Survey notes decline in Asian American workers’ satisfaction with growth opportunities

Asian Pacific American (APA) employees’ satisfaction with professional growth opportunities at their companies in the U.S. has shown a “slight but steady decrease” over the last two years, although some companies have notably made progress in their workplace diversity practices and initiatives, a new Asia Society Survey shows.

According to results from Asia Society’s 2019 Asian Corporate Survey, which examines the perceptions and lived realities of Asian Pacific American (APA) employees in the U.S. workplace, the decrease in job satisfaction, while not precipitous, is still notable as APA employee favorability was trending upwards prior to 2017 in the four-year study.

The results of the 2019 Asian Corporate Survey that included South Asians, was published May 15.

Many APA respondents, in significant contrast to their non-APA counterparts, noted a shortage of company executives and directors from their cultural background and a lack of leadership development opportunities for them.

The other main findings of the study is that APA respondents also cited that they did not feel a strong sense of belonging in the workplace, sometimes due to differences between their personal upbringings and American work culture.

For example, the study said, one APA survey respondent cited cultural differences in communication styles, noting “our traditional culture of being humble, reserved, and a team player when practiced in a professional setting tends to be misunderstood for being timid, quiet, and lacking in leadership.”

More than 2,500 employees, including 32.7 percent South Asians, participated in the survey, which included over 500 non-APA employees to provide greater context for comparison and benchmarking in how they viewed their companies.

Almost 70 percent of APA survey respondents identified themselves as first generation. Close to half of the respondents are in technical roles, while 3.4 percent are on the chief executive level.

The report also highlights employers who were previously announced as the winners in Asia Society’s 2019 Best Companies for Asian Pacific Americans for their noteworthy efforts in developing and promoting APA talent.

Discover, named Overall Best Employer by Asia Society this year, for instance runs a company-wide Chinese dragon boat race to help educate their employees on its cultural significance. Goldman Sachs, also an award-winner this year, manages a “Presentation Skills Boot Camp” for their firm-wide Asian Professionals Network to help APA employees enhance their presentation skills.

The gender representation in this survey was approximately equal between women and men, with 0.1 percent identifying as transgender. Almost half of the respondents were Gen X (born between 1965-1981) which may explain the cultural mismatch, followed with millennials (born in 1982-2000), and baby boomers (born in 1946-1964). Almost 60 percent of them have been with their employer for more than five years.

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