Asian American women in the U.S. tech industry face more discrimination in the workplace than their white peers, according to a new study.
In the report “Pinning Down the Jellyfish: The Workplace Experiences of Women of Color in Tech,” researchers at the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California looked into the experiences of women of color in the tech industry.
The report surveyed over 200 female tech employees across different backgrounds from 2019 to 2020. Participants were asked about sexual harassment, basic patterns of bias at the workplace and how discrimination happens in informal and formal interactions.
Findings revealed that while women of color in the tech industry reported experiencing more bias than white women in general, the degree of bias differed by racial and ethnic group. The study highlighted that Asian and Asian American women reported “many of the worst experiences.”
According to the report, women of East and South Asian descent felt they needed to do “extra work” in order to get the same level of recognition as their white peers and “to be seen as a good team player.”
“Every e-mail that I wrote, I spell checked it, and I read it three times before sending out because if I made a typo or if I made a mistake, it was seen as not being skilled enough or that my English wasn’t that good, as opposed to it being just a typo,” a respondent of Indian descent was quoted as saying.
Women of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent were reportedly more often expected to play feminine roles, such as “the office mother,” and were often ignored for leadership positions.
“[T]here were promotion opportunities that had come up, and they were never announced internally,” one Asian participant said. “We would just hear, ‘Oh. So-and-so is leaving the company.’ And then, ‘Oh. And we’ve hired this other person from outside the company to come in and take that place.’ And it was always a white guy.”
Women of Southeast Asian descent in particular claimed to have experienced the “forever foreigner” stereotype, with many of their colleagues questioning whether they are “really” American.
Meanwhile, South Asian women shared that they are the subject of negative racial and ethnic stereotypes. They also reported experiencing discrimination due to their accents.
“I’ve constantly been slotted into admin roles even though I have a Master’s degree and have been physically looked past SO many times,” said a South Asian participant. “There have been SO many executives who have come late or cancelled [sic] meetings with me because they’ve decided I’m not worth their time.”
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