Asian Americans are the Least Likely to Be Promoted to Management Positions, Study Finds

Despite the touted strides many American companies claim to have made in cultivating a diverse workforce, breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling remains a challenge for many Asian Americans.

Even in the tech industry, where it is fairly easy for Asians to land jobs, they have a hard time getting promoted to management and executive levels, a recent report on workforce data reveals.

According to the latest national report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Asian American white-collar professionals are the least likely than any other race, including Blacks and Hispanics, to be promoted from individual contributor roles into management.

In the same report, White professionals are found to be about twice as likely to be promoted into management than their Asian American counterparts.

This is not at all surprising considering that based on many companies’ annual reports, their diversity and inclusion programs consistently focus on the under-representation of women, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.

We don’t often get to see discussions on the discrepancy between the high percentage of Asian employees and the disproportionately low percentage of Asian managers and executives.

An analysis of the EEOC data published by The Ascend Foundation pointed out that Asian Americans are oftentimes ignored in conversations on representation in the workforce due to their success in some key categories.

Buck Gee and Denise Peck, who co-authored “The Illusion of Asian Success” for the pan-Asian organization Ascend, wrote in the Harvard Business Review:

“It is easy to understand why Asian American representation in the workforce may not seem to be an issue. In some key measures, Asian Americans are the most successful U.S. demographic — more highly educated, for example, and with higher median incomes than any other racial group. More significant, Asian Americans are 12% of the professional workforce while making up only 5.6% of the U.S. population.”

They pointed out that since “Asian Americans are not considered an underrepresented minority, they are given little priority or attention in diversity programs.”

This is evident in their findings that Asian-related programs in many companies “are geared toward cultural inclusion, not management diversity.”

Considering the large numbers of Asian Americans in the professional workforce, there is no lacking in talent that companies can identify and develop into executive-level roles.

HBR further reports that the problem is not exclusive to the tech industry as it is also evident in banking, law, and other industries.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported last year that while 27% of Goldman Sachs’ professionals in the United States were Asian American, only 11% of its U.S. executives and senior managers were. None of its executive officers were Asian.

According to a study published by the Yale Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association last year, while Asian Americans are well-represented in law (10% of the graduates of the top 30 law schools being Asians), they “have the highest attrition rates and lowest ratio of partners to associates among all (racial) groups.”

Working for the government also poses the same problems for Asian Americans. While 9.8% of the federal professional workforce was Asian in 2016, only 4.4% of them are at the highest federal level, according to the 2016 Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program report.

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