Mentoring and African American Women's Advancement to Leadership Positions in Corporate America

Mentoring and African American Women's Advancement to Leadership Positions in Corporate America

Author: 
Jocelyn Michelle Lee
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological qualitative research was to study how African American women in high-ranking corporate positions in southeastern Wisconsin corporations, in the communications, healthcare, financial, energy, insurance, legal, manufacturing, and industrial, retail, and service and technology sectors make sense of their lived mentoring experiences and advancement in corporate America. An interpretive phenomenological qualitative research design was selected to garner meaning about the social constructed realities of the African American women’s workplace mentoring experience, and advancement to high-level positions. Fifteen face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with high-ranking African American women, employed in southeastern Wisconsin corporations. The interviews were transcribed and subsequently coded in the qualitative analysis software tool NVivo 10; the analysis resulted in the discovery of 15 emergent core themes. The 15 themes emerged from the study were: different experiences between African American and non-African American mentors, informal mentoring, sponsorship, influence inside the organization, increased visibility, qualities of the mentor, developing trusting relationships, making connections with a mentor, strategic and purposeful activities, isolation, lack of familiarity, bias, perceptions, and misrecognition, job satisfaction, cultural integration, and inclusion in informal networks. The advancement of African American women to high-ranking leadership positions in the workplace is both a social and economic point of contention. Leaders concerned with implementing best practices toward diversity initiatives may find this research helpful to understanding mentoring as a strategic tool to aid advancement of African American women to the top ranks of the corporate hierarchy.
Dedication: 
To Rebekah, the joy of my life. I am tired of sailing my little boat, far inside the harbor bar. I want to go out where the big ships float, out on the deep where the great ones are. And should my frail craft prove too slight for those waves that sweep the billows o’er, I’d rather go down in the stirring fight than drowse to death at the sheltered shore. -Unknown Author
Acknowledgements: 
This journey would not have been possible without the help of my mentors and role models along the way. First, I thank God for His grace and provision. In my weakest moments and in the secret hour, God provided me with sustenance and mercy. Dr. Catherine Dikes, my committee chair, I thank you for your patience, support and intellectual foresight to meet the many challenges along the way. I appreciate the way you engaged me in humor to lighten the difficult moments, and your confident reassurances. To my Dream Team committee, Dr. Lea Williams, who because of your example, propelled me to embark upon this journey, your consistent encouragement and your keen eye for the details helped to make this possible. Dr. William Hettinger, you stepped in at the right moments, provided the technical proficiency to make sure that I dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. I will always remember the time I called you while in the airport traveling for work, that in less than 30 minutes you helped me with the research methodology. Seriously, those moments felt like I had just been thrown a life preserver! Getting the proposal approved would have certainly been more difficult had it not been for your guidance. To my editor, Ardell Broadbent, thank you for all of your efforts and your patience. To my family, you are all indispensable, and your unique contributions strengthened my resolve and provided me with the love and support to stick with the plan! Myron, you are a genius and together we are a dynamic duo. Thank you, for your consistency and for being exactly who you are. Mom, I never would have made it without you. You are my chief role model and I look up to you! Rebekah, every time I look at you, I beam with pride at the woman you are becoming, and how your special contributions at just the right time, helped me stay on course. I gratefully acknowledge each academic and financial advisor that assisted me. To all of my professors during the four-year journey, your professional competence, valuable insight, and instructional acumen changed my life, thank you. My cohorts, three in all, your spirits and courage helped me to keep hope alive. I love and appreciate each one of you.