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  • Why Aren’t There More Asian-American Leaders?

    To become a leader requires taking personal initiative and thinking about how an organization can work differently. It’s racist to think that any given Asian individual is unlikely to be creative or risk-taking.

    Upstart: Management

    A provocative, fluidly-written cover story in the May 16 issue of New York Magazine, by talented Korean-American writer Wesley Yang, discusses the challenges faced by high-achieving Asian-Americans who get into top schools, perform extremely well, but then face obstacle as they try to climb the career ladder.

    Yang discusses what some call the “Bamboo Ceiling,” blocking Asians from getting promoted into leadership roles in white collar jobs, from law to consulting to mainstream corporations to academia. He cites one study showing that while Asian-Americans comprise about 5% of the U.S. population, they make up only 0.3% of corporate officers, fewer than 1% of board members and 2% of college presidents. There are just nine CEOs of Asian descent among the top 500 publicly traded companies.

    Yang’s explanation: Children who grow up in traditional Asian homes do not learn the cultural lessons they need, in order to play a dominant role in most workplaces. The most important Asian values include filial piety, deference to authority, humility, hard work, harmony and sacrificing for the future. Though there may be a place for leaders to display deference, in order to get promoted into a top job, workers have to be their own boosters and show they can be independent and driven. Writes Yang:

    To become a leader requires taking personal initiative and thinking about how an organization can work differently. It also requires networking, self-promotion, and self-assertion. It’s racist to think that any given Asian individual is unlikely to be creative or risk-taking. It’s simple cultural observation to say that a group whose education has historically focused on rote memorization and “pumping the iron of math” is, on aggregate, unlikely to yield many people inclined to challenge authority or break with inherited ways of doing things.

    In addition, Yang vividly describes some of the cultural habits typical to the Asian community that make it tough for whites to feel comfortable with some Asian-Americans. He describes one reserved young Asian man, Daniel Chu who aspires to be a creative writer. While a student at Williams College, Chu had to force himself to smile instead of constantly wearing the neutral expression he was taught to assume at home.

    Is it possible to force yourself to behave like an outgoing leader, when your parents drilled you in the art of impassivity and quiet listening?

    Continue reading:

    http://blogs.forbes.com/susanadams/2011/05/11/why-arent-there-more-asian-american-leaders/

    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Management

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