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Paths to leadership of native Hawaiian women administrators in Hawaii’s higher education system: A qualitative study

Farrah-Marie Kawailani Gomes, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to obtain a deeper understanding of the pathways to leadership for Native Hawaiian women administrators at the University of Hawaii by exploring and describing the experiences along their education and employment journeys. Eight Native Hawaiian women administrators shared the supports and challenges they encountered along their education and employment journeys, provided advice for Native Hawaiian women aspiring to be leaders, and suggested ways that the University can facilitate the development of more Native Hawaiian women leaders. Using methods consistent with qualitative research, this narrative study utilized semi-structured interviews, field notes from the interviews and observations, and document review of curriculum vitaes, publications, and presentations. Critical Race Theory in Education served as the theoretical framework for studying the construct of educational administration leadership by women of color. Each journey was different, yet emergent themes converged to provide a rich understanding about the education and employment journeys of these women. Analysis of the data using open and axial coding revealed three themes: Key Relationships, Personal Characteristics, and Social Justice. Findings suggest key relationships begin with family as foundation. Mentors as well as peers and colleagues provided education and career support along the journey. Embracing opportunities as presented and actively pursuing professional development were critical for continuous advancement. Being Native Hawaiian strengthened the position of these women for career advancement options within the University system. Gender combined with race further bolstered the position of these women. Despite the challenges of navigating the labyrinth to leadership being experienced by some, all women persevere because of a responsibility (kuleana) they feel they have to Hawaii and its future.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Womens studies|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Gomes, Farrah-Marie Kawailani, "Paths to leadership of native Hawaiian women administrators in Hawaii’s higher education system: A qualitative study" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10102735.