Intended Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctorate in Management and Public Service (DMPS)


Dr. Kris Norman


Dr. David Everett

Committee Member

Dr. Antonia Apolinario-Wilcoxon


Despite the Civil Right Act and a myriad of DEI initiatives that claim to create an anti-discrimination and antiracism environment, Black women leaders still experience racism, discrimination, and disrespect in the workplace. Black women are less likely to be promoted than their White counterparts, and over 25% of Black women reported that their social identities led to a missed advancement opportunity (McKinsey & Lean In, 2022). Society is in the midst of a unique time in history where government institutions, willingly or forced, are having difficult conversations regarding institutional racism. The national movement that declares racism as a public health crisis has created a culture and appetite for government accountability as a social expectation.

Society has arrived at a point where we can no longer ignore the voices that represent the communities closest to the margins and the communities on the other end of issues such as police murders, environmental racism, infant mortality, and mass incarceration. Institutional racism is embedded in the foundation of government. Cox (1994) insists that cultural bias is baked into the culture and normalized within institutions, including those who outwardly endorse anti-racist practices. Grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT), the study used a phenomenological approach to conduct semi-structured interviews with 12 Black women leaders who work in state government in midwestern, eastern, and southern regions of the United States.

The purpose of the interviews was to explore the experience of Black women leaders in government, specifically understanding the impact of racism on their advancement in state government. Several themes surfaced under the five main categories:

  1. Institutional racism
  2. Interpersonal racism
  3. Conscious and unconscious alignment and perpetuation of white supremacy culture
  4. Strategies Black women use to navigate state government
  5. Committed to improving the culture of government and invested in making an impact

Three new aspects of Black women's experiences surfaced from the research:

  1. Black women are demoted from leadership positions
  2. Black women resist role-flexing and show up authentically
  3. 3. Black women perpetuate anti-Blackness in state government

The research concludes with implications and recommendations for government and research:

  1. DEI strategies intended to support Black women should be informed by Black women
  2. State Government would benefit from partnering with an external culturally competent investigator to investigate patterns of discrimination complaints involving Black women leaders
  3. State government should consider establishing and implementing a culturally specific peer mentor program to support the onboarding and ongoing success of Black women leaders.








School of Business Student Theses and Dissertations