Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Race, Gender, and Representative Democracy: Perceptions of African American Women In The Federal Bureaucracy
by Hunt, Linda, Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2011, 231; 3434702
Abstract (Summary)

The government of the United States was established as a representative democracy, requiring both popular sovereignty and a representative bureaucracy charged with managing the government and establishing the focus and priorities of the collective existence of its citizens. Diverse government leadership is seen as contributing to the perception and reality of shared social responsibility, and the belief that policies that are developed and promulgated by a representative federal workforce take into consideration diverse opinions and perspectives: a critical factor in government “of the people.”

African American women are underrepresented in executive positions where decisions regarding the planning, management, and evaluation of government initiatives and programs are made. Although they represent more than 15% of the Federal workforce (proportionate to their numbers in the civilian labor force), among the senior government decision makers they number approximately 2.5%, showing a decline since the mid 1990s. Most studies that address the representational distribution of workers lumps all women together or segregates all minority women, without regard for their racial and cultural backgrounds. The result of this assumed homogeneity provides a distorted view of the differential impediments encountered, and limits consideration of group specific influences on their careers.

This research study explores the experiences of a group of African American women who have achieved executive, decision making status in the Federal workforce. It examines their perceptions regarding the influence of race and gender on their careers. The manifestation of these factors is presented as analogous to their social identity and their individual and collective workplace histories. Bandura’s social cognitive theory is explored to acknowledge the influence of evolved factors in human adaptation and change, and how early life gender role identity and socialization influences career decisions. Hackett’s social cognitive career theory is applied to examine the interactions between the individual, their behavior and the influences and barriers encountered in their workplace environments. Findings revealed that views of their heritage, birthright, and presumptions of their responsibilities to carry forward a legacy of responsibility and forbearance provided successfully alternatives that were applied to address the obstacles imposed by negative presumptions concerning their race, gender and career potential.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chalofsky, Neal
Commitee: Harmon, Alison, Welch, William, Wesner, Marylyn, Wright, Travis
School: The George Washington University
Department: Education and Human Development
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 72/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Womens studies, Public administration
Keywords: African-American women, Critical race theory, Critical race theory and government bureaucracy, Intersectionality of race and gender, Personal and social identity, Representative democracy
Publication Number: 3434702
ISBN: 978-1-124-41913-8
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