How You Can Avoid the Bamboo Ceiling


How can Asian professionals prevent career stagnation?

Is it possible to be recognized as management material without constantly adjusting to the environment around you to get promoted?

We believe that, no matter what environment you find yourself in, it is always important to develop assertive skills and to actively seek opportunities to showcase your leadership potential.

However, there is another way to get recognized as a leader to begin with.

And that is by actively seeking companies that show they value diversity. Identify companies willing to trust that you already have leadership potential coming in.

What to Look For in a Potential Employer

How do you find a company that will value you immediately, given that a growing body of research has documented the lack of Asian Americans in the leadership ranks of corporate America?

Jane Hyun, executive coach and author, for example, uses the term “bamboo ceiling” to describe the very real barriers that Asians face in the corporate world.

Her book, Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians, encourages Asians to adapt their cultural style to fit in and succeed based on the expectations of the corporate workplace.

We at Moving Up in America endorse the suggestions made by Hyun. But we also believe that the first step in cracking the bamboo ceiling is get jobs where employers have shown that they value cultural diversity.

These are companies where diversity is deliberately managed as a competitive advantage.

So what do you look for?

In general, you research a company’s special efforts to develop a cooperative climate among its employees. Turnover is low, and people you talk with express satisfaction with the corporate culture.

Specifically, you look for these four indicators:

  1. Diversity at All Levels

  2. Top Level and Public Commitment to Diversity

  3. Support of Employee Special Interest Groups

  4. Availability of Diversity Training

Four Key Indicators that Diversity is Valued

1). Diversity at All Levels

Look at the organization chart to see how diverse it is, especially at the highest levels.

Diversity at all levels tells you that you will be welcomed and that opportunities for advancement are available to employees from different cultural backgrounds.

2). Top Level and Public Commitment to Diversity

Read press releases from the company. What have its leaders said about developing a high performing multicultural organization?

Review annual reports to see if resources are allocated to support a diverse workforce.

Identify surveys and interviews to see how well the company is tracking its diversity hiring and promotion efforts.

3). Support of Employee Special Interest Groups

Find out if the company has special interest groups for employees. Does the company endorse these groups?

Research suggests that women and people of color benefit when they belong to employee groups that specifically support them, as women, Asians, African Americans, and Latinos.

4). Availability of Diversity Training

Review the training offered by a company. Are workshops offered that specifically address the management of diversity?

Diversity training helps employees to develop the awareness, knowledge, and skills to be effective in a multicultural environment.

Such training may focus on understanding how cultural differences affect the workplace, strategies for managing cultural differences, cross-cultural communication skills, and/or skills for building a high performing diverse team.

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