Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Asian American Women Hit “Bamboo Glass Ceiling” in the Workplace

Asian American Women Hit “Bamboo Glass Ceiling” in the Workplace

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are shedding ever increasing light on the disparate treatment of female employees in the workplace. A new report on Silicon Valley from the Ascend Foundation examines Asian-American women in particular, and reveals that though they comprise the largest racial cohort in the industry, Asians are the racial group least likely to be promoted to manager and executive positions.

As the report details, Asian American women still struggle to detach themselves from the “model minority” myth to get their professional setbacks addressed. “The model minority myth overshadows the real hurdles Asian Americans face, from career advancement to poverty,” notes Slate. “Although some see the myth—which stereotypes the entire demographic as hard-working, educated, and successful due to their quiet discipline—as something that protects Asian Americans from the hatred and targeting experienced by other racial minorities, others argue that it assumes Asian Americans don’t face barriers—and even have an edge thanks to their Asian-ness.” And this presumption can act against them in the workplace.

These “model minority” myths often lead to broad and incorrect and overly positive generalizations about Asian American prosperity. Additionally, differences between the different types of Asian Americans, such as Indian, Taiwanese, Hmong and Burmese, are often ignored. Instead, all are grouped together in a way that can act disadvantage all. Further, the statistics that cite higher earnings for Asians in comparison to their white counterparts feed into the idea of the model minority myth.

“If you look at the junior levels of any type of industry, you can see quite a few Asian Americans, but as you get more and more senior, they’re not [there],” stated Yung-Yi Diana Pan, an assistant professor of sociology at Brooklyn College–City University of New York.

Not only do Asian American woman have to challenge gender stereotypes in the workplace, they have to face cultural barriers as well. “We’re seen as younger, more naive, less experienced, on top of [seeming] less American,” stated Lata Murti, an associate professor of sociology at Brandman University. Slate points out that Asian women are the least likely to become executives of all groups divided by both race and gender.

“Numbers can only tell us so much,” Pan explained. “What we haven’t really talked about is how institutional cultures need to also change. If they’re bringing in scores of Asian American women or just folks of color in general, but the culture’s still straight, white, male culture, it’s not going to be hospitable to people who don’t align with those identities.”

Upholding Employee Rights & Battling Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our current work includes gender discrimination cases against Google, Microsoft, Sandia National Labs and Goldman Sachs. These employment law class action cases challenge discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.