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Challenging Educational Barriers for African-American Female Students

The problem of educational barriers that African-American women face is high on the current agenda as inequalities in learning lead to adverse outcomes in overall academic accomplishment, future career, and life in general. With better educational opportunities, the target group can attain higher incomes and be capable of providing a good living for themselves. However, studies have been consistently identifying barriers that African-American women face in the educational setting, and these barriers must be addressed as soon as possible (Cheeks, 2018). Social barriers have shown to present the most influence on the issue of disparities in education. However, diversity is essential in college campuses, and it is imperative for students to encounter the difference of opinions and perspectives that are based on the experiences of diverse populations.

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The key issue identified in the dissertations by Roberts (2018) and Whitehead (2017) pertains to the negative experiences that African-American female students in a higher education setting encounter. While Whitehead (2017) focused on the barriers and challenges that the population faces in leadership roles, Roberts (2018) explored the range of experiences that African-American non-traditional female students had to overcome within the learning environment. Both researchers concluded that it was not the academic work that discouraged the positive experience of the population but rather the disrespect and the challenges that the students encountered in the learning environment from other individuals who exhibited bias and discrimination.

The current specialization and interest focused on African-American women and higher educational barriers and the introduction of educational paradigms that could help to address the problem. In education, diversity plays an essential role because schools and colleges should reflect the modern society that has become more diverse. The same way in which gender issues influence modern society, they should be integrated into the educational agenda. However, it becomes a challenge to enable success to all learners, regardless of race, gender, and diverse backgrounds to facilitate inclusive environments that would help people become accomplished and successful. The study by Whitehead (2017) is especially relevant because it investigates the impact of biased attitudes associated with race and gender on leadership. From resource inequities to stereotyping, it has been highly complicated for African-American women to reach leadership roles within educational settings (Cattenhead, 2017). This leadership is imperative for facilitating diversity on campuses, which is imperative for showing that a variety of experiences, values, and perspectives should be celebrated and learned from. Also, diversity in leadership can show that the role of a scientist does not depend on race or sex.

As African-American women are faced with more challenges as they attempt to obtain leadership positions or advance in academia in general, there is a decreased opportunity for them to reach the desired educational outcomes. For non-traditional students, which are individuals aged 25 and above, there is limited support within the educational system that would enable effective developmental educational programs for promoting success, retention, and persistence in degree attainment (Roberts, 2018). It is imperative to note that the educational system has not been adjusted well to the needs and experiences of minority groups, and the reviewed dissertations manuscripts showed that there was a high need for challenging the status quo and break the ‘glass ceiling’ to offer diverse opportunities for the target population. Both dissertations agree on the fact that the social perception of African-American women within educational settings should change to provide broader opportunities for success.

To frame the problem in the broader context of the topic, extensive literature lists were used. Roberts (2018) included evidence from published articles in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Review of Educational Research, Journal of Negro Education, Community College Review, and many others. The studies were focused on the experiences of Black women, including non-traditional students, within the educational setting and the barriers that they faced in attaining the desired level of education. Whitehead (2017) also included an extensive list of references from journals such as The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Black Women, Gender & Families, and others. The researcher focused on finding studies that would explore the issue of education leadership attainment among the target group.

In addition to the two dissertations, two peer-reviewed resources have been identified to use in the current study and support the research interests. From the literature list provided by Whitehead (2017), the study by Davis and Maldonado (2015) could be used in the study. The researchers explored the notion of the ‘glass ceiling’ and the need for leadership development of African-American women in higher education. This topic aims to encourage strength and persistence among Black women to overcome educational barriers. From the literature list provided by Roberts (2018), the study by Marbley et al. (2013) deserves attention because of the focus on preparing White campuses for African-American students. The scholars suggest that diverse experiences should be valued and celebrated in educational attainment, while inequalities and bias still challenge the current environment.


Cattenhead, M. (2017). Killing me softly: The missed education of African American females. Web.

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Cheeks, M. (2018). How Black women describe navigating race and gender in the workplace. Harvard Business Review.

Davis, D., & Maldonado, C. (2015). Shattering the glass ceiling: The leadership development of African American women in higher education. Advancing Women in Leadership, 35, 48-64.

Marbley, A. F., Bonner, F. A., Williams, V. A., Morris, P., Ross, W., & Burley, H. (2013). Developmental education: Preparing White campuses for African-American students. Taboo, 13(2), 91-112.

Roberts, R. (2018). African-American non-traditional female community college students’ experiences in, and perceptions of, developmental education (Publication No. 13424136) [Doctor of education thesis, Northcentral University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Whitehead, M. (2017). A phenomenological study of the barriers and challenges presented to African American women in leadership roles at four-year higher education institutions (Publication No. 10269091) [Master’s thesis, University of Louisiana at Lafayette]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

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