Masters Thesis

Experiences of Discrimination and Microaggressions Toward Women of Color in Independent School Headships

This phenomenological qualitative study employed interviews to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of twelve (n=12) of the forty-nine women of color currently serving in independent school headships. Guided by the research question, “What are the lived experiences of women of color Heads of Independent Schools as it pertains to race and gender?,” particular attention was paid to how they perceived race and gender to impact their interactions with stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, parents, and the Board of Trustees. Five key themes emerged: I. Women of Color Heads of School: A Rare Dinosaur—it can be a lonely experience requiring self-advocacy. II. You’re so amazing...for a woman of color”: Interplay with White Constituents—micro- invalidations are prevalent in interactions with White constituents. III. Be Presidential — women of color Heads of Schools must also calibrate themselves to be pleasing to (White male) constituents. IV. Earning a Seat at the Table to Turn the Tables—pride and joyfulness results from being a trailblazer as the first, or one of a few, women of color in their respective schools and positions. V. A Mirror in a School of Windows — families of color hold their female Head of color in highest esteem, and in turn, Heads feel a particular obligation to be role models for students of color. Concluding recommendations from current women of color Heads of School for future leaders of color call for solidarity, steadfast determination, and personal integrity. Women of color in independent school Headships have powerful implications for future generations of children.

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