Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What Is the Bamboo Ceiling?

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What Is the Bamboo Ceiling?


5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Asian Americans face invisible, biased barriers to success; they call this problem the “bamboo ceiling.”

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Overview
  • Engaging


Asian Americans – especially those from East Asian cultures such as China, Korea and Japan, which value harmony and humility over assertiveness and self-promotion – face a challenging yet invisible obstacle to their success. Experts call it the “bamboo ceiling.” In this Hubspot article, business journalist Mia Sullivan explains the unconscious biases that can come into play when American companies consider Asian American employees for promotion. Organizations can help these employees by offering more equitable career development pathways. Proactive employees also can become more self-promoting and consciously develop their own networks.


Though overrepresented in the professions, Asian Americans are underrepresented in top leadership positions.

According to statistics, Asian Americans are spectacularly successful. They are the most educated US demographic, given that 54% have bachelor’s degrees or higher. They have the highest average median income and the lowest unemployment numbers. They score high in generational upward economic mobility.

Despite this, Asian Americans consistently confront an obstacle to career success. In 2005, executive coach Jane Hyun labeled this barrier, “the bamboo ceiling.” While Asian Americans are 12% of US professionals, only 4.4% are directors at Fortune 1000 companies. Although firms hiring tech workers are more likely to enlist Asian Americans over other demographic groups, Silicon Valley firms are less likely to promote them to top roles. So, why does the “bamboo ceiling” exist? Researchers blame bias, cultural differences and poor corporate career development programs.

The theory of “implicit leadership” posits a “cultural archetype...

About the Author

Mia Sullivan writes about business and technology at The Hustle blog.

Comment on this summary