Although Asian Americans are heavily represented in corporate jobs, representation and promotion at high levels in senior management positions are significantly lacking, according to a new study.
There are nearly 20 million Asian Americans who live in the U.S. as citizens, with 8.8 million of them in the workforce. They are reportedly overrepresented in both low-paying occupations, including manicurists and cooks, and in high-paying professions, including technical fields.
Although Asian Americans may hold places in high-wage occupations, a study by management consulting company McKinsey reveals how the racial group, particularly Asian American women, continues to struggle with workplace promotions.
Researchers found an earnings gap that is correlated with underrepresentation at higher manager levels. They found that Asian American women experience a severe drop of 80% at the board of director level.
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“Even with high educational attainment and upward economic mobility, Asian Americans are often seen as doers and not leaders,” the study reads. “Advancement sputters as Asian Americans move up the corporate ladder, where high levels of representation at the entry level do not translate to high levels in senior management positions. The share of Asian Americans decreases with greater seniority, and so does their share of promotions.”
The company surveyed more than 400 large organizations in the U.S. in 2021. Data revealed that while Asian Americans account for 9% of senior vice presidents, there are only 5% of promotions from senior vice president to the C-suite or the high-ranking executive titles. Asian American women reportedly make up less than 1% of these promotions.
Based on the research, the share of promotions for Asian women is one for every two Asian men at the senior manager level. However, it significantly drops to one for every six Asian men at the C-suite executive level.
“The model minority stereotype makes it easy to assume Asian Americans are already doing well at work; the myth of the monolith makes it easy to think that targeted support and detailed data about their experiences are not necessary; and the perpetual-foreigner mindset among people who are not Asian American makes it more difficult for Asian Americans to feel included and to advance,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers suggested constructive starting points, such as collecting more granular data, addressing inclusion challenges, supporting and creating sponsorship opportunities for Asian American workers and addressing Asian American issues as part of corporate responsibility.