June 5, 2018
Asian-Americans are the most likely ethnological group to be hired into high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley—so who would think that they would be the least likely to be promoted into management and executive levels?
It’s surprising, but true, based on a 2017 report (“The Illusion of Asian Success”), co-authored by the Harvard Business Review; and the Ascend Foundation , which describes itself as the largest, non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America.
Together, the researchers from Harvard and Ascend analyzed 2007-2015 EEOC data on the San Francisco Bay Area workforce employed by technology companies—finding that there were no major shifts in upward mobility for racial minorities in climbing the management ladder to become executives.
Indeed, by 2015—despite being outnumbered by Asian men and women in the entry-level professional workforce—white men and women were twice as likely as Asians to become executives and held nearly three times as many executive jobs.
Black and Hispanic professionals also were much less likely than their white peers to become executives; and their researchers found that, over time, their numbers actually declined.
Overall, the report found that, although Asian-Americans make up just 5.6% of the U.S. population, they comprise 12% of professional workers. HBR says some of the disparity might stem from Asian-Americans being classified as a non-underrepresented group in the workforce. Asian men are categorized with white males as “non-underrepresented” and Asian women are usually assigned to a vague category with women of all races, but neither are targeted for advancement into leadership posts.
To reverse this trend, the report recommends that HR leaders should include Asian-Americans in diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals, get CEO buy-in to secure D&I resources, and be proactive about promoting members of the group into top leadership slots.
“Having a clear line to leadership positions is a strong way to retain talent; [in addition] … transparency about the path to pay raises and new titles can go a long way in keeping people interested and engaged,” the researchers noted.
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