Mexican American female principals and their chameleon identity: working against a socially constructed identity in a predominantly white school district

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Trujillo-Ball, Laura Angelica

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The identity of Mexican American women and the influences of the social constructions on their identity is the focus of this dissertation. The focus and purpose of the research was to reveal, to describe, and to examine the success of Mexican American female educational leaders and how their identities have been influenced by assigned attributes, self-assigned attributes, Chicana feminism, and educational leadership styles. The study focused on 4 successful Mexican American female principals and the influences on their chameleon identity from family, culture, and society. The three research questions that guided this research were (a) What does identity mean to Mexican American female educational leaders? (b) how does the Mexican American female identity change due to experiences, influences, and expectations from family, culture, society, and self? and (c) what does the prototype of a successful Mexican American female educational leader “look like” according to the narratives gathered for this study? Qualitative research was used for this study, specifically the approaches of naturalistic and narrative inquiry. This approach was used to find in-depth stories of the experiences of 4 successful Mexican American female principals. The data were collected through two individual interviews with each participant and one group interview. The open-ended interview method was used to encourage informal conversations, which helped themes to emerge (Patton, 1990). This method allowed for spontaneous questions and uninterrupted narratives. This study helps fill the gap in research on women and minorities. It serves as a beacon that illuminates the chameleon identity of successful Mexican American female principals. This beacon has implications for recognizing the need to identify Mexican American females as different from Hispanics and Minority women as a whole. Additionally, this beacon has implications for practice in schools, for policy at the district and state levels, and for further research. The study findings confirm other research in the area of female and minority identity, placement of female principals within a district, and influences in identity; they also provide a new realization of the prototype of a successful Mexican American female principal based on the 4 women’s stories.