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Vol. 36 (2016)

Leaning In: A Phenomenological Study of African American Women Leaders in the Pharmaceutical Industry

  • Yvette Bonaparte
June 14, 2017


The pharmaceutical industry includes low levels of African American women in leadership positions. In 2010, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, African American women comprised only 1.5% of senior executives and 3.4% of first/mid-level managers. This qualitative study describes the leadership behaviors of 8 African American women leaders within the pharmaceutical industry. The approaches used by these women leaders to navigate their environments illustrate that although these women may be limited in number, they are in fact leaning into and embracing their leadership roles; and consequently impacting their organizations and communities. Seven themes are found to categorize the leadership experiences of these women as leaders. They are: 1) making a difference, 2) leveraging information and knowledge, 3) serving as mentors, 4) establishing and maintaining credibility, 5) asking for support, 6) illustrating integrity at the highest levels and 7) facing up to challenges. While the study is limited in its transferability by its qualitative design and number of participants, the findings provide insightful themes regarding the common experiences of these particular African American women leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

Keywords: leadership, women, African American, phenomenology, qualitative, diversity, pharmaceutical