Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David Campos


Sandra L. Guzman Foster


Rocio Delgado


The Senior Executive Service (SES) is the highest tier of executive management and leadership in the federal government. The Latino/a population has significantly increased in the past three decades with no corresponding increase in the federal workforce and the number of Latinos/as serving in the SES remains low. As Latinos/as in the SES are largely underrepresented, their ability to influence federal policies is significantly undermined. The purpose of this study is to explore the testimonios (testimonies) of Latinas in the SES to better understand their experiences while navigating entry into the SES and maintaining their respective positions.

This study used a qualitative research approach and a narrative inquiry research design to explore the central question of this study and to encourage the participants to share their life experiences in detail. This study expands the literature by applying Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latina/o Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) methodologies outside of educational or academic settings to learn about the role race and institutional racism play in Latinas’ SES career development. Even though CRT studies examine the discriminative role of federal laws and regulations as the central axis of institutionalized racism, there are no CRT studies in the literature that explore the impact of these federal laws and regulations in the same institutions that create them. LatCrit is a theory that elucidates Latinas/Latinos’ multidimensional identities and can address the intersectionality of racism with other forms of discrimination. In addition, these theoretical frameworks examine the intersection of race and laws in the federal government to question the adequacy of conventional approaches to racial justice. Semi-structured interviews composed of open-ended questions were used to explore the participants’ experiences. The primary research question was: How do Latinas navigate their journey in pursuing a career in the SES? Five Latinas who held an SES position participated in this study.

The participants shared experiences illustrating instances of discrimination relating to race, gender, and age as they pursued the SES, with most participants stating that sexism is more prevalent than racism. In addition, two participants mentioned youth, a form of reverse ageism, as a discrimination factor. The participants expressed faith in the federal government’s ability to help reduce workplace discrimination. Nonetheless, the participants also stated that existing programs and initiatives have done little to improve the Latino/a representation in the SES, and that this issue is not likely to improve unless the federal government actively engages in practices to improve it. In all, the participants stated that little has been done to tackle inequalities in the workplace, at least not imposing changes that have a long-term impact. As a result, the participants expressed that Latinos/as will continue to be one of the largest underrepresented minority groups in the federal workforce, and with specific relevancy to this study, in the SES.