Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Janice Kelly

Second Supervisor

Bil Leipold


Within the nonprofit sector, people of color aspire to be leaders more than their White counterparts (Thomas-Breitfeld & Kunreuther, 2017). Black women are 2.8 times more likely than White women to aspire to powerful positions with a prestigious title, but 44% feel stalled and 26% feel their efforts go unrecognized by superiors more than their White female counterparts (Hewlett & Green, 2015). With a limited number of Black women in executive positions within the social sector, little is known about the perceived obstacles and employed strategies to navigate their way to the decision-making positions, specifically social justice organizations. The purpose of this study was to delve into the lived experiences of African American women who have acquired executive positions in the social sector and uncover a blueprint for success in navigating through the leadership labyrinth. The study utilizes social capital theory and Black feminist theory in exploring the narratives of the participants. The study utilized a qualitative, phenomenological approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants from the New York metropolitan area. The findings of obstacles African American women experienced included (a) negative feedback, (b) perception of leadership, (c) fiscal solvency, and compensation. The strategies revealed by African American women were (a) positive feedback, (b) professional development and academic advancement, (c) connection to culture, (d) unsolicited opportunity, (e) mentoring and sponsorship, and (f) trailblazing. The women also shared recommendations of what those who aspire to be leaders should consider while on their journey to acquiring a nonprofit executive position.

Included in

Education Commons