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New report finds that AAPI women still feel effects of ‘bamboo ceiling’ in the investment industry

According to a recent report, most Asian American and Pacific Islander women in finance still feel that race and gender negatively impact their career opportunities.

A Sept. 27 report by the Association of Asian American Investment Managers found that 80 percent of AAPI women agree that there is a “bamboo ceiling” barrier when it comes to advancing through workplace management positions. 58 percent said it affected their career, and many noted that the limits became more obvious once they moved past entry-level roles. 

According to Bloomberg, the results were based on survey responses from 608 people, including 174 individuals who identified as AAPI women. Bloomberg interviewed several women who echoed the results of the report, including former BlackRock Inc. executive Melissa Maquilan Radic. 

“Especially when trying to move up in the ranks, the onus was on women to prove themselves,” Radic told Bloomberg of her general time in the corporate world. “I would look at women who had similar job titles to men, and their qualifications were twice as robust.” 

Other AAPI women who spoke with Bloomberg mentioned having to adapt to “guy talk” in a male-dominated industry, and having to work harder to advocate for themselves and their ideas. 

These sentiments are also reflected in the AAAIM’s findings, where nearly 70 percent of AAPI respondents said that they felt inhibited by perceived cultural values.

“Asian women may be viewed as subservient, submissive and passive, and traditional Asian families often raise their daughters to view themselves as secondary in their families behind male relatives,” one respondent said. “In my own family and career, I have definitely refrained from asking tough questions, in large part, due to the lack of training and education on assertiveness. What’s more, daughters are not raised to feel self-worth, which makes it very difficult to confidently advance in their careers.”

Yet some AAPI women who were able to advocate for themselves found that their assertiveness would be viewed as being difficult. “[S]imilar commentary coming from a non-diverse male would be seen as completely normal,” another respondent reflected. 

The AAAIM suggested in its report that workplaces try to be more inclusive of people of AAPI descent in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Among other recommendations, the organization suggested that companies hold more networking events for women of AAPI descent, use blind résumés when filling management positions, and offer more culturally informed leadership training.

“AAPI women can take steps to improve their chances for promotion, but firms have the duty to assess their own workplace culture, practices, and policies to ensure that they are offering a level playing field,” Brenda Chia, co-chair of AAAIM’s board, said in the report. “When AAPI women do not have the same opportunities for advancement as their peers, our industry is disadvantaged.”

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