Third culture young women: Understanding their life experiences and leadership perspectives : A thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Business Studies (Management) at Massey University, New Zealand
Globalisation influences how leadership is understood and practiced and impacts on
culturally diverse interactions in New Zealand communities. Examining leadership and intersecting
diversity with regards to culture, gender and age could provide a richer understanding of how
identity impacts on leadership. Youth are increasingly growing up in multicultural communities,
giving rise to a phenomenon widely referred to as Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – adolescents who grow
up in cultures outside of their home culture. To date there is no research on the leadership
perspectives and development needs of TCKs, and although there are programmes and studies
focusing on leadership development for young women, very few of these initiatives focus on
culturally diverse young women. This research focused on examining the diverse lifeworlds of third
culture young women to appreciate how their intersecting experiences and perspectives influenced
their leadership understanding.
Using an interpretive phenomenological approach, four third culture young women,
selected from a leadership programme for Year 13 (16 year old) young women, were interviewed
and asked questions that explored their experiences and perspectives regarding being third culture
individuals, young women, and leaders. The responses were analysed using a modified version of
Ashworth’s (2003) phenomenological framework to reveal that diverse young women have an
awareness of the gendered expectations that society constructs, have an ability to navigate cultural
differences, and are able to strategize how to interact with various social groups as a result of their
diverse life experiences and intersecting identities. Ultimately, their core values, life experiences,
and diverse perspectives as culturally distinct adolescent women shape their leadership
understanding and practice.
This study concludes that third culture young women are embodying values, perspectives,
skills and strategies that suggest their potential as emerging leaders in their communities and future
aspirations aligned with their leadership purpose of achieving personal success and helping others.
In conclusion there is a need for greater application from academics and practitioners of
intersectionality into leadership studies and practice. Recommendations were made with regards to
leadership research and development programmes in the future and how these can explore the
leadership potential of young, culturally diverse women like young TCK women.