The Bamboo Ceiling

bambooceilingI’ve written in the past about the glass ceiling for Asians in corporate America, but until I found this recent article on Asian scientists, I didn’t realize there was a specific term for the ceiling when referring to Asians, specifically the Bamboo Ceiling.

The article I found was specifically referring to the inability of Asians scientists to move up into the management roles in academia and federal research institutes. Apparently Asians have as tough a time there as they do in the corporate world.

This article also introduced another new term I had not heard of before when referencing the inability to move up in an organization, sticky floors.

Here are some of the problems found by the recent study:

Problems raised by this Asian American community boiled down to three categories: employment, lack of support, and failure to file complaints.

“We found that most federal agencies didn’t even look at Asian American numbers—they’ve become the forgotten minority,” says Gazal Modhera, chair of the EEOC’s Work Group.

While Asian Americans represented 23 percent of those holding tenure-track positions [at the NIH], they were only 12 percent of those at the tenure or senior scientist level. In the higher administrative positions the numbers further tapered off, with only 6 percent holding lab chief positions. Currently out of the 27 scientific director positions there is only one Asian American scientific director. There are no Asian Americans running any of the 27 Institutes, although one recently retired.

The study found Asians themselves to be part of the blame, by failing to file complaints when discrimination does occur in the work place.

From the article again:

Despite the plethora of stories that were heard, official complaints remain few. A December 2005 EEOC Gallup Poll revealed that, although Asian Americans had the highest reports of discrimination (31 percent) of all the minority groups, only 3 percent of official charges were filed by them.

This article is a good reminder that as Asians we need to remember to stand up for our beliefs and our rights, since no other group is looking out for us.

One final note, the term Bamboo Ceiling is not new, as Jane Hyun used it in her book Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians in 2005. So, I’m the one behind the times and need to catch up on new fangled terms like sticky floors.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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