A Narrative Analysis of Four African American Women's Work Experiences Across Four Diverse Fields and the Meaning Constructed at the Intersection of Race and Gender

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Date
2007-12-10
Authors
Saunders, Elnora V.
Advisor
Mawhinney, Hanne B.
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Abstract
African American women have been disparaged in the workplace because of their embodied characteristics - race and gender. It is a little understood phenomenon how African American women have put forth the public agency to become pioneers in the workforce within this context. The purpose of this study is to explore how African American women, who are perceived as pioneers within the workforce of banking, education, law, and organized religion, construct self-defined standpoints. The study is guided by the research question - what do the narratives of African American women, who work in the domains of banking, education, law, and organized religion, reveal about how they construct meanings of self-valuation, self-definition, and standpoint from their workplace experiences? The compatible methods of constructivism, feminist interpretive, and narrative inquiry research are employed to collect the data. Four professional African American women comprise the purposeful sampling. The participants construct and articulate self-described workplace experiences, which they consider discriminatory or oppressive at the intersection of race and gender, and their responses to the experiences. The 60-90 minute dialogic interview sessions were recorded and transcribed. Excerpts from the text were coded, identified according to emerging themes and categories, and reconstructed to reflect the described experience. Analyses and interpretation of the reconstructed statements were accomplished, using narrative analysis, constant comparison analysis, and a qualitative data analysis software. The findings reveal: 1. An emerging pattern illustrates one way that the four African American women develop a self-defined standpoint (worldview). 2. The participants expose religion/spirituality, role models, and mentors as the components of their support systems. 3. None of the four participants commits acts of public activism to address incidents of discrimination or oppressive structures at their job sites. 4. The relationship between the experiences of the Black women leaders and their consciousness is reciprocal; experiences and consciousness inform each other. 5. The four participants link aspects of their self-valuation and self-definition to their leadership attributes. 6. Participants speak in terms of how they 'felt' when they describe their experiences related to discrimination and oppression. Yet, race consciousness appears to be more intense than gender consciousness.
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