Theses Doctoral

Advancing Asian American Women in Corporate America: An Exploratory Case Study

Chang, Yi-Hui

With few Asian American women executives, little is known of how they reach to the top leadership roles. The purpose of this study was to explore how Asian American women learned and unlearned to overcome barriers and additional activities they engaged in to achieve career upward mobility at large corporations. The study sought to answer three main questions: (a) how do Asian American women describe the challenges they face in advancing their careers; (b) how do they describe how they learn to overcome the challenges they face; (c) what other activities do they engage in to advance their careers.

To achieve this purpose, the researchers employed a qualitative, embedded single-case approach drawing upon the career experiences of 26 Asian American women from financial and technology industries at Fortune 500 companies with three data collection methods: (a) a demographic inventory survey and an assessment of perceived bicultural self-efficacy, (b) semi-structured interviews, and (c) focus group. Three key findings emerged: (a) a majority of participants experienced perceptual, organizational and personal barriers in advancing their careers, with nuances in how they experienced them based on career stages, industries, and the immigration process; (b) through critical reflections, a majority of participants unlearned certain Asian cultural values or gender expectations and mastered the experiences and career mobility actions that helped them overcome barriers. They also exercised self-efficacy and received external validation to reinforce their learnings that contributed to career advancements; and (c) all participants enlisted efforts from professional and personal networks to advance their careers, while a majority found organizational activities helpful in their leadership development and career progression.

The principal recommendations of this study have implications for Asian American women who are interested in pursuing executive roles, human resources professionals and leaders who are committed to improve organizational diversity and inclusion practices, and adult learning researchers who would like to expand the theory building of transformative unlearning.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 28, 2021