Women make up half of the workforce in America. Despite this, in traditional organizations, leadership roles are overwhelmingly held by men. Of the small number of African American women employed in the workforce, 30% hold professional or management positions and women in general are more educated, qualified and transformational than their male counterparts. Despite this, African American female leaders experience organizational barriers, social labeling, and biases driven by their intersectionality that hinders their career opportunities. Black feminist research suggests that social norms place women in subordinate roles in comparison to men in society. African American women face such social barriers at a higher level given additional societal hardships driven by racism. Literature on African American female leadership outlines the barriers, but there is a limited amount of literature that seeks to appreciate Black female leadership as it relates to their style characteristics, expertise, and experience within their organizations regarding their leadership styles and the resilience required to maintain success in their positions. In order to add to the body of research in this area, this study explored the leadership characteristics, barriers, success strategies and resilience of African American female leaders through the lenses of these women. This study assessed leadership and resilience in African American females who hold higher level positions of leadership in traditionally White, male dominated industries. The purpose of the research was to identify those factors that increase achievement, advancement and success in high ranking positions despite the documented adversities associated with African American women, who hold leadership positions. The goal was to provide a guide for women who aspire towards entering particular fields and holding similar leadership positions and to provide an outline of their success in order to offer a blueprint for organizational strategies to promote diversity and advancement for women.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; African American women in the professions; African American leadership; Leadership in women; African American women executives -- Psychology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

DellaNeve, James;