Asians feel excluded from U.S. power centers: study

Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:35pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Despite being well educated, ambitious and driven, Asian-Americans often feel excluded from corporate America and hit a bamboo ceiling that prevents them from reaching top jobs, a new study showed.

Asian-Americans account for fewer than two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and corporate officers, according to the research from the Center for Work-Life Policy, a non-profit think tank in New York City.

"Fully rounded programs should not only provide development opportunities for Asians, but also target organizational culture, so that Asians' strengths are more readily recognized by those in leadership positions," said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and founder of the center, and her co-author Ripa Rashid.

The researchers, whose findings are based on focus groups, strategy sessions, personal interviews and a national survey for some 3,000 people, found that subtle workplace biases have prevented Asians from reaching the top jobs, although they account for 15 to 25 percent of enrollment at the top Ivy League schools.

The general perception is that they are a highly successful and qualified "model minority," but educated Asians struggle to conform to accepted leadership models.

People who responded to the survey reported both difficulty fitting in and establishing important professional networks to advance. The result was that nearly two-third of Asian men and nearly half, or 44 percent, of Asian women said they felt their careers had stalled.

"The more you understand what's going on globally, and the impact that China and India are having on the world, the more you will recognize the importance of having Asians be part of your organization and leadership team," said Barbara Adachi, a managing director at Deloitte Consulting, which co-sponsored the study.

The researchers also discovered that Asians were more likely to aspire to and value holding a top, highly compensated, prestigious, powerful job or title than Caucasians.

Asians were also more likely than other minorities to scale back ambitions or consider quitting due to bias, and were more likely to feel guilty about the tradeoffs between childcare and eldercare responsibilities and their work.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney)