Crazy, Rich? IRL Asian American Women Fight Bamboo Ceiling to Succeed
“Crazy Rich Asians” is a critical hit and a box office stunner with $34 million in box office receipts the first week reaching broad audiences as the sleek Hollywood adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel directed by Jon M. Chu with an Asian cast.No white Hollywood stars masquerade as Asian characters here.The romantic comedy that is “the first contemporary-set studio production since 1993’s ‘Joy Luck Club’ to feature a majority Asian troupe,” according to USA Today, indeed is busting stereotypes and nodding to more fair representation in Hollywood for Asian actors.[bctt tweet=”@CrazyRichMovie is busting stereotypes and nodding to more fair #representation in Hollywood for Asian actors. “ username=“takeleadwomen”]But the wardrobes, fun, romance and laughter of the movie — mostly taking place in Singapore— belie what is reality for Asian American women in the workplace in this country.Even the main character in the film, Rachel Chu played by Constance Wu, though she is an economics professor at New York University, is paid less than her male counterparts. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2016-2017, a full female professor in New York was paid $113,284 per year, while a male professor was paid $130,804.
Not to be a killjoy here and spoil the ending, but ambition on the part of the Asian American heroine is presented as the deal breaker.
“The bamboo ceiling can be thought of as an invisible barricade that prevents Asian-Americans from rising to leadership positions in organizations. Even though the stereotypes about Asian-Americans tend to be more positive on the surface, there are some negative consequences, such as the categorization that Asian-Americans are meek, mild-mannered, quiet, and lack the necessary skills required to be successful leaders,” Janice Gassam writes in Forbes.Yet the number of Asian American women leading companies is sparse.Ellen McGirt writes in Fortune, “When Indra Nooyi announced she was leaving the top spot at PepsiCo, it triggered a painful and necessary look at the plight of women in executive leadership: There are now only 22 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 index.”Dr. Lisa Su, AMD’s president and chief executive officer who also serves on the company’s board of directors, is one of those 22.“In the year following the multi-industry #MeToo reckoning, Asian American women are still struggling to bust the ‘model minority’ myth and to have their professional setbacks recognized and addressed,” Tiffany Diane Tso writes in Slate.According to Tso, “For Asian American women, the model minority myth manifests itself in especially ugly forms that derive in part from our cultural fixation on Asian women as sexual objects. In a 2015 study for RacismReview, author and activist Sharon Chang researched public perceptions of women of color, including Asians, through Google’s search algorithm. Chang found that Asian women were the least likely to be viewed as leaders and most likely to be fetishized.”She continues, “A Yale Law School study found that Asian American attorneys tend to experience mental health issues at higher rates.” Additionally, “A recent report on Silicon Valley from the Ascend Foundation revealed that Asians, though the largest racial cohort in the industry, are the racial group least likely to be promoted to manager and executive positions.”Perhaps this is one of many reasons more Asian American women are becoming entrepreneurs.“As many as 39 percent of Asian-American women identify themselves as entrepreneurs, more than any other group of women in the U.S., according to a 2017 Nielsen study,” Elisabeth Rosen writes in Nikkei Asian Review.“The number of U.S. businesses with an Asian female majority owner increased 44 percent over the past five years, with sales from those businesses growing 54 percent. In comparison, total female-majority-owned businesses grew just 27 percent and their sales increased 19 percent,” Rosen writes.And while there are many success stories of Asian American female entrepreneurs and it is true that women are paid more in many cases than other women of color—including African Americans, Latinas and Native Americans, there remains a racial pay gap.[bctt tweet=“As is true for all women of color, Asian American women experience a #RacialPayGap. Asian women are paid 87 cents for every dollar paid to white men according to @NPWF. “ username=“takeleadwomen”]“Asian women are paid only 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men – a difference that equates, individually, to nearly $300,000 over the course of one’s career,” writes Sarah Fleisch Fink in National Partnership.“The wage gap for Asian women is no less punishing because it appears smallest. Asian American Pacific Islander subgroups suffer from especially large wage gaps. For example, Burmese and Samoan women are paid roughly half – 51 and 56 percent, respectively – of what white, non-Hispanic men are paid. Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Fijian, Guamanian/Chamorro and Indonesian women all are paid less than 70 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men,” Fink writes.While the myth of the model minority persists and the assumption is that all Asian Americans succeed in this country, that is not the reality.[bctt tweet=“The myth of the #modelminority persists and the assumption is that all Asian Americans succeed in this country, but that is not the reality. #CrazyRichAsians” username=“takeleadwomen”]“The National Coalition for Asian Pacific Community Development reports that two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country live in poverty and are one of the fastest-growing poverty populations,” writes Cynthia Yung in Trib Talk.“From 2007 to 2011, the number of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) poor increased by more than half a million — an increase of 38 percent. Almost 60 percent of the net increase in this group was in the native-born segment of the population,” Yung writes.“Certainly, these are lower poverty rates than other groups, but rising more quickly. A 2016 US Census Bureau reports that of the 40 million Americans living in poverty, 11 million are Hispanic and nine million are African American. The overall AAPI community has an 11 percent poverty rate; the Hispanic rate is 22 percent and the rate among African Americans is 25 percent. However, for Asian ethnic groups like Hmong, Bangladeshi and Cambodian, the poverty rates are higher.”Gassam writes, “Many fields cannot afford to neglect this demographic—Asians make up the largest percentage of physical science and engineering students and they are well-represented in the tech industry. Asian women, in particular, are one of the fastest-growing populations in the American workforce and they can be an asset to the organization’s global business as well as providing a linkage to an underserved group.”