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African-American Women: Representation in Politics

A review of the existing literature echoing the issues of mentorship in Senior Executive Services, the representation of women in politics, in particular African-American women, showed a lack of research. Among the sources of value for the study, several main directions stand out. Some studies combine these areas, but there are quite a few of them. Sources on the problem of mentoring and its effectiveness prove that its use is effective (Kuratko, etc., 2019; Irby et al., 2017; Jeong et al., 2018). However, most of them are devoted to theoretical foundations or other areas not related to government activities. For example, Parfitt and Rose (2020), or Arnesson and Albinsson (2017) consider mentoring in the field of education, and Dopson et al. (2017) – in healthcare. At the same time, mentoring in the government was hardly investigated, and sources of data are official documents of a small number of existing programs, like the one from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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Even less literature is devoted to the mentorship of women, African-American women in government, and their leadership in politics. For example, the women’s career development features and the obstacles they encounter are investigated by Allen et al. (2016), Gipson et al. (2017), Glass and Cook (2016), and several other researchers. Several papers, such as Litman et al. (2020) or Newman (2016), consider the gender gap in the labor market in more detail. Erskine et al. (2019), Hague and Okpala (2017) narrow their directions by devoting their paper to African-American women. Most scholars agree that women face serious obstacles dictated by the patriarchal society, and African-American women, in turn, also face barriers related to race.

Even though the source base about mentoring is significant, it does not investigate enough the gender and race aspects of this phenomenon. Cross et al. (2019), Caraphinha et al. (2016) studied mentoring for women, but among medical scientists. Block and Tietjen-Smith (2016) and Palmer and Jones (2019), in turn, did researches about the peculiarity of mentoring when both sides are women. However, mentoring for AAW is almost not investigated – among the valuable sources are Greene (2020) and Nelson et al. (2021), which, however, do not involve government activities. One researcher – Pierce (2020), raises the theme of mentoring for African-American women in government. His research is of interest, but the information is presented briefly and focuses on how intersectionality affects mentoring rather than on mentorship success for AAW.

The literature study demonstrates a gap in studying how successful mentoring programs are for women wishing to take Senior Executive Services (SES) leadership positions. While this work will be able to fill this gap partly with interview analysis, a lack of study of other areas led to its appearance. For example, more literature is needed on mentoring for women, especially for AAW in various fields, since if such studies exist, most of them are devoted to health and education. Since it is crucial for mentoring to establish trust and understanding, in the case of AAW, two factors must be taken into account – race, and gender. Considering the underrepresentation of women, in particular, African-American in government, it is clear that it is challenging to find such a mentor. Due to these reasons, there is a necessity to examine why so few women of color are interested in politics. Such a study would address a broader social issue and its influence.

The government has introduced several regulations and laws designed to introduce diversity in the workplace. However, they do not focus on women taking the lead. There are few existing mentoring programs, and they also do not consider the importance of the influence of two factors at once – race and gender. The oppression of groups and their rights – women and African Americans – was seen separately, as was their struggle for equality. The unusual challenge of “double jeopardy” for women of color did not allow researchers to focus on the problems that women may face at the moment. For this reason, the study on AAW in leadership positions in government and ways to help them in career advancement could be another step towards equality and justice.

AAW need understanding and trusted mentors to help them achieve goals and the fulfillment of ambitions. It is essential to pay attention to this problem right now since women such as Kamala Harris, who have already achieved success in government activities, can serve as inspiration. Examples can attract women interested in politics but who have fears because of potential prejudices. Solving the problem of lack of mentors, in turn, will allow retaining talented employees. Otherwise, if mentoring programs do not continue to take into account race and gender factors, society will continue to be guided by discriminatory practices. Diversity in different workplaces, and especially in government, not only protects the rights of minorities but also brings a variety of views. Diversity in government will also provide the necessary ways for social development, as it will confirm the reality of politics’ intentions to ensure equality.


Allen, T. D., French, K. A., & Poteet, M. L. (2016). Women and career advancement: Issues and opportunities. Organizational Dynamics, 45(3), 206-216. Web.

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Arnesson, K., & Albinsson, G. (2017). Mentorship – a pedagogical method for integration of theory and practice in higher education. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 3(2), 202-217. Web.

Block, B. A., & Tietjen-Smith, T. (2016). The case for women mentoring women. Quest, 68(3), 306-315. Web.

Caraphinha, R., Oritz-Walters, R., & Reede, J. Y. (2016). Variability in women faculty’s preferences regarding mentor similarity: A multi-institution study in academic medicine. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 91(8), 1108-1118. Web.

Cross, M., Lee, S., Bridgman, H., Thapa, D. K., Cleary, M., & Kornhaber, R. (2019). Benefits, barriers and enablers of mentoring female health academics: An integrative review. PloS one, 14(4), e0215319. Web.

Dopson, S. A., Griffey, S., Ghiya, N., Laird, S., Cyphert, A., & Iskander, J. (2017). Structured mentoring for workforce engagement and professional development in public health settings. Health promotion practice, 18(3), 327-331. Web.

Erskine, S. E., Archibold, E. E., & Bilimoria, D. (2021). Afro-Diasporic women navigating the black ceiling: Individual, relational, and organizational strategies. Business Horizons, 64(1), 37-50. Web.

Gipson, A. N., Pfaff, D. L., Mendelsohn, D. B., Catenacci, L. T., & Burke, W. W. (2017). Women and leadership. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 53(1), 32–65. Web.

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Glass, C., & Cook, A. (2016). Leading at the top: Understanding women’s challenges above the glass ceiling. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(1), 51-63. Web.

Greene, T. S. (2020). African American female school superintendents: Mentoring and self-efficacy [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Grand Canyon University.

Hague, L. Y., & Okpala, C. O. (2017). Voices of African American women leaders on factors that impact their career advancement in North Carolina community colleges. Journal of Research Initiatives, 2(3), 1-15. Web.

Irby, B. J., Boswell, J. N., Hewitt, K. K., Lynch, J., Abdelrahman, N., & Jeong, S-h. (2017). The mentoring relationship. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(2), 119-122. Web.

Jeong, S., Irby, B. J., Boswell, J., & Pugliese, E. (2018). Editor’s overview: Outcomes and benefits of mentoring. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 26(4), 355-357. Web.

Kuratko, D. F., Neubert, E., & Marvel, M. R. (2021). Insights on the Mentorship and coachability of entrepreneurs. Business Horizons, 64(2), 199-209. Web.

Litman, L., Robinson, J., Rosen, Z., Rosenzweig, C., Waxman, J., & Bates L. M. (2020). The persistence of pay inequality: The gender pay gap in an anonymous online labor market. PLoS ONE 15(2), e0229383. Web.

Nelson, Y., Mohan, A., & Chahir, Y. (2021). The mentoring experience: perceptions of African American nurse leaders and student mentees. Journal of Nursing Education, 60(1), 25-28. Web.

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Newman, B. J. (2016). Breaking the glass ceiling: Local gender‐based earnings inequality and women’s belief in the American dream. American Journal of Political Science, 60(4), 1006-1025. Web.

Palmer, E. M., & Jones, S. J. (2019). Woman–woman mentoring relationships and their roles in tenure attainment. Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education, 12(1). 1-17. Web.

Parfitt, C. M., & Rose, A. L. (2020). Informal mentoring for aspiring school leaders: a phenomenological study. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 28(3), 278-294. Web.

Pierce, F. D. (2020, October 1-2). Modernizing the approach to mentoring for African American women in the federal government [Poster presentation]. Walden University Research Conference 2020. Web.

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