Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Colette M. Taylor

Second Advisor

Holly Slay Ferraro

Third Advisor

Lauren T. Quigley


The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of African American/Black women leaders in the nonprofit business sector in the Pacific Northwest. The intent was to understand how their experiences of inequitable opportunities in the workplace prohibited them from attaining and retaining executive leadership roles. A qualitative, transcendental phenomenological approach was used to explore the career pathway trajectory for African American/Black women in the nonprofit sector, to capture the essence of their experiences navigating inequities along the leadership pipeline. To examine their experiences, critical race theory and social cognitive career theory provided a multifaceted viewpoint of African American/Black women in the context of their identities in relation to their roles in leadership. A conceptual framework also guided this study through the lens of the phenomenon of being identified as a “problem” woman of color in the workplace as they identified inequities in the organizations in which they worked. Research about the phenomenon reflected a significant portion of women of color leave their jobs when attempting to resolve conflicts stemming from their experiences with microaggressions, tokenization, and racist practices, leaving a gap in the leadership of nonprofit organizations and a lack of representation for the populations being served. This study drew exclusively from a network of African American/Black women who served as executive leaders in the nonprofit sector in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Washington state.