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Women of color in educational leadership programs : an emic phenomenological perspective


Due to unique challenges and barriers, women of color continue to be underrepresented in academia as doctoral students and faculty, especially in positions of educational leadership. As a result, women of color remain on the fringes of educational leadership to the detriment of schooling in our society (Felder, 2010; Gay, 2004; hooks, 1989). Using an appreciative mixed-methods phenomenological approach, this study aimed to examine the experiences of women of color in educational leadership programs and the ways in which a public university system supports or constrains them based on the quality of faculty/student relationships, relevance of program curricula, quality of collegial relationships, and the attainment of educational leadership positions and promotions. The experiences of 78 doctoral students representing 7 universities throughout a diverse state were surveyed followed by 8 appreciative interviews with women of color. To gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, this research drew upon critical race theory, feminist theory, and critical leadership to explore the intersection of race, gender, and class, and its impact on women of color in Ed.D. programs in educational leadership (hooks, 1989; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Santamaria & Santamaria, 2011). Findings suggest that although women of color are being supported, they are not being supported to the same degree as other women, particularly in terms of faculty mentoring and outreach. So, despite greater diversity than many higher educational contexts, women of color continue to have the most constraining educational experiences, hindering their degree completion and subsequent career advancement (Gay, 2004). This study has the potential to impact leadership in higher education, making it a more inclusive environment for all

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