Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Erica Chito-Childs


Jerry G. Watts (In Memoriam)

Committee Members

William Kornblum

Margaret Chin

Johnny Eric Williams

Alford A. Young, Jr.

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations


women in law, intersectionality, color-blind racism, white spaces


This dissertation examines the barriers to recruitment, professional development and inclusivity, and advancement to partnership for black female lawyers in elite corporate law firms. Black female lawyers confront numerous obstacles as they seek to rise to partnership (e.g. lack of mentorship; sponsorship and substantive assignments; exclusion from social and professional networks; and limited exposure to quality training). All associates suffer from the demands of corporate law firms such as working long hours, exclusion from social activities, and limited family contact. These factors inevitably contribute to high attrition rates. However, the accounts of black female lawyers within this study are richly pronounced by how their particular experiences tend to be shaped by the intersection, combination and/or overlap of race and gender. This unique difference brings nuanced explanations of how race and gender create barriers towards their advancement to partnership. Drawing on intersectionality, stigma and critical race theories to examine in-depth phenomenological interview data from black female lawyers (N=20) in elite corporate law firms; this dissertation reveals that everyday racial and gender micro-aggressions, perpetuated through white racial framing and color blind racist ideology, put these lawyers at a substantial disadvantage in these white spaces. The dissertation concludes with a summary of the research findings and implication for theory and practice.