African American females in senior-level executive roles navigating predominately white institutions : experiences, challenges and strategies for success
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The purpose of this study was to determine the experiences, challenges and strategies for success of African American female senior-level executives at predominately white institutions (PWIs). This qualitative study used a phenomenological perspective to address the research questions, as phenomenology was uniquely suited to capture participants lived experiences (Guido, Chávez, & Lincoln, 2010; Perl & Noldon, 2000). The conceptual framework for the study was based on the theoretical concepts of black feminist theory, biculturalism and intersectionality. The combination of these theories was uniquely appropriate for researching the lived experiences of African American women (Barrett, Cervero, & Johnson-Bailey, 2003; Collins, 2000; Du Bois & Edwards, 2007). Black feminist theory addressed the lived experiences of African American women (Collins, 2000); intersectionality highlighted the oppression of African American women (Collins, 2000) and biculturalism explained how African American women adapt to be successful (Barrett, et al., 2003). The findings for this study of African American female senior-level executives at predominately white institutions include: regarding experiences (1) relationships and connection were essential; (2) strategic and political savvy were vital; (3) one must have an awareness of your perception; (4) higher education was an isolating place; (5) racism and sexism were still prevalent; and (6) work/life balance was a myth; regarding identities (7) creation of a professional identity as the primary identity at PWI; (8) race and gender as prominent identities; and (9) personal persona purposely protected from PWI; and regarding strategies to cope with challenges and celebrate successes (10) know yourself and focus on your goals; (11) identify something to ground you outside of the PWIs; (12) invest in your success through academic and professional preparation; and (13) advance to uplift others.