As members of two minority groups, Black women are often required to overcome dueling obstacles in the workplace. Black women are the most underrepresented in leadership positions compared to other groups. For most Black women, the American dream is merely a glass-ceiling-laden reality. For Black women to ascend to the upper echelon of leadership positions, executives and organizations in various industries must alter how administration and operations best practices are conceived, executed, and monitored as they pertain to recognition and promotions. Mentoring helps to optimize professional potential, build skills, and enhance performance by assisting mentees in managing their learning to become the people they want to be.

This qualitative study combines phenomenological and narrative inquiries that explore thirteen Black women's lived experiences as mentees faced with intersectionality and social behaviors in the workplace and how the mentoring relationship supports their efforts to attain leadership positions. Four theoretical models (Critical Race Theory [CRT], Leader-Member Exchange [LMX], Social Exchange Theory [SET], and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) guided this exploration.

The study examined how formal and informal mentorship supports Black women on their path to leadership and the impact of intersectionality (race, misogyny, and workplace systems) on mentorship for Black women. Semistructured interviews allowed the participants to narrate their live interactions within the mentoring relationship and the exchange of leadership skills in the workplace. Four conclusions were gleaned from those themes: (a) the perpetuation of color blindness continues to exclude and impede Black women in the workplace; (b) mentoring is ineffective when there is a dearth of purpose, clarity, and engagement; (c) Informal mentors within and outside organizations are most effective in supporting Black women's advancement into leadership positions; and (d) When effective mentoring for Black women occurs, it develops their capacity to mentor others. The study recommends that leaders and mentors in all industries strongly encourage mentorship by establishing, developing, or strengthening their color consciousness, thereby positively influencing the people and systems within their organizations. A holistic top-down and bottom-up approach is necessary to comprehend and rectify the ingrained institutional and cultural realities.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Women, Black--Leadership; African American women--Leadership; Mentoring in business; Mentoring

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Kay Davis