Date of Award

Spring 4-8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Marilou Ryder, EdD

Second Advisor

Myrna Côté, EdD

Third Advisor

Tiffáni Thomas, EdD


Purpose. This phenomenological study aimed to investigate the perceived impact of intersectional barriers created by gender and ethnicity on the advancement of African American females to the Senior Executive Service (SES) corps of the United States federal civil service. Additionally, the study sought to identify strategies used by African American females to overcome these barriers because of intersectionality and advance to the SES corps of the United States federal civil service.

Methodology. This qualitative phenomenological study used a convenience sampling method to select eight African American females who have advanced to an SES position in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The participants were interviewed via Zoom, using a 13 semistructured interview guide aligned with the research questions. Inductive analysis was then conducted to provide evidence-based insights that were aligned with the research questions to provide evidence-based insights from the transcribed interviews and the artifacts that aligned with the research questions.

Findings. Based on the study, I was able to identify external and internal themes perceived by the African American female participants as significant barriers to their socioeconomic advancement. Microaggressions and insecurities were found to be the most frequently perceived external and internal themes, respectively. The study also revealed that external barriers were more frequently identified than internal barriers among the participants.

Conclusions. This study found that African American women face ingrained significant systemic barriers to socioeconomic advancement. To address this issue, it is important to create visible and accessible paths to the SES corps. As the largest employer in the country, the federal government has a duty to promote diversity and inclusivity for underrepresented groups.

Recommendations. To build on the findings of this study, it is highly recommended to conduct further research in different states, regions, and specific organizations. Additionally, it is recommended that future studies address the major finding of stereotyping, microaggressions perceived by African American female participants. By doing so, researchers can explore the underlying reasons behind these outcomes and identify strategies to improve or replicate them in other settings.