Breaking through the ‘Bamboo Ceiling’

 In Bamboo Ceiling

Asian managers take it easy so they get ahead down under

AMBITIOUS Asian managers are underperforming to fit in with Australia’s laid-back work ­culture, a new business study concludes.

The Diversity Council Aus­tralia report — sponsored by Deloitte, IBM and the Com­mon­wealth Bank — warns that a “bamboo ceiling’’ is blocking the rise of Asian talent.

Australasians make up 9.3 per cent of the workforce, but only 1.9 per cent of executive ­positions.

An office drinking culture is a turn-off for Asian executives, the report says.

“Encourage work socialisation that involves eating, rather than only drinking alcohol,’’ it advises employers.

The Diversity Council’s survey of 300 Australasian business executives and emerging leaders found that “meaningful work’’ is a bigger motivation for them than money.

While 93 per cent of non-Asian workers cited “being in a well-paid job’’ as a career driver, only 72 per cent of Asians agreed.

Nine out of 10 Asian executives craved a challenging job, compared to 79 per cent of non-Asians. The survey shows that 27 per cent of workers with Asian heritage have “scaled back at work’’ to fit in with a laid-back ­office culture.

“Cultural bias at work had caused one in four participants to ‘scale back’ at work — that is to reduce their ambitions, work fewer hours, work less hard or consider resigning,’’ the report says.

One of the Asian managers interviewed for the survey said hard workers were sometimes “viewed negatively’’ in Australia.

“Here I have found the majority of people are content with what they have, which is good but that also means some of them may not want to work harder,’’ the executive wrote.

“Also, they may perceive ­others who are willing to work hard negatively.’’

The Diversity Council ­describes many senior staff with Asian backgrounds as “high-­performing introverts’’ who are uncomfortable criticising decisions or demanding promotions.

Dai Le, the founder and executive director of the Diverse Australasian Women’s Network, came to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee at the age of seven, and now works as chief marketing officer for Beloka Water.

“As an Asian woman there have been a lot of hurdles but I’m pretty pushy and keep banging at the door,’’ she said yesterday.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane recently suggested a “bamboo ceiling’’ was blocking Australasians from positions of power.

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