A Phenomenological Study on Career Ascension and Advancement of African American Women in Senior Academic Leadership at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Meka A. Francis, Xavier University of Louisiana


The U. S. Department of Labor Statistics (2018) reported that there were more than 10 million (53%) African American women in the civilian labor force. However, there is a growing concern of African American women who are underrepresented in higher educational leadership. There are only few studies that focus on the barriers and challenges that African American women encounter. These barriers prevent them from advancing and ascending in positions of higher education leadership. This phenomenological study explored their perceived personal and professional challenges regarding race and gender, as well as highlighted strategies, employed by African American women in senior academic leadership positions, to overcome those challenges. The executive level positions considered for this study are presidents, chancellors, vice presidents, and deans within historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the southeastern region of the United States. Additionally, this study examined initiatives taken by African American women to help support and develop future African American female leaders. Black Feminist Thought, as espoused by Patricia Hill Collins, was used as the framework to examine the journeys of four African American women in higher education leadership positions. Data from this research contributed to the body of literature that focused on African American vi women and their ascension to senior administration in HBCUs. The research findings are important in facilitating institutional change and encouraging institutions of higher education to increase and enhance diversity and inclusion initiatives designed to develop women leaders.