Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Robin Cooper

Second Advisor

Robert Witheridge

Third Advisor

Debra Nixon


African-American, Development, Federal, Phenomenology, Professional, Women


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the professional development experiences of federally employed African American women and to discover whether and how they perceive race and gender as informing their professional development. The researcher used an existential phenomenological approach, guided by the following research questions: what are the professional development experiences of African American women working in the federal government?; what, if any, challenges to professional development have been experienced by this population, and what meaning do they find in those experiences?; and what are the perceptions of this population regarding how social-organizational constructs inform their professional development? The theories used in this study to illuminate the participants’ experiences included feminism, critical race theory, black feminist thought, and organizational development theory. Through data analysis, the study results pointed to “transcending thresholds” as the essence of how the selected population experienced professional development, which was elucidated through seven (7) themes: (1) twice the fight, (2) contending with challenges and barriers, (3) understanding self and self-efficacy, (4) professional development investors, (5) impact of education, (6) motivational factors and influences, and (7) collective responsibility. The results of this study provide organizational decision makers with a better understanding of this population’s perspective, which will provide better opportunities to more effectively address and manage conflicts stemming from their underrepresentation in higher-level positions. This study also contributes to the understanding of workplace conflict experienced by this population, which may inform policies developed by agencies that could help manage, reduce, or resolve those workplace conflicts.