Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Janice B. Fournillier, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan L. Ogletree, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gwendolyn T. Benson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Christine D. Thomas, Ph.D.


There is growing research pointing to the universal, collective identity of black women in the United States. While this is promising, there remains, historically, an underrepresentation of black women in and en route to the highest levels of organizational leadership. The divide is even more amplified in the field of education, a sphere in which women are largely represented as a whole. This is particularly relevant for black women considering the incongruence that lies between their heightened levels of educational attainment as compared to their generally lower status in the organizational pecking order. In the effort to advance both theory and research development in this domain, critical race feminism and social justice leadership theory serve as the frameworks for this study. Qualitative in nature, this work explored the relived experiences of four black women who serve as executives, directors, and CEOs within the realm of education. This study employed the tenets of hermeneutic phenomenology in the effort to understand and investigate the cultures in which these women lead, and the intersecting factors – including race, gender, and class – that impact these women’s ability and capability to perform within the educational sector. Using in-depth, timed, semi-structured interviews, study members were invited to reflect upon and share their experiences and perceptions as women, as women of color, as educators, and as educational leaders. Participants’ recounted stories of resilience, community, struggle, and perseverance reveal copious insights regarding the extensiveness of each participant’s leadership journey. Results indicate that inequities remain within the educational leadership sphere. The information shared and the resulting data collected revealed the necessity for equitable and inclusive leadership cultures. Indeed, there seems to be the need to educate and raise awareness about the impact of leadership cultures on black women, their experiences, and the personal and professional choices they make. In addition, the field can benefit from the establishment of more research studies related to the development and advancement of black women in the context of educational leadership.