A Policy Discourse Analysis of the Opportunity Hire Policy for Women of Color in Higher Education

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laura E. Sponsler

Third Advisor

Leslie D. Gonzales


Discourse analysis, Opportunity hire policy, Race, Gender, Intersectionality, Critical race feminism, Jean Carabine's Foucauldian genealogical discourse analysis, Women of color, Higher education leadership, Diversity hiring, Leadership advancement, Power, Knowledge


The lack of diversity in higher education administration is detrimental to creating leadership pipelines for women of color at their intersections of race, gender, and other marginalized identities, creating barriers preventing the closure of the racial gender gap. This doctoral research project explored, assessed, and critically analyzed a public regional comprehensive university’s opportunity hire policy to reveal discourse around power and knowledge and themes informing women of color leaders’ hiring and advancement at the institution. Using discourse analysis by applying Jean Carabine’s Foucauldian Genealogical Discourse Analysis and Critical Race Feminism, this qualitative study investigated the representation of power and knowledge and how power and knowledge are exemplified in various institutional documents and interviews. By applying discourse analysis, the researcher examined the following research questions:

  1. What discourses of power and knowledge are promoted from opportunity hire policies for women of color in higher education leadership?
  2. How do opportunity hire policies create realities of power and knowledge for women of color in higher education leadership?

Findings indicated the connections of power and knowledge via the themes framed around the research questions: (a) the convoluted value of opportunity hire polices; (b) exclusionary categories are used in opportunity hire policies; (c) participants experience the enduring nature of gender inequities and the intersectional nature of identity; (d) systemic racism further perpetuates imposter syndrome for women of color leaders; (e) lack of mentorship for women of color leaders; and (f) a need for an institutional culture and adaptability in support of advancing women of color leaders.

Implications and recommendations focused on the deconstruction of power and knowledge in the opportunity hire policy process for women of color leaders. It was essential to deconstruct power and knowledge since traditional approaches to policy analysis do not center on gender and other identities and privilege the dominant group and rational logic forgetting the experiences and voices of marginalized populations, especially women of color. Furthermore, implications and recommendations look at how administrative leadership can enhance institutional culture for women of color advancing in leadership. As such, institutional culture can begin to see the enhancement, empowerment, and egalitarianism in higher education administration for women of color.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

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