Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Educational Leadership


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Danfeng Koon

Second Advisor

Jane E Bleasdale

Third Advisor

Melissa A Canlas


Asian American women are chronically underrepresented in leadership positions in almost every sector including higher education, government, private, and non-profit (Youngberg et al., n.d.). Many researchers have suggested the need for more leadership development programs specifically designed to support the needs of Asian American women (Akutagawa, 2014; Canlas, 2016; Gee & Peck, 2015; Lin, 2007; Youngberg et al., n.d.). Though there are a number of leadership programs geared towards Asian Americans, there are very few that cater to Asian American women explicitly. Historically, cultural pageant programs in the Asian American community have played this role and one such program is the Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program (NCCBQP). This study utilized Critical Feminist Theory to explore the role that the Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program plays in the Japanese American communities of Northern California, especially in regards to leadership development, intersectional identities, and dealing with racism and sexism in the workplace and community. This case study consisted of seven women who participated in a series of interviews and focus groups between March 2021 and July 2021. Three major themes emerged from the data in this study. First, the women associated the Queen Program with the philosophy of servant leadership and felt that this type of leadership style was cultivated through the program’s training and consistent with the standards that were prescribed and established based on traditional gender norms and cultural expectations. Second, the rule that the women must be at least 50% Japanese to participate is a refinement of the Japanese American values and norms into a racial form coupled with the cultural knowledge that has created a ranking of cultural belonging and legitimacy. Third, participants shared their experiences of racism and sexism that they experienced through the context of the program and that the program did not prepare them to navigate discrimination in the community or workplace nor did they feel equipped to be allies to others.