Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Unlocking an Unbiased, Talent-Driven Race to the Top: Increasing Access to Senior-Executive-Level Positions for Women of Color
by Saad, Digna, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2018, 243; 10690501
Abstract (Summary)

There is a prevalent under-representation of Women of Color (WOC) at the senior-executive level and above in large organizations in the United States. As long as race and gender continue to predict professional achievement or failure, the competition to the top will never be genuinely talent-driven. This thesis employs theories of leadership, social interaction, and Critical Race Theory to analyze the disparity—not from the perspective of why it persists, but how it can be resolved. Some outlier WOC are prevailing against the odds and accomplishing more than everyone else under the same workplace constraints. This study investigates the lived experiences of 30 of those WOC who have transcended the implicit organizational barriers laced with racism, discrimination, and oppression to attain senior executive roles. Employing a positive-deviance lens, non-normative behaviors, and factors that allowed those outlier WOC to thrive are identified. The study participants’ stories reveal a multifaceted internal dissonance. By positively reframing negative experiences, by leading differently, and by disassociating from other WOC, participants have been able to circumvent systemic barriers.

However, the complex—at times even contradictory—interplay inhibits the distinct identification of a singular internal factor or an overall formula for professional triumph. Other findings support the undeniable influence of external factors in forecasting individual achievement, the necessity to remove gender biases in the workplace, the importance of augmenting sponsorship opportunities, and the essential role of sustaining robust support systems to aid the career progression of WOC.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watts, Caroline L.
Commitee: Bookman, Ann, McKee, Annie, Racioppi, Rosina
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Womens studies, Management
Keywords: Bias, C-suite, Talent development, Woman of Color, Women in the workplace, Women of Color
Publication Number: 10690501
ISBN: 978-0-438-04585-9
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