BOSTON—May 5, 2022—Bain & Company research has found that feeling included is critical to employee retention and success. However fewer than 30% of employees across all geographies, industries and demographic groups say that they feel fully included at work. Asian workers report feeling the least included, with only 16% of Asian men and 20% of Asian women saying they felt fully included at work.
Asian American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and reflect on the diverse Asian heritage that can be found across the US. However, with the increase of violence and institutional racism affecting the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, it is more important than ever for employers to understand and support their AAPI employees.
Bain & Company points to common traps employers fall into, such as focusing on broad generalizations about Asian American populations. Asian Americans overall are well educated and have done well economically relative to the US population as a whole. While such achievements are to be celebrated, they can obfuscate the complexity of the AAPI experience.
“The Asian community in the US is very diverse, so there isn’t just one Asian American identity or experience,” said, Pam Yee, a partner at Bain & Company and leader in its Performance Improvement practice. “There are dozens of ethnic backgrounds and countless immigration stories within the Asian American community. Some are well represented in the professional world, while others are more marginalized. But one thing is consistent across the board: a struggle with the challenges of stereotypes, acceptance and assimilation.”
Many Asian Americans face significant barriers in the workplace, including discrimination and the “Bamboo Ceiling,” which limits advancement to leadership roles. While 9% of the professional workforce identifies as Asian, only 2% of CEOs do. While Bain is one of few major firms in the US with an Asian American leader at its helm, it too is working to overcome a representation gap between its junior and leadership levels.
“At Bain, we’ve conducted internal focus groups with Asian American employees to better understand the challenges they face in the workplace,” said Karthik Venkataraman, a partner at Bain & Company and leader in its DEI and Travel and Leisure practices. “We have seen that role models and cultural norms are particularly important to empowering these employees in the workplace. As Asian leaders, we’re thinking about how we can share our own experiences and help elevate the voices of others in our communities who might feel less included, and we are helping other leaders across Bain to do the same.”
Bain & Company’s recent report The Fabric of Belonging: How to Weave an Inclusive Culture shows how paying attention to the different “texture” inclusion has for various communities within an organization is key to employee retention and success. For example, Bain’s research shows that actively accounting for cultural differences in systems such as performance management, promotion or recruitment is especially important in creating a more equitable and inclusive environment for Asian Americans. Additionally, regular coaching, professional development, and transparent feedback, along with structured DEI programming and education, are all shown to increase inclusion for Asian American employees.
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