit the goal of understanding how race and gender informed the career development of African American women in senior level leadership positions in academia and business. The phenomenological inquiry uncovered meaning from the lived experiences of these African American women. Their experiences, as evident through the interview data, encompassed their personal knowledge of how race and gender informed their leadership development.

Scholarly literature reviewed for the study followed the theory of intersectionality as it related to the influence of race and gender on African American women in academia and business, as well as their underrepresentation in senior level positions. This perspective facilitated breaking through the glass ceilings surrounding African American women's advancement to leadership positions in these sectors. The method of inquiry included phenomenological reflection on data elicited by the investigation of the phenomenon of race and gender identities and the investigation of these women's development as leaders.

The significance of this study was to describe the personal and professional perceptions experienced by African American women in their accession to leadership positions. The data gathered was analyzed to develop themes for which potential African American females who aspire to become organizational leaders can learn from and apply. This exploration may provide information to individuals interested in the career paths of African American women leaders. Moreover, this research is vital given the increasing demographic changes in society in which through which African American women will have more leadership opportunities.


African American college administrators; African American executives; African American women; African Americans – Race identity; Black women in academia; Black women in business; Gender identity; Intersectionality; Leadership development; Leadership in minority women; Minority businesswomen; Minority women executives; Phenomenology


African American Studies | Business | Women's Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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