The experiences of multiracial and biracial women senior and mid-level administrators in higher education
Pannell, Judith Mary
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During the past 20 years, the number of women students, administrators, and faculty of color in higher education has increased (King & Gomez, 2008). Despite the increase, multiracial and biracial women remain underrepresented in senior leadership positions within higher education (Aguirre, 2000). To support multi/biracial women as they advance into senior leadership positions, higher education administrators must have a better understanding of their unique experiences. Research is one tool that can help administrators as they strive to support and promote multi/biracial women and create inclusive campus environments. Although research in higher education to date has explored the experiences of women of color in higher education (i.e., Nixon, 2016), there is limited research on the specific experiences of biracial and multiracial women higher education administrators. As a result, the existing research fails to represent and address the specific concerns and experiences of multi/biracial women in senior and mid-level administrative positions. The purpose of this study was to illuminate the unique experiences of multiracial and biracial women so that higher education administrators can create strategies that transform existing policy and practices, and if necessary create new structures and systems to better support and promote multi/biracial women administrators. Grounded in Critical Race Feminism (Wing, 2003) and approached through a transformative paradigm using semi-structured interviews, this phenomenological study explored the experiences of multiracial and biracial women in senior and mid-level administrative positions within higher education. Participants for this study included nine individuals who self-identified as multiracial or biracial women in a senior or mid-level administrative position within a U.S. institution of higher education. Through semi-structured interviews, the participants shared their experiences as multi/biracial women in the workplace. The themes that emerged from the interviews include the saliency of race, experiences with race and racism, expectations, the impact of racism, challenging systems of oppression, and coping strategies. The broad workplace experiences have far-reaching implications for higher education administrators who seek to understand and support all multi/biracial women in their institutions.