Exploring the Lived Experiences of Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color Leaders' Perceptions on and Access to Opportunities that Support Positional Leadership at a Catholic, Marianist, Predominately White Institution: A Critical Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Meredith Wronowski


Organizations including institutions of higher education recognize the importance of increasing gender diversity, equity, and inclusion in leadership ranks among women, especially if they want to be top competitors in their industries. Gender diversity increases collaboration, innovation, varied perspectives, increased staff retention and buy-in for new employees determining if they want to work for an organization in question, and a more comprehensive talent pool (People Management, 2021). Previous strategies used to increase gender diversity in leadership have included providing professional development or mentorship opportunities for all women; however, these strategies fail to take into account an intersectional lens and the various ways in which non-white women are affected by discrimination and inequity. "White women have it both ways, they may be may victimized by sexism, but racism enables them to act as exploiters to Black people" (bell hooks,1984 as cited in Kilpatrick, 2020, para. 2). Race and gender in particular create additional barriers to Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color (BIWOC) and their advancement. "White female racism undermines the feminist struggle (bell hooks, 1984 as cited in Kilpatrick, 2020, para. 2)", further alienating or distancing BIWOC in organizations. Given the additional barriers BIWOC confront, what can organizations and institutions of higher education do to further support opportunities for advancement, that may thereby increase their sense of trust, belonging, and organizational commitment? This Critical Hermeneutic Phenomenological Action Research study explored the lived experiences of current and former Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color (BIWOC) higher education leaders, defined as director and above, and their perceptions of and access to opportunities that support positional advancement, including formal or informal mentorship and sponsorship. The frameworks used to inform the study include Critical/Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Feminism, Intersectional Theory, Servant Leadership, and Social Justice. The setting is a Midwestern, Catholic, Marianist, and Predominately White Institution (PWI). Traditionally, PWI's were not designed to support non-white and gender minoritized populations. Despite the principles the university espouses - social justice, servant leadership, gender equity, and inclusivity - this research demonstrates a disconnect between the purported values and realized issues, including the effects of patriarchy, gender disparity, and systemic racism within the Catholic Church and the University. As such, the impacts on BIWOC's sense of trust, belonging, and organizational commitment, as well as barriers, both real and perceived, are explored and insights are offered.


Black History, Womens Studies, Education, Educational Leadership, Gender, Management, Minority and Ethnic Groups, Religion, Religious History, Systematic, Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color in Leadership Positional Leadership including increased Power, Responsibility, Prestige, Reward, and Privilege Sponsorship for Women of Color Critical Hermeneutic Phenomenology Faith-Based Institutions, Social Justice, Servant Leadership Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Feminism, Intersectional Theory

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