Head black woman in charge: An investigation of how black female athletic directors negotiate their race, gender, and class identities
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Framed as an instrumental case study, the purpose of this investigation was to understand how a select group of women, Black female athletic directors, define and negotiate their race, gender, and class identities. Data was collected via a qualitative indepth semi-structured interview methodology. The women who were chosen for this research are Black female athletic directors of NCAA Division I, II, and III intercollegiate athletic departments. The data analysis consisted of coding the data at two levels: first-level coding and pattern coding, and following the coding process, the emergent findings were compared with the identity negotiation theory (i.e. selfverification and behavioral confirmation processes) in order to understand how the Black female athletic directors negotiated their race, gender, and class identities. This investigation found that Black women athletic directors used two different denotations (i.e. African American and Black) to reference their racial identity, and race was the most salient identity because of their upbringings, childhood experiences, and dealings with racism. All of the women are heterosexual, but insufficient data did not allow a full understanding how they define their gender identity. In describing their class status, the majority of the women came from a traditionally defined lower socioeconomic class background, but as a result of their athletic director appointment they now reside in the middle or upper middle economic class status. In understanding how Black female athletic directors negotiate their identities within and outside the athletic department, and what factors are associated with the negotiation of their identities, this investigation found that the Black women athletic directors had to establish, maintain, and change their race, gender, and class identities with the utilization of various self-verification and behavioral confirmation strategies. These negotiations were conducted in response to the expectations that ensued as a result of their role in a leadership position, lesbian, intra- and inter-racial interactions, and exposure to lesbian, Mammy, and Sapphire stereotypes.
McDowell, Jacqueline (2008). Head black woman in charge: An investigation of how black female athletic directors negotiate their race, gender, and class identities. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from