Coming from a culture of immigrant mentality, perhaps it’s not surprising Asian Americans are seen as more careful and less risk-taking than their Caucasian counterparts. As Danielle Chang says in an article from Crain’s New York Business, “[Most] went the professional route, studied accounting and medicine and got the paycheck because the pressure from parents, in terms of making a good living.” However, according to CB Insights data, in the first half of 2010, 11% of Series A funding and internet seed were companies founded by Asian and Pacific Islanders, suggesting younger Asian Americans are willing to take more risks in less traditional businesses than that of their parents. Instead of dry cleaners, grocery stores, and restaurants, they are creating tech firms, social media enterprises, fashion labels, among many others.
Long known for being in the top percentile of academia, as well as securing jobs in lucrative fields, Asian Americans continue to face barriers related to perceived cultural differences causing them to plateau before reaching the very top levels of business. Barriers are often to do with perceived cultural traits as well as a tradition of Caucasian colleagues as being more likely to volunteer to lead presentations where bosses tend to take notice of their leadership qualities. The communication values in the U.S. and Asian societies also differ.
For instance, Asian communities value details like using honorifics and eye contact while American culture emphasizes speech over polite actions. Perhaps because of these cultural contrasts, Asian-Americans are not as successful at activities like networking, or simply find it more difficult to convince the highest-level of management of their more-difficult-to-quantify abilities.
Naisa works to help young Asian professionals to overcome such barriers by preparing them specifically for leadership roles. We are focused on giving our members the tools they need to succeed. Our mentoring program puts young, talented professionals in contact with those who have experience at the very top.
What’s interesting is that there has been a shift taking place. In 2010, according to the council of graduate schools, Asian American enrollment saw a reduction in numbers after steadily increasing for years.
As alluded to in the same Crain’s New York Business article, thanks to role models such as Youtube co-founder Steve Chen, and co-founder of Yahoo, Jerry Yang, more and more Asian Americans are starting companies of their own, giving them the ability to side-step the usual rules of American culture.
Danielle Chang left Goldman Sachs to found her own business, and did it again a number of years ago, starting an integrated media and marketing company. So, perhaps, this means young Asian American professionals are looking for alternatives to the traditional academic-corporate track. Perhaps becoming your own boss is a good a way as any to do it.
naisA Global is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping talented young Asian professionals unlock their potential and become great leaders.