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Advancing Asian women in the workplace: Catalyst's new guide for managers.

December 2003

The Business Case

Although Asian women are a fast-growing and highly educated segment of the U.S. workforce, they remain one of the least represented groups in top positions at Fortune 500 companies.

* Compared to other women of color, Asian women are most likely to have graduate education, but are least likely to hold a position within three levels of the CEO. (1)

* From 1990 to 2000, Asian women employment increased 46 percent--from 3.6 million to 5.3 million, and is projected to increase another 42 percent to 7.5 million in 2010. (2)

* The percentage of Asian women corporate officers in the Fortune 500 was 0.29 percent in 2002 (30 Asian women corporate officers out of a total of 10,092). (3)

The Buzz

Drawing on our extensive knowledge about Asian women in the U.S. corporate workforce, Catalyst introduces Advancing Asian Women in the Workplace: What Managers Need to Know. This guide provides managers with strategies for better recruiting, retaining, and advancing this increasingly important source of talent. In order to understand the unique experiences of Asian women in corporate America, Catalyst conducted a series of surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with more than 400 Asian women professionals.

Our findings show that one of the most significant challenges for Asian women in the workplace is building and sustaining key relationships. "Asian women have difficulty finding mentors and few report having positive relationships with their managers," explains Catalyst President Ilene H. Lang. "This study gives both the managers and the women who work for them tools to overcome these barriers."

Key Findings

* Many differences were found between two groups of Asian women--the first group, defined as women who were born in the United States or immigrated in childhood and who speak only English at home, and the second group, women who immigrated as teenagers or adults and who speak a second language at home.

* Asian women report the lack of key professional relationships--with mentors, managers, and other influential people--as a major barrier to their career advancement.

* Some cultural values reported by Asian women, such as discomfort with self-promotion and not challenging the way things are done, are at odds with successfully navigating American corporate culture.

* Many Asian women feel overlooked by diversity programs and policies. Only 9 percent of Asian women feel that members of their racial/ethnic group have benefited from their companies' diversity programs.

Recommendations for Managers

* Make sure you and your staff understand the business case for recruiting, retaining, and advancing Asian women in the workforce.

* Help Asian women build internal and external networks by encouraging them to join affinity groups, employee networks, and professional associations.

* Encourage differences in work style from all your employees. Coach and develop Asian direct reports to effectively communicate their work accomplishments.

* Develop relationships with Asian women direct reports to include mapping out goals and assisting with navigating organizational politics.

* Use an inclusive definition of "family" when planning work-related social events. Work with HR to ensure that policies and programs are available for extended-family-member dependents.

* Seek out an Asian woman mentee or mentor.

(1) Catalyst, Women of Color in Corporate Management: Opportunities and Barriers, (1999).

(2) Howard J. Fullerton, Jr. and Mirta Toosi, "Labor Force Projections to 2010: Steady Growth and Changing Composition," Monthly Labor Review (November 2001):23.

(3) Unpublished data collected for the 2002 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners in the Fortune 500.

With this issue of Perspective Catalyst recognizez

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Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Previous Article:Catalyst welcomes new leader Ilene H. Lang and salutes former president.
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