Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Deirdre Oakley

Second Advisor

Katie Linette Acosta

Third Advisor

Margaret Post


Women of color leaders in the United States have a unique experience of being the "outsider-within" in their nonprofit organizations. Regardless of years of experience or education, leaders experience barriers to their thriving that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job. This qualitative dissertation argues that nonprofits are contested spaces where Black and brown women innovate to resist the institutional manifestations of the matrix of oppression. The research methodology included in-depth interviews of nine women of color who were deeply committed to social justice work and community impact. Seven of the nine women interviewed were or had been executive directors at large and mid-size national organizations. Their narratives provided a vivid picture of the challenges and resistance strategies that characterized their professional life and provided the data to expand existing feminist, critical race and organizational studies theory. The primary research questions include; How do institutions dominate/replicate the matrix of oppression? How does institutional domination intersect with the resistance and ingenuity of nonprofit leaders of color? What liberatory behaviors and mental processes do participants engage in to navigate nonprofit spaces?

The findings chart the patterns of dominance in nonprofits and theorize the psycho-social mechanisms that lead to the emergence of a critical consciousness for marginalized leaders.


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