In US organizations, men take leadership or management positions oftener than women, especially women of ethnicity, because female employees are believed to have less experience and knowledge than men. The problem is that, having limited opportunities for promotion, women of ethnicity face certain obstacles when they try to obtain managerial roles. In this qualitative descriptive phenomenological study, the focus is on examining African American women’s lived experiences that are associated with facing obstacles and barriers when these women are promoted in organizations and on describing the meaning they ascribe to these experiences.
The study is based on the theoretical and conceptual framework, which involves the leader categorization theory, the phenomenological approach, and the concept of “glass ceiling.” The leader categorization theory explains why people view some individuals as leaders, and these individuals become leaders because of their followers’ perceptions of them and demonstrated leadership qualities and attributes. The phenomenological approach is applied to the study to aid in examining people’s lived experiences related to their lifeworld. Finally, the concept of “glass ceiling” is applied to assist in understanding the phenomenon of African American women’s underrepresentation at senior positions in US organizations.
Focusing on the analysis of interviews conducted with twenty African American women aged 35-60 years, who live and work in Michigan, it is possible to state that many African American women face real obstacles to the promotion and upward transitions. They tend to view human resource managers’ practices and strategies as discriminating and opportunities to be promoted as limited. African American women can be excluded from upward transitions because their knowledge and education are viewed as incomplete for a managerial position. They experience pressure and the lack of support in developing skills and careers.