How multi-ethnic networking helps to break through the “bamboo ceiling”

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., December 22, 2021 / PRNewswire / – When Parag Agrawal was recently named CEO of Twitter and joined a number of prominent South Asian CEOs holding executive positions at such prominent U.S. companies as Alphabet (Sundar Pichai), IBM (Arvind Krishna), Microsoft (Satya Nadella), Adobe (Shantanu Narayen), City group (Vikram Pandit), Mastercard (Ajay Banga) and PepsiCo (Indra Nooyi), among other. In contrast, the US has few prominent East Asian CEOs – despite their high levels of education and economic prosperity.

professor Jackson Lu In the MIT Sloan School of Management has spent the past five years researching this puzzling phenomenon commonly known as the “bamboo ceiling”. In his much noticed Research report published last year by doing Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceses, Lu, and colleagues found that ethnic East Asians (e.g., Chinese, Japanese) are less likely than ethnic South Asians (e.g., Indians, Pakistani) and Whites to assume leadership roles in American organizations, in part because of the unassertive communication style of the East Asians do not conform to the leadership pattern of mainstream American culture.

Now in a new research work published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Lu has uncovered an additional mechanism that contributes to the rise of East Asians into lower management positions: their higher propensity to network with their ethnic ingroup members (i.e., other East Asians), also known as ethnic homophilia. Lu’s new research shows that East Asians – but not South Asians – are less likely than other races to emerge as leaders in multi-ethnic settings, in part because East Asians tend to socialize more with their ethnic in-group members.

“If a person is frequently socialized with ethnic groups other than their own, that person is more likely to be perceived as an inclusive leader who can combine the values ​​and interests of different ethnic groups, a central characteristic of leadership in multiethnic settings,” says Lu. .

To examine the phenomenon of the “bamboo ceiling” from the perspective of social networks, Lu conducted three studies at multiethnic US law and business schools – the origins of budding executives. First, he analyzed a large survey of 54,620 students from 124 U.S. law schools and found that East Asians had higher ethnic homophilia than any other ethnic group (Whites, South Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Middle East, and Native Americans). Using a social network analysis, the next two studies examined friendship networks and the emergence of leadership skills in 11 class sections of new MBA students at a US business school; Prof. Lu found that East Asians were the least likely to be nominated and elected as leaders. The lower leadership of the East Asians was partly explained by their greater propensity to socialize with ethnic group members (ie, other East Asians). These results held even after considering factors such as individual assertiveness, general popularity, English proficiency, American / international status, and personality.

Importantly, these results were true for both East Asian Americans and East Asian internationals, suggesting that while East Asian Americans are native English speakers who speak in The United States, Her cultural upbringing may still predispose her to socializing more with her ethnic ingroup.


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