Lost in Aggregation: The Asian Reflection in the Glass Ceiling

Janet Wong & Buck Gee

Generally lost in the national narrative about corporate diversity is a discussion of the issues facing Asian Americans. This report takes a closer analysis of EEOC workplace data sets disaggregated by race and gender and finds that professional Asian American men and women are the least likely to become executives in private industry.

Further inspection of the data reveals that relative to their numbers in the workforce, Asian American men lag men of all other races and Asian American women lag women of all other races in reaching executive levels. This report also finds that one of every 12 white men and one of every 28 white women in the professional workforce is an executive. Yet only one of every 30 Asian American men and one of every 64 Asian American women have reached that level.

The data also show that race has more significant impact than gender in affecting executive representation. Nationally, white men are 222% more likely to be an executive than Asian men; and white women are 164% more likely to be an executive than Asian women. In fact, relative representation of white women in the executive level is substantially higher than all minority women. Hence, it is clear that aggregating all women, regardless of race, into a single cohort paints an incomplete picture of the glass ceiling and may inappropriately affect policy decisions.

Because Asians are now the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S., public policy research should be expanded to include examination of problems facing Asian American men and women in the workplace, including leadership diversity.