Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Christopher Thomas

Third Advisor

Betty Taylor


The field of education continues to see an underrepresentation of women as presidents of colleges and universities especially Asian Americans in general. In comparison with other racial and ethnic groups, Asian Americans are the only group not equally represented in high executive positions such as the presidential. In addition, women, including Asian American women, continue to hold, disproportionately to men, fewer leadership positions in the workplace of today.

It was the intent of this qualitative study to gain an understanding the reasons for the slow progress of Asian Americans in obtaining presidential positions in higher education with the focus on women. This study explored the presidential selection process, career and leadership experiences of five Asian American women college presidents. The study utilized the conceptual framework of the "glass ceiling." Interviews were transcribed and analyzed and the findings grouped into themes. As being behind the underrepresentation of Asian women in the college presidency, the participants identified multiple factors, as well the general persistence of discrimination and gender influences, gender inequity, and struggles for all women to maintain a work/life balance; and they suggested valuable strategies for aspiring Asian American college presidents to obtain to overcome barriers they face personally and overall to reverse the trend.

The study found that conscious intervention is required in order to address the paucity of women, particularly Asian (and minority) college presidents. Institutions must make a concerted effort to identify and recruit future leaders that better reflect the communities that they serve. Pathways to the college presidency must be reexamined and alternative backgrounds considered. In particular, the role of search committee and board members in the selection process needs to be investigated and reworked. The position of college president itself needs reconsideration as does the persistent perception that it is a male leader who best fulfills its responsibilities. This false notion needs to be undone by selecting new leaders (female or male, minority or not) with an emphasis in the search processes instead on the qualities of the best "fit" with the institution's demographic, on valuing people, on sharing credit, on honing the leader/follower relationship, and on integrating one's personal beliefs and values into the role of being a college president.