Asian Americans see moving up US corporate ladder as difficult

Updated: 2014-06-10 07:31

By Elizabeth Wu in New York (China Daily USA)

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Asian Americans believe it is difficult for them to advance into leadership positions in US corporations beyond middle management, according to a study by the Asia Society.

The Asian Pacific Americans (APA) Corporate Survey involved APA employees from Fortune 500 companies to measure their opinions and how they perceive working in their respective companies.

The fifth corporate survey was released on June 9 at the Asia Society's annual Diversity Leadership Forum held at the Time Warner Center in New York. It examines "barriers to and best practices for the career advancement of APAs," said Michael G. Kulma, executive director of Global Leadership Initiatives at New York-based Asia Society.

This year's forum highlighted the link between increasing shareholder value and new revenue streams by optimizing the APA talent pool, through building stronger employee engagement and a more productive workforce. Executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, BNY Mellon, and KPMG, were among speakers at the event.

The survey found that 95.4 percent of APA employees care about the success of their companies, with 60 percent committed to staying with their employers for at least five years. Additionally, there is a noticeable jump with an 8.8 percent increase from 2013 by APA employees on feeling a sense of belonging.

In terms of leadership, APAs continue to advance, however, representation at the board level remains a major challenge with only 40 percent of those surveyed believing there is adequate representation on their company's board of directors. And 50 percent of all survey participants said they are either not included or unaware of their company's strategy for penetrating the APA market both domestically and internationally. APAs with advanced degrees report lower favorability ratings for diversity, professional growth and development opportunities.

At one of the forums on the practices in consumer products and manufacturing, industry professionals discussed the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that contribute to and get in the way of progress for APAs.

"1.6 million businesses in America are owned by Asian American Pacific Islanders, these businesses generate $5 billion revenue to the US economy, and still we have no voice," said Jimmy Ferguson, chairman of the board of directors, of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE)).

ACE is advocating for APAs to move beyond vice-president positions in corporate companies. "APAs need more advocates in government and corporate to help continue their leadership on all levels." said Ferguson.

He said APA leaders in corporate positions need support from major corporations and companies to help develop their leadership. He said of APAs in the workplace "To the point where even when we miss an opportunity we don't ask questions."

Asian Americans see moving up US corporate ladder as difficult

From left: Moderator Philip A. Berry, president of Philip Berry Associates; Betty Lo, vice-president of Consumer Engagement at Nielson; Francis Kim, vice-president of Medtronic; and Jimmy Ferguson, chairman of ACE attend a panel discussion at the Asia Society's Diversity Leadership Forum in New York on Monday. [Elizabeth Wu / For China Daily]