Odetta Scott


High technology companies have a reputation for innovation and delivering cutting edge technologies to the American public. Additionally, the ability to innovate gives companies important competitive advantages such as being able to better satisfy customer needs, respond to environmental changes, and leverage emerging opportunities. However, a company's ability to innovate is hampered when diversity is lacking. Research has demonstrated that African American women are under-represented in both high technology and in the executive ranks of organizations. This qualitative study involved interviews with 15 African American women who held or had held a senior-level position within a high technology company. They identified success factors and barriers to the advancement of African American women into senior leadership positions within high technology companies (specifically, the defense and aerospace industries). While it appears that the success factors and barriers may vary from person to person, creating a career plan, developing oneself, finding mentors, and intentionally building one's networks can help African American women reduce or eliminate their barriers and achieve the success they desire. Recommendations include developing mentoring programs for African American women, increasing support and visibility of talented African American women, and stirring interest in high technology among African American youth. Limitations of the study included its use of a small, non-representative sample and potential researcher and participant bias. Suggestions for future research include updating the research on the glass ceiling, conducting longitudinal research on African American women's success factors and barriers, and conducting comparative research in other industries.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Research projects (MSOD); Leadership in women; Women executives -- United States

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Chesley, Julie