Asian Air 


Is the Glass Ceiling Cracking?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 05:09:52 PM)

sian Americans are nearly twice as likely as Whites (55% vs 29%) to graduate from college. For the past decade Asians have outnumbered Whites at UC Berkeley (40% vs 36%), UCLA (41% vs 37%), UC Irvine (56% vs 27%) and UC Riverside (55% vs 27%). Asians also collectively make up 28% of the enrollment at top 20 business schools. AA comprise 60% of Silicon Valley's professional and technical workforce.
     The one area in which Asian Americans have traditionally been underrepresented is the corporate executive suite. Everyone has heard of Charles Wang, founder/chairman of Computer Associates, Jerry Yang, founder/co-chief Yahoo of Yahoo! and a half dozen other AA success stories. But they are the founders of the companies they head up.
     Looking at the Fortune 1000, Asian Americans account for barely 1.5% of top executives, a third of our representation in the general population and far less than what one might expect from our success in college and professional schools. The only visible AA CEO of a top 50 corporation is Avon's Andrea Jung.
     Undoutedly many factors contribute to Asian underrepresentation in the executive suites of American companies. The most frequently cited include the collective youth and inexperience of Asians in management positions, difficulty of fitting into the corporate cultures of old-line companies, propensity for leaving to work on startups, higher concentrations in technical fields and language deficiencies. Then of course there's the factor many suspect but few have been able to prove: racial stereotypes and prejudices.
     Is the underrepresentation merely the product of benign sociological factors or is there still a glass celiing that keeps Asians from climbing above middle and lower management?

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From my own observation, Asian women are often promoted to visible corporate positions to create the image of diversity. Asian women fit in both the categories of women and racial minority, and they are not perceived as threats to their white male counterparts. Furthermore, most Asian women executives are in staff functions, without line responsibilities and real power. Often, they do not even have many subordinates.
Corporate Employee
   Thursday, January 09, 2003 at 10:06:03 (PST)    []
Dr. Lim:

I am an American of Asian origin who is supposed to take a job in East Asia sometime over the next month. What you say is true about East Asia in general. But, not the United States and India. India has a long history of caste system and discrimination is rampant. In the US, discrimination is driven by the history of slavery. Whites base their opinion of blacks based on the fact the latter's ancestors were slaves. As far as Hispanics are concerned, they do not know what to think. Many whites hate the Asians and Asian Americans for just the opposite reasons...perceived to be too successful. Now, why I am trying to go to East Asia. I have tried to fit in both places. In the US I have assimilated into their, basketball, etc. In East Asia, I have assimilated into their culture...foods and ways of life. However, as of now, East Asia has been more willing to accept me than most whites in the United States. I am too dark...I can pass for black in the US and a Tamil in Singapore!
Asian American
   Tuesday, January 07, 2003 at 17:28:39 (PST)    []
I am a British educated Chinese Malaysian who has worked and studied abroad for many years.

I believe there are cultural barriers to overcome for any minority group to overcome.

Whether you are the boss of a large corporation or the local gas station, there will always be tendency to promote the people you find most comprehensible and accessible.

Culturally, linguistically, socially.

Choice of language and phrases, facial expressions, body postures and gestures, tone, pitch and accent are just some of the complex elements of communicating what we want, who we are, and how we regard others.

If you are a member of a minority group, then you are going to have to understand where everyone else is coming from, and be able to read the domninant or mainstream cultural and linguistic codes accurately and well.

No one is going to have to make any extra effort to read you.

There are after all so many other ethnic minorities to have to read.

Indeed it remains debatable whether anyone else is going to be able to see you the way you see yourself - that is, unless you are acculturated enough to use mainstream white cultural and linguistic codes to express yourself. Use the same currency so to speak.

I believe this to be the major component of that much maligned glass ceiling.
Dr. Lim CM.
cmlim    Monday, January 06, 2003 at 20:07:47 (PST)    []
Is it true that there are more Asian FEMALE execs than Asian MALE execs in American corporations (that were not founded by Asians)? It seems that Asian females are better off than Asian males and face less discrimination that hampers their promotion and recognition when it comes to working for an American corporation.
Young Luminary    Wednesday, November 06, 2002 at 12:04:05 (PST)    []
I am an Asian-American woman who is at the VP level in a Fortune 500 company. I believe that the main reason you don't see more AAs climbing the corporate ladder in US companies is because most corporations are primarily Western in culture. Asian-Americans tend to have a different value system which does not lend itself well to success in US companies. For example, Asian behavior that is seen as "respectable" in Asian cultures is seen as "unassertive" in Western culture.

On the one hand, AAs need to learn to "play the game" if they want to climb the ladder. Unfortunately AAs rarely have role models (there are 4 AAs at my level out of 40,000 employees!).

On the other hand, many AAs likely decide that they simply don't want to play the game. They would rather build their own company based on their own culture and values.
Asian Woman VP
   Saturday, October 19, 2002 at 11:02:27 (PDT)
AM Exec,

I think this issue of glass ceiling is more complex than just working hard and showing blind committment. I dont mean to be harsh, but sometimes there is a great deal of social landscape that Asian Americans must see and understand in order to find a niche for her or hiself.

I believe that there are companies, organizations, and individuals who truly have more open-mindedness about having a qualified Asian American becoming a leader. So there is definately a qualitative factor to certain industries, companies, and individuals. As savvy Asian American individuals we need to have our own unique social insights that will lead us to our reward when the hard word is sacrificed.

It is much easy to think that hard work and persverence will lead to glory, yet the reality is that most White Americans are very foreign to the idea of Asian Americans as leaders at this stage in corporate America. There is some threat that is attached to this ignorance, but it is real and it will undoubtly lead to subtle decisions influenced by personal bias.

So great work ethics is of course essential to success, but Asian Americans also need to be a lot more aware of the social climate until the Asian American presence is more accepted in the corporate culture as well as the rest of the American culture.
Open Minded AM
   Friday, August 16, 2002 at 12:57:17 (PDT)