Asian-Americans are 18 percent of the Harvard enrollment, 24 percent at Stanford, and a whopping 46 percent at the University of California-Berkeley. Academic pedigrees like that typically vault graduates into the upper echelon of the U.S. workforce.
But a national study released today by the Center for Work-Life Policy says that Asian-Americans — 5 percent of the U.S. population and the nation’s fastest-growing minority by percentage — hold less than 2 percent of top corporate jobs.
The study analyzed chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer and other top executive positions in Fortune 500 companies.
Researchers, supported by Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and Time Warner, conducted 2,952 surveys of working-aged men and women and gathered qualitative and quantitative data. They concluded that many Asian-Americans, whether immigrant or native born, find it hard to “fit in” the upper management ranks.
According to the report, it’s not necessarily that they’re victims of discrimination. It’s that Asian-Americans don’t toot their own horns, don’t flourish in American-style networking and office politics, and may struggle with communication.
“The Asian culture is that you work hard on your own, and the belief is that you’ll be recognized based on your work,” said Joel Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and now works in global procurement at Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc. “But western culture is more about whether you’re assertive enough.”
The new report, “Asians in America: Unleashing the Potential of the ‘Model Minority,’?” finds that Caucasian-Americans generally don’t perceive workplace bias against Asian-Americans.
They see the minority’s strong academic and hiring records and think everything is fine. Or they see successful business leaders such as Min Kao, co-founder of Olathe-based Garmin, who leads a $3 billion business.
But 25 percent of Asians said they had felt workplace discrimination because of their ethnicity, according to researchers at the non-profit think tank, which studies diversity and talent management.
And Asian men, more than any other demographic, said they felt stalled in their careers and were more likely to quit their current jobs to search for advancement elsewhere.