Despite comprising 50% of the workforce in Silicon Valley, less than 2% of managers and executives are Asian. Furthermore, Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to ascend into managerial and executive positions. This obstacle to success compounds institutional bias against Asians by further relegating them into non-leadership positions. The under representation of Asian Americans in leadership positions, both corporate and government, is perhaps the largest issue currently facing the Asian American community in America. The question is, why is it more difficult for Asians to succeed?
Asians tend to invest less time and effort developing strong peer networks, which can impede their professional progress. Strong networks are key for finding opportunities to progress in the workplace, and without them, individuals can struggle to move up the leadership ranks. However, organizations such as naisA are working to help Asian professionals build strong networks through programs such as naisA Flash Advice.
Even with the latest trends in workforce diversity, the bamboo ceiling remains in place. Even at progressive companies such as Apple and Google, Asians only represent 23% and 26% respectively of technology leadership positions. When the managerial ranks at companies are majority male and white, male and white candidates are also preferred for promotion.
Traditional Asian culture values deference to authority, compared to American culture, which values strongly held beliefs and the tendency to speak out. By “keeping their heads down,” Asian workers are perceived to have less ideas and opinions, which makes it more difficult to attain leadership positions.
Aversion to Risk
Workers who tend to take more risks are rewarded by climbing the leadership ranks. However, taking risks in the workplace always brings the chance of failure, which is avoided more strongly in Asian culture. Asian culture places value on avoiding failure, which can make it more difficult for Asian workers to take risks that would land a promotion.
Asian American workers are less likely to speak up at meetings. While in individual conversation, Asian workers are equally likely to report shyness, that number increases within a team environment. However, soft skills such as good communication are easily coached and trained with programs like naisA’s nFA program, which can provide advice for young professionals.
Given that 50% of tech workers are Asian, only half of the expected number of Asian workers find their way to management and leadership positions. However, at naisA Global, the various programs available for professional development seek to close this gap.