Jennifer Jackson-Dunn Dissertation Final Defense

The College of Education announces the final Dissertation of

Jennifer Jackson-Dunn

for the degree of Doctor of Education

March 29, 2018 at 10:00 am  / Fountain View Room – University Center

Major Advisor: Steven Nelson, PhD

African American Female Leaders’ Perceptions of Obstacles Faced in Obtaining and Maintaining Principal Leadership

ABSTRACT: In the 21st century, an urban teenager sent to see the principal might find an African American woman—the chances are small. If these students are lucky enough to find a black woman in the chair, she fought to get there and fights to stay. This study examined the perceptions of a few of these women vis-a-vis the obstacles they faced while pursuing or working as principals or assistant principals in middle- or high schools. The study illuminated the intersectionality of race and gender according to Crenshaw (1989) pointing out how African-American female principals identify, understand, conceptualize, interpret, and overcome those obstacles in leadership. The questions this research sought to answer were: What are the major challenges faced by female African American principals? How does identifying as a black woman influence the way one is treated as an African American principal? What are the strategies utilized to overcome obstacles in the pathway to leadership? A phenomenological approach was selected to examine connections between leadership and barriers to career advancement. Eleven African American female principals and assistant principals in three urban school districts participated. All participants identified work-life balance and staff push-back as barriers. Interestingly, organic use of the Four Dimensions of Principal Leadership (Green, 2010) emerged among the strategies utilized to overcome these barriers. As theorized, study participants also identified racism and sexism to be obstacles in maintaining the leadership position of school principal/assistant principal, however, these were not identified as major barriers to obtaining leadership positions. Key words: education, African American, Principals, barriers, racism, sexism, Four Dimensions of Leadership, high school

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