Methods: Guided by Black Feminist Thought and Social Work Empowerment Theory, we employed a qualitative retrospective constructivist grounded theory approach to examine the process of academic success among nine Black women. Individual intensive 2-hour interviews were conducted with participants over three months. For theoretical sampling, the second phase of data collection involved interviewing three new participants. Participants (12) were recruited via social media and email. Interviews elicited participants' lived experiences, including how participants overcome barriers to persist in education and their views on necessary educational support for Black girls and women. Interviews were transcribed verbatim. Researchers used Dedoose software to conduct three levels of coding (initial, focused, theoretical), applying the in-vivo coding technique to analyze interviews and identify relationships between emerging conceptual and theoretical categories to form theory construction.
Results: Qualitative efforts identified five theoretical concepts that characterized the process of academic success among Black women with doctoral degrees. Participants acknowledge intrinsic and extrinsic factors as influences of their process of academic success. Intrinsic factors include motivation (carving out legacy, disproving negative stereotypes), personal qualities (resilience/resistance, self-efficacy), and values (sense of belongingness and persistence). Extrinsic factors include social support (parental gendered racial socialization and support, Black women mental health clinicians), and learning environment characteristics (opportunities for gendered racial identity affirmation, other-mothering).
Conclusion and Implications: Given the correlation between educational attainment and financial outcomes, and the role they play in providing for their families, Black women must learn in settings inclusive of their lived experience and provide the necessary support for them to succeed. Findings offer insight into how educational programs can be reconstructed with a gendered racial focus to better support the academic success of Black girls and women. Results also provide school social workers and higher education practitioners direction to develop supportive programming that positively impacts Black girls and women's gendered racial and academic identity development.