Abstract: (Converted as ePoster, See Poster Gallery) The Process of Academic Success Among Black Girls and Women: A Retrospective Constructivist Grounded Theory Study (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

(Converted as ePoster, See Poster Gallery) The Process of Academic Success Among Black Girls and Women: A Retrospective Constructivist Grounded Theory Study

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Mint, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sandra Kalu, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Lindsay Griffin, MSW, Student, Bryn Mawr College
Aly Jacobs, M.Ed, Student, University of Houston
Background and Purpose: Black girls experience unique gendered racism in education settings, such as high discipline rates. These experiences contribute to adverse consequences among Black girls, such as high rates of school drop-out and disproportionate involvement in the juvenile justice system. Research reveals that these experiences lead to low financial status in adulthood. Low financial status is an issue for Black women, who often are the sole financial contributors to their households. Thus, Black girls impacted by gendered racism in educational settings face critical economic burdens in adulthood that affect their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families. Although Black girls and women endure these unfavorable conditions in education settings, their experiences are marginalized and often excluded from literature because of their successes in education. While limited research has focused on the academic experiences of this marginalized population, there are even fewer studies that have explicitly focused on how they persist to achieve academic success. This study aimed to deeply understand intrinsic and extrinsic factors that support the process of academic success of Black girls and women.

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.