The Black Heels of Higher Ed: A Phenomenological Qualitative Study of the Career Pathways of Senior Administrators in Texas Higher Education Institutions

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Higher Edu and Learning Technology

Date of Award

Spring 2021


Career trajectory for any individual is a challenge. However, when it comes to Black women achieving a senior administrator position, it presents even greater challenges than what the average candidate endures. Limited research has attributed being Black and female as a rationale for career stagnation. The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of career pathways, difficulties faced, and motivators used towardscareer progression for Black female senior administrators in Texas higher education institutions. Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and Herzberg’s theory of Motivation were employed as theoretical frameworks to assist with understanding the associated apprehensions of the lived experiences of being Black and female in the workplace. For this study, five women who identified as being Black and having been employed in a senior administrative position within a public higher education institution in Texas for at least one year were interviewed. Using personal profiles and narratives, information sought was: (a) self-identity and personal experiences, (b) background and educational preparedness, (c) barriers endured, (d) coping mechanisms, and (e) advice for future practitioners to determine consistencies amongst the women. Data was collected via demographic questionnaires and one-on-one semi-structured interviews; then transcribed, grouped, examined, and coded to reflect themes amongst the research questions. From the data analysis, five themes emerged: (1) nomadic career progression; (2) maneuvering through the cascades; (3) nurturing, adaptability, and the face-forward slalom; (4) nuanced details never considered prior to accepting position; and (5) accentuate the positive. Interviews revealed that all participants had experienced race and gender as a barrier when seeking advancement. The Black women in this study shared insightful experiences that will aid in assisting others with climbing the career ladder in higher education. The Black Heels of Higher Ed study has advanced the understanding of the professional encounters experienced by Black women during their career progression within Texas higher education institutions. This research provides insight and support for this population.


Katie Koo

Subject Categories

Education | Higher Education