Why I spent the past eight years (and a lot of money!) pursuing a Ph.D. program.

It was April 2002, many months after 9/11. I had relocated back to San Francisco after spending four years in New York City. Like many people, I was consistently anxious; reminded that the world was not what I had once envisioned. It was during this time that I sought to belong to something greater.

For me, it meant offering assistance while being part of a community. I volunteered and helped Asian women who were domestic violence survivors, I attended Asian professional development conferences, I read a book entitled, Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling. I even spoke to the author, Jane Hyun and shared with her my excitement about helping Asian women to succeed. She was encouraging and suggested I stay in touch. Her book helped me to think about the negative impact of Asian stereotypes and also piqued my interest in helping Asian women. However there was a long journey ahead: I had to finish up the final units of a long-awaited B.A., complete a master’s degree, and eventually start a Ph.D. program.

Fast forward to a few years later, and I entered the field of human resource management. I lucked out and met a boss who took a chance on me; giving me a pathway to advance in my career. As I matured, I developed a strong desire to become a practitioner in the field of organizational psychology. I took incremental steps toward a career I envisioned: I completed a master’s degree, evolved my professional competencies, and finished a doctorate with the hopes of attaining the career I wanted.

With that said, I wanted to share the official abstract for my research study. I left the verbiage intact so that you get the essence of the study.

I’m excited to continue sharing parts of the research with you.

Thank you for reading!

The issues of underrepresentation of Asian women in the highest echelons of corporate America continues to persist. This disparity in Asian women representation in leadership has been attributed to stereotypes about Asians and their ability to lead effectively. While stereotypes and discrimination may exist, the purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine the lives of eight Asian immigrant women who have achieved levels of success in corporate America, despite barriers.

Participants were Asian-born immigrants who moved to the United States during their adolescent years (ages 12-21). The purpose of the research study was to uncover the experiences of Asian women in leadership who grew up as immigrants in U.S. society, and how the experiences shaped their identities as leaders in corporate America. Data from the interviews were analyzed using the holistic-content perspective to examine each participant’s life, beginning with the immigration experience to where they are now as leaders in corporate America.

The participants described their experiences as: applying values in life and leadership, receiving guidance and help along their journey, and using language as a tool to advance in life and career. The finding also suggested that the characteristics that defined the women’s leadership identity are the desire to help others, strong work ethic, continuous learning, being effective and strategic communicators, and attaining bicultural competence.

There are two implications to the findings. First, organizations can focus less on increasing the number of minorities in leadership, and instead, create an environment to support and provide resources to minorities. Practitioners in the field of organizational psychology, organization development, and human resources can use these insights to create development programs that are customized for an organization’s diverse population. Second, organizations can create a sense of empathy and understanding toward others by employing an in-depth interview framework to fully understand the individual in the workplace. This approach may help strengthen the employer and employee dynamic, and as a result, create a sense of community and a deeper connection between parties.

Dissertation Cover Page
Dissertation Cover Page

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