Karen Audrey Geiger, Ph.D. is a 2010 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Stella M. Nkomo, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Laura Morgan Roberts, Ph.D., External Reader


race, gender, racial identity, social identity, cross-race relationships, racial and ethnic differences, women, grounded theory, positive identity development, African-Americans, Whites, social justice, leadership

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The context of leadership has evolved to incorporate greater social identity differences. Therefore, learning ways to navigate differences in social identity becomes important work leaders must now do. Because these differences surface in relationship with others, examining a relational framework helps us understand the nature of what happens between people (Ely & Roberts, 2008). This study explored the processes by which Black African American and White European American women enact leadership by creating and sustaining cross-race relationships as they work to change unjust systems around them. Using grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1990), a model was developed using the metaphors of "insular bubble," "protective shell," and "ecosystem" that illuminates the processes and strategies Black African American and White European American women use to create and sustain effective cross-race working relationships. The findings also generated a typology of tools, described as "nurturing the ecosystem" that each person in the relationship can use to create space in which to demonstrate positive ways of expressing social identity. These tools can be used in intrapsychic, interpersonal, and extra-relationship arenas. Focusing on race and gender as primary social identity differences, this question also took into account the systems that create patterns of domination and marginalization around those identities. Therefore, this study contributed to the leadership and change literature by illustrating the processes by which leaders can effectively incorporate a focus on social justice into their work, specifically in cross-race working relationships. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible through the OhioLINK ETD Center,