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The Influence of Gender and Ethnicity on the Identity and Actions of African American Female Criminal Investigators Open Access

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Abstract of the DissertationThe Influence of Gender and Ethnicity on the Identity and Actionsof African American Female Criminal InvestigatorsIn the past four decades, women and African Americans have made great strides in the labor market, breaking the proverbial glass ceiling as well as climbing the corporate ladder. Despite scholarly studies revealing those strides across work domains, the influences of race and gender that continue to exist for African American women in the workplace—particularly when it comes to the law enforcement field—have not been studied extensively. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the influence of ethnicity and gender in African American women who were working as criminal investigators in federal law enforcement through the theoretical lens of identity theory and career decision-making. This study employed a phenomenological approach to capture the rich, thick descriptive summaries of participants’ experiences and convert those findings into emergent themes that accurately described the participants’ interpretation of those events. Moreover, the researcher used a modified version of Seidman’s (2006) three-interview structure for this study. There were six findings in this study. First, perceptions of identity, in terms of race and gender or the combination of the two, did not hinder the participants in succeeding in their role as a criminal investigator. Second, participants experienced a variety of issues and challenges as a result of a combination of race and gender in regards to lack of respect, lack of support, and lack of guidance relevant to completing their duties and responsibilities. Third, five factors influenced participants’ choice of a career as a criminal investigator. Fourth, participants had a difficult time separating their identity as an African American and as a woman. Fifth, many participants perceived that training was a tool that better equipped them for doing the job. Sixth, and lastly, participants made decisions based on following the rules, regulations, and orders that governed the agency.This study contributes to the body of research on African American female criminal investigators (and women as a whole) in federal law enforcement. Furthermore, the findings in this study have given these participants a voice.

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