Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Stories of Success of Filipino American Nurses

Nilo Tiburan, Walden University


The underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in high-level leadership positions continues to be a problem in U.S. organizations. Asian Americans such as the Filipino Americans are encountering unique career barriers (bamboo ceiling) toward representing themselves in high-level positions in corporate America. In the healthcare sector, the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities is linked to continued health disparities and inequalities. The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to capture and describe the factors that contributed to breaking the bamboo ceiling (landing a high-level managerial position) of 10 Filipino American nurse managers through their lived experiences as they attained senior managerial positions in U.S. healthcare organizations. Research questions explored the phenomenon of breaking the bamboo ceiling, informed by the appreciative inquiry and the triadic reciprocal determinism model. Participants were selected using purposive sampling and data were gathered using in-depth interviews. Giorgi's phenomenological analysis model was used to analyze the data. Findings of this study showed that the factors that helped the participants to break the bamboo ceiling emanated from their support system, from their chosen behaviors, and, most important, from managing their inner resources. This study generated insights as to how Filipino American nurses can overcome barriers to their career success, and how organizational leaders can foster supportive environments to cater to the ethnic peculiarities of this minority group. By learning from the participants' success stories, this study can impact positive social change through enhancing the leadership representation of ethnic minority groups in healthcare organizations that may minimize health disparities and inequalities.