African American women remain underrepresented in positions of senior leadership in the federal government due to many reasons. Even though there are many women who are educated and highly capable of accomplishing remarkable goals in governmental positions, the lack of mechanisms for diversity, equal opportunities, and mentorship creates significant barriers (Scarborough et al., 2019). Besides, researchers identified several barriers that prevent Black women from engaging in federal government leadership (Showunmi, 2021). For example, there are such challenges as the unconscious biases and perceptions of African Americans, the lack of adequate networking and mentoring opportunities, and insufficient training and development assignments. There are narrow methods of recruitment applied to the population, while the perceived widespread inequality among the population in the federal workforce hinders career advancement. Thus, despite the desire of African American women to pursue positions of leadership in the federal workforce, institutional limitations have formed in such a way that very few individuals can.
The theory of the glass ceiling allows for the understanding of the barriers that prevent African American women from attaining leadership positions in the government and other organizations, as it points to the imbalance of power. The lack of power that Black women possess is visible in the intersectionality of their experiences and the fact that they cannot break free from the barriers imposed on them by society (Lantz-Deaton et al., 2018). At this time, the appointment of Kamala Harris as the Vice President of the United States has opened more opportunities for African American women to pursue leadership positions in the federal government. Even though gender and racial representation in leadership are expanding, policymakers are unable to address the institutional barriers that prevent Black women from being included in federal government leadership. The hiring practices put in place do not consider the challenges that potential candidates face when pursuing positions in the federal government, allowing discriminatory practices to persist.
Importantly, African American women have been reduced to lower positions in the labor market in the roles of laborers and domestic servants, with the stereotype preventing them from reaching higher positions of leadership. Thus, the systematic discrimination that has persisted for centuries makes it complicated or nearly impossible for Black women to attain federal government positions because they lack connections and are not accepted in the field. It is complex enough for the population to fight inequality based on their race and gender in everyday personal life, and struggling through them in professional life creates unfavorable experiences.
Thus, institutional barriers that African American women face prevent them from attaining positions of leadership in the federal government. While gender and racial representation have expanded over the past two decades, the concerns regarding the lack of opportunities and mentorship remain pertinent. Nevertheless, it is imperative to address the discrimination from the policymaking perspective to eliminate gender bias and reduce the impact of pre-existing socioeconomic disadvantages. Thus, the issue is two-fold; on the one hand, there are barriers pertaining to the lack of power and the presence of sexual and racial discrimination in leadership positions. On the other hand, underlying sociopolitical issues impact the entire population of Black women, and they must be eliminated first to open more opportunities and areas for personal, educational, and psychological attainment.
Lantz-Deaton, C., Tabassum, N., & McIntosh, B. (2018). Through the glass ceiling: Is mentoring the way forward? International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 18(3/4), 167-197.
Scarborough, W., Lambouths, D., & Holbrook, A. (2019). Support of workplace diversity policies: The role of race, gender, and beliefs about inequality. Social Science Research, 79, 194-210.
Showunmi, V. (2021). A journey of difference: The voices of women leaders. Frontiers in Education.