Factors contributing to the career succession of African American women executive leaders in community and technical colleges
Thomas, Alvetta Peterman
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This is research is a qualitative case study of African American women executive leaders in two-year colleges. Five African American women directors of instruction from a two-year college system in the southeastern United States were interviewed to examine factors that contributed to their career succession experiences. The findings of this study indicate three conclusions about the career succession experiences of African American women executive leaders in two-year colleges. First, racism and sexism were evident throughout every facet of their career succession experience. Because these phenomena are so ingrained in the fabric of our society, they may go unnoticed by perpetrators and victims. Thus, the women in this study turned their energy to coping with them rather than discussing and acknowledging them. Second, career succession experiences were leveraged by institutional and professional factors such as supervisory and institutional support for education and career development, mentoring, and restricted network opportunities. Third, personal factors such as family motivation and role models, drive and determination, and desire to make a difference shaped their career succession experiences. Literature on two-year colleges is filled with cautions about a pending leadership crisis. This impending leadership crisis presents an excellent opportunity to recruit and train the untapped human resource, African American women, for future two-year college leadership. Two-year colleges have historically catered to diverse student populations. However, they have fallen short in promoting African Americans to executive leadership positions. Now is the time for two-year colleges to fully embrace diversity. They should: 1) engage in open dialogue to bring manifestations of institutional racism and sexism to the forefront; 2) develop formal and informal programs to attract more African American women for two-year college leadership opportunities and to support current African American women executive leaders; 3) critically examine their recruitment and promotion procedures to eliminate practices that limit consideration of African American women; and 4) make a concerted effort to encourage leadership opportunities to African Americans beyond urban colleges with large African American student populations.