Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Walter Gmelch

Third Advisor

Richard Johnson III


The U.S. military is perceived by many to be the example of workplace meritocracy, but historical studies have shown that the perceptions of African American female commissioned officers run counter to that belief. The military has as its goal the movement from a diverse fighting force to one that is totally inclusive of all members. The purpose of this study was to gather insights into whether the military has moved toward full integration from the viewpoint of the demographic that has shown the least confidence in the accomplishment of that task.

This qualitative study involved 12 participants: active duty, retired, and separated short of retirement African American female commissioned officers. Each participant shared their perceptions during structured interviews that averaged one hour by telephone and personal discussion. All data was consolidated and categorized based on the themes that emerged from the interviews. The three categories of importance to success were strong support as undergraduates by the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadre that empowered those participants who had attended historically Black colleges and universities to be more outspoken in challenging the power structure to achieve equitable outcomes of situations, the importance of an influential mentor for military success, and that all participants had been the target of or witnessed either racial- or gender-based discrimination in the course of their military service.

Data from interviews indicated that 3 of the 4 propositions of equity theory were applicable to participants’ military-service time. Study participants who separated short of retirement displayed actions posited by Propositions I, II, and IV of equity theory in a iii more compressed time. At the end of their military-service time, resignation and acceptance by study participants who stayed in the military until retirement that they could not change the system eventually manifested in Proposition IV and they gave up fighting to do so. This study supported the call for further study in areas of (a) how to implement increased cultural-capital awareness among persons in positions of authority to retain valued personnel by routing out systematic discriminatory practices, (b) how to increase identification and prosecution of military persons accused of sexual harassment/assault, (c) examination of assignment practices and biases that resulted in lower representation of women and minority men from operational career fields and (d) tasks that lead to promotion and leadership appointment.