This study uses qualitative interview data from 35 Black professional women in the Twin Cities metropolitan area to identify and further understand the complex negotiation of identities necessary for Black women to achieve professional success. It asks, (1) what combinations of factors associated with race, class, and gender do these Black women perceive have the greatest impact on the career trajectories of Black women? (2) What are racial and gendered expectations outside of the workplace these Black women perceive complicate their career trajectories? (3) How do these Black professional women perceive the politics of class, as well as race and gender impact their career trajectories? (4) How do these Black women use race, class, and gendered networks? The limited body of research on the experiences of Black professional women suggests assimilation, defined as absorbing and seeing oneself as a culture different from one's native culture, is not necessary for professional success, a claim which seems counter-intuitive to present day understandings within the Black community of how success is best achieved. This study seeks to address the void in the literature by attempting to connect professional success to the competing interests of Black women's personal and professional lives, such as attaining traditional roles of wife and/or mother, meeting cultural expectations of active community engagement, or taking on minority mentors, to highlight the often invisible barriers to professional success for Black women. Through analysis of the individual personal and professional experiences of Black women, this dissertation identifies a combination of factors associated with race, class, and gender Black professional women perceive as impacting their career trajectories. The findings of this study suggest that many of the study participants' personal commitments, such as active community outreach and a desire for occupational prestige are indeed perceived predictive of career success. Black women are encouraged early in their professional lives to value either family or career as most important. Their personal valuations, regardless of other objective similarities (such as level of education, or that of family members), are believed by these women to significantly inform how the degree of career success they achieve. While one cannot generalize from a case study of 35 Black women in the Twin Cities, the study offers clear directions for future research on the professional success of Black women. This research will help to further the important work of narrowing the wide gap in career achievement between Black and white women in the United States.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2013. Major: Sociology. Advisors: Phyllis Moen, Enid Logan. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 141 pages.
The Negotiators: Black Professional Women, Success, and the Management of Competing Identities.
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