/*! elementor – v3.7.0 – 08-08-2022 */
.elementor-widget-image{text-align:center}.elementor-widget-image a{display:inline-block}.elementor-widget-image a img[src$=”.svg”]{width:48px}.elementor-widget-image img{vertical-align:middle;display:inline-block}
/*! elementor – v3.7.0 – 08-08-2022 */
.elementor-heading-title{padding:0;margin:0;line-height:1}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title[class*=elementor-size-]>a{color:inherit;font-size:inherit;line-height:inherit}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title.elementor-size-small{font-size:15px}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title.elementor-size-medium{font-size:19px}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title.elementor-size-large{font-size:29px}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title.elementor-size-xl{font-size:39px}.elementor-widget-heading .elementor-heading-title.elementor-size-xxl{font-size:59px}

In a Class of Their Own

The Power of Mentorship for African American Women in Leadership

In today’s workplace, African American women may feel alone or isolated from the mainstream of women and the mentoring relationships in the organization (Duff, 1999). Catalyst, the New York based organization-promoting women in executive positions, reported that of the 57.8 million women in the workforce, 23% are minorities. However, African American women make up only 14% of the 2.9 million women in managerial positions (Cuff, 1999). Finding a mentor of the same race or ethnicity may be a difficult challenge for African American women. Often African American women have no contact with other African American women in the workplace, because many organizations have a predominately white workplace culture.

Beale (1979) coined the term double jeopardy to describe the dual discrimination of racism and sexism facing African American women. Nkomo (1988) stated, “African American women must constantly battle the assumption that they are both racially and sexually inferior” (p. 137). Essed (1991) noted that the inability to separate the specific impact of either race or gender leads to a form of gendered racism that supports the experience of African American women. Increased support systems, such as mentoring program, may help to raise the self- esteem of African American women and have a lifelong on their lives.



African Americans are pulled to succeed in the predominately White corporate sector yet are drawn to the African American community (Blake, 1998). By necessity, African Americans are often bicultural, moving back and forth between their predominantly white professional spheres and the African American community (Bell, 1990; Blake, 1998). Blake (1998) believed that although African American men and women face the effects of racism and the stress of being bicultural, African American women are in an even more tenuous position within the labor market.

In American history, institutional racism has had a major impact on the development of African American self-esteem and group identity (Allen, 2001). African Americans have developed strong tenacious concepts of self, partially based on the (a) African cultural, (b) philosophical retention, and (c) as a reaction to the historical injustices (Allen, 2001). African Americans reside in a society that expects them to adhere to the values, culture, and beliefs of European Americans.

/*! elementor – v3.7.0 – 08-08-2022 */
.elementor-toggle{text-align:left}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title{font-weight:700;line-height:1;margin:0;padding:15px;border-bottom:1px solid #d4d4d4;cursor:pointer;outline:none}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon{display:inline-block;width:1em}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon svg{-webkit-margin-start:-5px;margin-inline-start:-5px;width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon.elementor-toggle-icon-right{float:right;text-align:right}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon.elementor-toggle-icon-left{float:left;text-align:left}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon .elementor-toggle-icon-closed{display:block}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title .elementor-toggle-icon .elementor-toggle-icon-opened{display:none}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title.elementor-active{border-bottom:none}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title.elementor-active .elementor-toggle-icon-closed{display:none}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title.elementor-active .elementor-toggle-icon-opened{display:block}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-content{padding:15px;border-bottom:1px solid #d4d4d4;display:none}@media (max-width:767px){.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-title{padding:12px}.elementor-toggle .elementor-tab-content{padding:12px 10px}}.e-container>.elementor-widget-toggle{width:var(–container-widget-width,100%)}

Sexism and racism have contributed to African American women’s dismal experiences in history (Neville & Hamler, 2000). Hooks (1989) found that “when I began the long search in history, sociology, and psychology texts for material, I was surprised that African American women were rarely a category in anyone’s index, that when we were written about we rarely rated more than a few sentences or paragraphs.” (p. 150). Too often it is assumed that through a study of African American males, the African American women is understood.

Alternatively, studies of White women are assumed to encompass the experiences of their African American counterparts (Blake, 1998). Both assumptions are erroneous and detrimental; both assumptions render African American women invisible (King, 1998).

The experiences of African American women have been largely neglected as a focus for social science research (Graham, 1992; Reid & Kelly, 1994; Thomas & Miles, 1995; Blake, 1998). The challenges facing African American women can be be seen as not just filling a void but as adding more patches to an ever-evolving quilt. The image of the quilt, and the patches added, have contributed more texture and depth to the understanding of African American women (Bond, 1997). We can be enriched by exploring the unique pattern of each patch. It is this diversity, among the patches, that provides the answers to the questions–questions that serve as the threads that hold the quilt together.

Identification of the questions is a critical step regarding research on African American women. Once the issues that impact African American women are identified, we can begin to increase our understanding of their challenges and work to address solutions.


More often than not, African American women who had mentoring had White males in the mentor role. The number of women and minorities in high-level corporate positions who have served as mentors is limited (Ibarra, 1993; Duff, 1999). Thomas (1990), in his study of race and mentoring relationships, found African Americans in upper level positions comprised less that 5% of the total number of professionals in the stratum and that White men predominately served as mentors to all four race-gender groups he studied: White men, African American men, African American women and White women.

In terms of sisterhood, it would seem that African American women would gain their greatest support from White women. This did not prove to be so. Blake (1998) found that that African American women overwhelmingly expressed feelings of anger and distrust toward White women. This legacy of anger, mistrust, and fear of betrayal has important implications for the relationships, mentoring as well as others, in which African American women and White women can engage. Thomas (1990) described the female-female cross-race relationship using the analogy of African American women as the house slave and the White women as the mistress as the historical context. Because of the ”congenial and supportive nature” of this relationship, Thomas (1990) suggested that African American and White women are not able to interact in a manner that suppresses their racial difference to draw upon their shared womanhood. This bond of womanhood does not overcome the racial differences (Duff, 1999).

The organizational mentoring experiences of women, particularly African American women, are an important and growing area of study (Blake, 1998). Mentoring in the classical sense can be used as a beacon in the rough terrain of the corporate sector (Blake, 1998). Blake (1998) believed that mentoring could serve to illuminate the path, which has been obscured by the soil of the historical relationship, between African American women and White women. Mentoring provides the necessary cues on how to climb the corporate ladder. Where the slippery spots are, mentoring can serve to illuminate the way for those that follow (Blake, 1998).


Self-esteem is a construct that has been studied in a number of ways: (a) self-concept, (b) self-regard, (c) self-love, (d) self-confidence, (e) sense of competence, (f) ego, and others (Campbell, 1984; Mruk, 1999). Limited research, however, has been conducted on the self- esteem of African Americans. Some of the research that has been conducted concerning African American women has discussed levels of income and education, weight concerns, and negative stereotypes, cost of living, gender and ethnic differences.

Today, the field of research on self-esteem is in need of taking steps forward. The task is to combat the disparateness of the literature, where much of the research has been carried on in analytical and empirical isolation, and cross comparisons are difficult (Wells & Maxwell, 1976; Duff, 1999).

Career Advancement

Career advancement and leadership development for African American women should be based on the empowerment model. According to Fong & Furuto (2001), empowerment involves helping people “to discover and use the resources within and around them, and to seize some control over their lives and the decisions that are critical to their lives” (p. 230).

They further asserted that, to be empowered, a woman needs a nurturing environment that gives her viable options to make choices about her career (Fung & Furuto, 2001). Empowered women, Collins (2000) maintained, assume authority to select from among those options and as Gutierrez (1990) noted, the more options women have for developing their skills and abilities, the greater their sense of empowerment.

To this end, Green (2001) believed that African American women mentors and mentees need to work towards developing a more positive and potent sense of self and personal power by showing them how to take risks, link personal and political power, recognize and build on existing strengths, and create a support network; attain the knowledge and skills needed for a more critical comprehension of the social, political and economic realities and constraints of the workplace environment; and, make use of resources and specific strategies to attain personal career goals and the collective goal of improving the workplace of others.

The intent of this mentoring intervention program for African American women was to suggest ways to raise the level of self-esteem in African American women in order to guide them to becoming more productive adults. This intervention program provided mentoring, support, and self-esteem techniques to enhance the development and growth of the individuals (Shea, 2002). The intent of this mentoring intervention program was to enhance self-esteem so that, over time, these skills of support and self-esteem support and self-esteem, would become an innate process that would serve as guides throughout the life of the African American woman (Shea, 2002).



Showing the single result