Black Female Leadership: Barriers To Ascension To Senior Leadership Positions In Corporations In America

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Organization Development & Change (D.O.D.C.)


Organization Development

First Advisor

Deborah O'Neil (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Timothy Pogacar (Other)

Third Advisor

Clare Barratt (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)


This study explores the lived experiences of Black women as they navigate(d) their corporate careers with aspirations of reaching senior leadership positions within their companies. Through this research, we sought to understand and characterize the barriers that exist to ascension, and what the consequences are for individual Black women. According to Becker (1970), we must understand how an individual perceives the situation as well as the obstacles she believes she faces. Through the study, we learned how some women achieved success, others' successes were derailed, and still others diverted to alternative paths, or are still striving. Such an internal or emic approach brought greater depth to the research with its detailed accounts of Black women leader experiences. The study aimed to explore evidence-based support for the challenges and impact of barriers to senior leadership ascension for Black women, and how Black women experienced the phenomenon at the intersection of their race and gender (intersectionality). The implications from this study encourage organizations to decrease barriers in a coordinated manner to help Black women leaders achieve their highest levels of success.