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The idea of cultural diversity in the workplace is a popular one, generating much discussion about the inclusion of and affirmative action toward minorities. However, these conversations rarely involve Asian Americans, who despite above-average levels of educational achievement, household income, and employment, find themselves underrepresented in and shut-out of upper-level management positions. In this project, I investigated the stereotype of East-Asian Americans as a model minority (created by non-Asians) to find out why East-Asian Americans are underrepresented in upper-level management in corporate workplaces, a phenomenon known as the “bamboo ceiling.” I explored a variety of scholarly sources that analyzed the historical implications of the “model minority” stereotype as well as factors believed to contribute to the aggregation of Asian Americans in technical rather than managerial roles in the workplace.

I determined that the Asian American experience and ensuing model minority myth is strongly tied to America’s poor history with prejudice and discrimination against racial minorities. Asian Americans are consistently stereotyped as perpetual foreigners with poor language and communications skills, and they are excluded from networking, mentoring, and training pipelines to promotions to management. These barriers result in a “bamboo ceiling,” preventing East-Asian Americans from proportionally rising to management or major decision-making roles within an organization.

The aim of this project is to bring attention to the role of implicit and institutional discrimination in hiring and promotional practices within American corporations as they concern Asian Americans, who are not traditionally considered victims of racial and ethnic discrimination. My research has also shown that the “model minority” stereotype is a harmful myth that masks deep-seated social and racial issues that continue to plague our nation today. I hope that continued dialogue concerning stereotyping and discrimination will bring more awareness to the issue and contribute toward the attainment equality for all.

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Asian American, model minority, glass ceiling, perpetual foreigner, institutional discrimination, bamboo ceiling, implicit bias, manager, supervisor


East Asian Languages and Societies | Education | Education Economics | Engineering | Higher Education | Inequality and Stratification | Law | Leadership Studies | Multicultural Psychology | Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Race and Ethnicity | Science and Mathematics Education | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Social Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Work, Economy and Organizations

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Margaret Tinsley


© The Author(s)

The Bamboo Ceiling: A Study of Barriers to Asian American Advancement