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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies releases white paper on how workplaces can develop a sense of belonging for African American women

By Sharla Hooper

Authors Dr. Lisa Langford, Dr. Tiefa Jones and Dr. Alfreda Goods define and explore inclusion and belonging, and role of allyship as contributions to a stable, successful work environment

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies has released a new whitepaper, “Developing a Sense of Belonging for African American Women in the Workplace,” in a collaboration between authors Lisa K. Langford, DM, staff faculty and a fellow in the Center for Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR), Tiefa Jones, EdD, associate faculty and Senior Agile People Leader, and Alfreda Goods, DM, associate faculty and also a fellow in CWDIR.

Women, and African American women more acutely, are disproportionately underrepresented in senior-level leadership positions in United States corporations. While one in four C-Suite positions are filled by women, only one in 20 is a woman of color. African American women also encounter higher levels of biases in the workplace.

The white paper discusses the current workplace challenges faced by African American women, defines inclusion and belonging, and examines what needs to occur for African American women to move into leadership roles within their respective organizations. It explores how creating a culture of belongingness using allyships can help them transition into those roles, and how employers can foster authenticity and a sense of belonging in the workplace through skilling, career pathing, mentorship and allyship.

“When African American women do not believe they are accepted or feel a sense of belonging, they leave organizations that do not value them, and when talented employees leave, the organization suffers,” states Langford. “Inclusion is not enough; helping African American women feel a sense of belonging, of being connected and feeling accepted, can be the beginning of pivoting them into leadership positions.”

Langford has more than 15 years of higher education teaching experience. She served 21 years in the military and now works as a senior project manager with the federal government. Langford earned her Doctor of Management (DM) at the University of Phoenix, where she began her career in 2006, and an MBA from Pfeiffer University. She is a certified life coach and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Jones has more than 18 years of organizational and higher education leadership experience. She earned her Doctor of Education in Education Leadership at University of Phoenix in 2019. She is a Senior Agile People Leader in Information Technology at University of Phoenix and Associate Faculty in the College of Doctoral Studies at the University. Jones is also a Leadership Development Coach and Consultant, working with high school and Women’s Division I NCAA Student Athletes. She currently serves as a mentor and volunteer in Arizona and California communities and recently began working with the CWDIR fellows team. She has been an employee with University of Phoenix since 2008.

Goods has over 15 years of corporate experience in banking financial processing, where she supported significant clients nationally and internationally and was CEO of her own consulting company. She has instructed graduate and undergraduate Business Administration students for over 12 years. Goods received her Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, a Master of Management with distinction from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Houston. She has received recognition for her community work with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and recently launched her brand ANVOEL – A New Voice on Ethical Leadership, with the vision to highlight the importance of ethical leadership and support the concept that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the norm and not the exception.  

The full whitepaper is available at College of Doctoral Studies research hub and as a direct link here.


About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program puts students in the center of an effective ecosystem of experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.


About University of Phoenix 

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit