This study examines the experiences of five women doctoral students in music education. The goal was to gain insight into the important experiences and concerns they encountered during their studies. While the literature on women in other fields indicates that socialization of women to the academy differs from that of their male counterparts, this concern has yet to be addressed in the field of music education.
Participants, selected to show maximum variation in personal and professional characteristics, were women who had previously taught in K-12 settings and who were enrolled in or recently graduated from a doctoral program in music education in the United States. Data were collected primarily through in-depth interviews and photo elicitation, and were analyzed through both individual case and cross-case analyses.
All of the women initially stated gender was not an issue that influenced their doctoral studies, but analysis showed that they had clearly internalized the socially constructed roles and expectations reflected in society, and that those roles and expectation did, indeed, impact their choices and behaviors prior to and during their doctoral studies. Three facets of gender were important, specifically socially constructed roles and expectations for women in both their families and in their doctoral studies, gender performativity related to the male-centered expectations in academia, and the importance of intersectionality. The participants’ doctoral experiences were contextualized not just by their gender, but also by their race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, religion, and age. Analysis supports other researchers’ findings that women doctoral students may have different experiences in their doctoral studies than their male counterparts.
Recommendations for doctoral programs in music education and music teacher educators are provided. This study’s findings suggest further research is needed to investigate the impact of gender balance in doctoral cohort and faculty, amount of teaching experience prior to studies, and educational background or prior research experience on women’s doctoral experiences, as well as the roles of intersectionality and performativity for women in an academic context.