Theses Doctoral

Pushing Against Invisibility: Asian American Women's Leadership in Higher Music Education

Kim, Rachel Jung-Hoo

This critical hermeneutic phenomenological study investigates the lived experiences of Asian American women leaders in higher music education, in order to address their historic and ongoing underrepresentation in leadership roles. Asian Americans comprise a large percentage of students in schools of music and are represented at higher numbers among music faculty than their other minority counterparts, although they are still not at parity with the number of Asian American students. Despite their success as performers and teachers, Asian American faculty and students are subject to typecasting, racialized experiences, and xenophobic attitudes that are often ignored or unchallenged in higher music education institutions. These experiences, along with prevalent gender biases surrounding women leaders, have contributed to the "shockingly small" representation of Asian American women in leadership and administrative positions in music.

The purpose of this research is to discover essential factors that impact Asian American women's leadership opportunities by learning about their racialized and gendered experiences in higher music education. A hermeneutic phenomenological study is especially suited for incorporating the researcher’s reflexivity while exploring nuances of the phenomenon and discovering commonalities between lived experiences. The study utilized Asian Critical Theory as the main conceptual framework. Lifeworld existentials, such as the lived space, lived body, lived time, and lived human relations of Asian American women, served as additional frameworks for data analysis and hermeneutic reflection. Data was collected from six Asian American women leaders in higher music education in the form of conversational hermeneutic interviews and focus groups, then analyzed to detect larger phenomenological themes.

Findings indicate that Asian American women leaders experience dual conflicts in the workplace due to internal cultural influences and external influences of dominant male White ideals of leadership. They experience discrimination as members of the privileged oppressed, and their rich lived experiences are central to their development of community-based leadership values—among them, empathy, resilience, representing marginalized voices, and pragmatism. Asian American women leaders are driven by their missions to create space for belonging and inclusion in schools of music, and are committed to social justice around all forms of oppression.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Parkes, Kelly A.
Ed.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2024