New Study shows Asian Women in Tech fare worse than White Women

I made the move from Consumer Goods to Tech about 6.5 years ago. For many reasons, the Tech industry gave me hope as an Asian Woman. For one, there were so many more Asians across the company – in peer groups and in leadership positions. I remember leaving my full-day interviews thinking this company was full of unicorns and rainbow glitter. 

Though there were some drawbacks like having to move back into an Individual Contributor role, I felt the holistic value equation was quite good. As my oldest son turned one, I needed more of a balance than CPG companies could give… and I yearned for better maternity leave once we expanded our family.

Although Tech has come a long way in Diversity initiatives and are ahead of many other industries, Asian Women are still lagging behind in advancing to leadership positions. A new report about the workplace experience of Women of Color in Tech continues to affirm there’s more work to do. All Women already have an uphill battle, but it’s far worse for Women of Color.

I’m sending gratitude to one of my former team members who shared this article with me. She knows this is a passion area of mine!

Quick Summary of Findings

  • Women of Color face more bias than white women and report lower levels of fairness compared to white women
  • WoC take on more work including DEI that’s not included in the job description nor given extra compensation and have to self-edit to make others feel comfortable
  • WoC reported getting promotions they deserved at 10.1ppt lower than white women. Unfair promotion processes had a significant effect on belonging, intention to stay and career satisfaction
  • ⅔ of the women in the study reported some form of sexual harassment with ¼ reporting unwanted physical contact and almost 10% having lost career-enhancing opportunities

Asian and Asian-American women reported the worst overall experiences in the study

  • We feel invisible, under-leveled, stalled and unsatisfied. Namely, we don’t see a long-term future at our current workplaces.
  • East Asian women feel expected to play feminine roles, and that they are not expected to play leadership roles.
  • South Asian women reported accent discrimination and assumptions of having too many children.
  • Southeast Asian women reported facing “Forever Foreigner” stereotype.

5 biases that Women of Color reported experiencing more than white women

  • Prove-it-again Bias: most WoC feel we must prove ourselves repeatedly to get the same respect as white woman
  • Tightrope Bias: Walk a fine line to counter unspoken expectations that we should be deferential rather than authoritative. For example, WoC are more likely to report being interrupted, 17.9ppt higher than white women
  • Maternal Wall Bias: WoC face bias based on motherhood and diminished perceptions of competence and commitment post-children, 16.4ppt higher than white women
  • Tug of War Bias: Conflicts among WoC, reporting we are more likely to worry if they are supported by another member of our group that it could be perceived as favoritism, 19.1ppt higher than white women
  • Racial Biases: WoC face negative racial and ethnic stereotypes at 51.1ppt higher than white women

There’s so much to unpack in this incredible 158 page report and much of it aligns with my own qualitative research with the 80 women I interviewed in Q1 2022. 

So what can we, as individuals in a biased system, do about this? Learn how to spot biased behaviors (Module 1), break through biases against you (Module 3), and break down systemic biases (Module 5) in the RISEx program. 

What can Companies do about this? Do not leave Asian employees out of your DEI efforts or leadership development programs. Although the broad numbers may show high percentages of the workforce as Asian, it’s important to break down these numbers to uncover whether certain groups of Asians are not making it to leadership positions. 

Asians commonly report low discomfort but have you heard of the phrase “Eat Bitter” (Chinese) or “Drink Bitter” (Hindi)? Stay tuned for more “bitter”…

Cindy Halvorsen

Cindy Halvorsen

The Leadership Coach for Asian Americans.
I'll help you reach the level of success you deserve and desire.

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I’m the Leadership Coach for Asian Americans that you never thought you needed.

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