June 6, 2017

There’s a new survey out about being of Asian or Pacific heritage in the American workplace. And people, it’s stressful. But the good news is that we’re talking more about the pressures, and looking for ways to deal with the top 10 issues for Asian Americans in the workplace.

The latest findings were commissioned by Asia Society, the Park Avenue-based museum and cultural organization. Details were presented during the 2017 Diversity Leadership Forum (May 25) at the swanky Time Warner Center in Manhattan. About 175 spent the day there, discussing the results.


Asia Society 2017 conference

Top 10 challenges

Based on survey results, here are the top 10 issues for Asian Americans in the workplace.

  1. Lack of role models
  2. Professional growth
  3. Career development
  4. Reaching senior level
  5. Glass ceiling
  6. Cultural differences
  7. Communication skills
  8. Language barrier
  9. Unconscious bias
  10. Comfort zone

The bottom line is, professional talent matters. But true success also demands the “soft skills,” like being able to express ourselves well verbally and in writing. Creativity, confidence and critical thinking are essential too.

South Asians do better than East Asians

There’s also a lot more going on than the top 10 issues for Asian Americans in the workplace. The ability to deal with the challenges vary from community to community. On this point, the survey found real differences between folks of South Asian and East Asian heritage.

(South Asian typically refers to Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan. East Asian usually means Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese.)

According to the report, employees of East Asian heritage are:

  • significantly less likely to report a sense of belonging.
  • less willing to remain in their place of employment even when offered a comparable job.
  • less likely to recommend their employer to other Asian and Pacific Islanders (APAs).

About the survey

These numbers and other interesting findings come from “Decoding the Myth of Model Minority: Challenges and Opportunities for Asian Pacific Americans in the Workplace.”

Statistics from Asia Society survey

You can download the survey’s executive summary here.  There’s also a one-page press release that summarizes the core findings.

Inclusion or just diversity?

What’s at stake is evolving, according to Moni Miyashita, a mergers-and-acquisitions expert who moderated one of the panels. Today, the conversation no longer focuses on diversity. “Inclusion” is the greater goal.

“Diversity means you’ve been invited to the party,” she explained. “Inclusion means you’ve been invited to dance.”

Does any of this make sense to you?  I’d love to hear what you think of these findings. And since workplace issues are sensitive, you can comment without using your real name. The more we talk about this stuff, the sooner we can be the change.  :)