Title page for ETD etd-05112011-211149

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Easley, Brian Gerard
URN etd-05112011-211149
Title Developmental Networks, Black Feminist Thought, and Black Women Federal Senior Executives: A Case Study Approach
Degree PhD
Department Human Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Klunk, Clare D. Committee Chair
Few-Demo, April L. Committee Co-Chair
Combs, Paul William Committee Member
Renard, Paul D. Committee Member
  • Black feminist thought
  • leadership
  • mentoring
  • Black women
  • career development
  • political identity
  • developmental network
  • senior executive service
Date of Defense 2011-04-29
Availability unrestricted

Private and public sector organizations have become increasingly interested in promoting diversity. Due to barriers attributed to race and gender, women and minorities often find it hard to break through the glass ceiling. Mentoring is a tool to assist with breaking through the glass ceiling. This interest has led to extensive growth in mentoring research and the design of a more expanded concept, developmental networks. Little empirical research informs our understanding of Black women in developmental networks and their political identities within those networks.

This qualitative study, within the framework of grounded theory method and of case study research, examines two research questions:

(1) What do Black women federal senior executives value within their developmental networks?

(2) How do Black women federal senior executives construct political identity within their developmental networks?

Applying the conceptual framework of Black feminist thought and developmental network support theories the study examined the developmental relationships of three Black women senior executives. This research highlights the development of a group of high achievers and the contributions of their self-identified support systems.

Data analysis from unstructured person-to-person interviews, a questionnaire, and researcher theoretical memos identified the themes support network, self-definition and self-determination, and ecology of life. The most visible codes were significant friendship, workplace behavior, social network composition, and Black woman.

In conclusion, the women valued relationships that produced psychosocial outcomes such as friendship, trust, honesty, direct feedback, and reciprocity. They also valued relationships where they received workplace guidance and career exposure from mentor, friend, sponsor, and ally developers within or outside of the workplace. The women developed networks that provided closeness and consisted of developers from different social arenas. They defined their political identities, roles, coping strategies for life challenges and fostered relationships that recognized the importance of ethnic/racial respect, and understanding personal strength. In addition, the women preferred informal developmental relationships with Black and male developers of different ages.

Due to a small sample size, self-reported data and the application of grounded theory method, the findings of this study were interpreted with caution. Provided were recommendations for future research and practice.

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