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Voices Rising: A Narrative Inquiry into Black Women U.S. Government Senior Service Members’ Professional Identity Construction at the Intersection of Race and Gender Open Access

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This narrative inquiry explores the professional identity construction of Black women U.S. Government Senior Executive Service members in the Washington, DC area. In line with narrative inquiry methodology, this study is guided by a research puzzle. The research puzzle guiding this study concerns how Black women Senior Service members experienced being Black women as they progressed in their careers and how those experiences may have contributed to the construction of positive professional identities. Black women are underrepresented in the Senior Service of the United States Government. Over the next decade, however, the number of Black women entering the Senior Service is expected to steadily increase. With this, it is crucial to understand the positive professional identity construction experiences of Black women who have achieved Senior Service membership.Six Black women Senior Service members were selected to participate in this study, and data were collected through semi-structured interviews. The results of the study are presented in the form of narrative accounts, which are a retelling of participant stories. The researcher also identified common elements across participant accounts then organized a presentation of those elements as five sets of experiences that influenced positive professional identity construction: 1) early life and work experiences, 2) support, 3) identity threat, 4) movement toward the true self, and 5) connection. Moreover, this research suggests that there are specific opportunities to enhance Black women’s potential for constructing positive professional identities, thus contributing to nuanced theories of positive professional identity construction.

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