Stereotypes holding Asians back from leadership roles

Maytinee Kramer/ Opinion Director

From the household to the workforce, Asians are faced with the mindset that their self-worth and value is closely tied to their accomplishments and academic accomplishments. As a result, there are these stereotypes that all Asians are wildly successful and well educated.

And we are. We have the ability to outperform whites and other minorities. Asians have been nicknamed the country’s “model minority.” Fifty-four percent of Asians in the U.S. have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the 33 percent college-graduation rate overall, according to a 2016 report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

But such stereotypes have made it difficult for Asians to obtain recognition and leadership roles in the workforce.

The stereotype about Asians being highly competent can make them appear threatening in the workplace, while the stereotype about Asians lacking social skills make them seem unfit for leadership.

When an employer holds such stereotypical views of Asians, they’re less likely to want to learn more about their skills and potential in the workplace, let alone promote them. Some may even feel threatened by an Asian’s competence and just use the social skill stereotype as an excuse to discriminate.  

A 2015 report on diversity in Silicon Valley by an Asian professional organization found that at five big tech firms — Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo — Asians and Asian Americans are well represented in lower-level positions but underrepresented when it came to management and executive levels.

It’s even worse for Asian women as men are 42 percent more likely than women to hold an executive role, and white men and women are 154 percent more likely than Asians to hold an executive role.

However, it’s not just the stereotypes that are keeping Asians from obtaining leadership roles. It’s also due to the norms society values in leaders — competence, intelligence, charisma and social skills. Preferred leaders are seen as more masculine and authoritative, which again puts Asians at a disadvantage because they are seen as none of these things.

The “good leader” prototype of being masculine, dictatorial and charismatic has to change, and Asian stereotypes need to be set aside if Asians want a chance at becoming a manager or director.

Asians, just like anyone else, have what it takes to be a leader in any business or organization. Instead of focusing on leadership stereotypes and judging a person by their ethnic stereotypes, businesses need to focus on determining the competencies needed to fulfill a leadership job and select leaders who fit the requirements.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

About the Author

Maytinee Kramer
Call me May. I’m a senior double majoring in Asian studies and broadcast media and minoring in international relations. I’m a K-pop and Disney junkie, but I also enjoy watching anime and cosplaying. Some of my favorite shows are “Once Upon a Time,” “Supernatural,” and “Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma” while my favorite music artists are 2PM, GOT7, DEAN and Eddy Kim. After college, I hope to work as a news anchor, but I’d eventually like to host a show/segment that focuses on traveling. I am fluent in Thai and currently learning Japanese and Korean.

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