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Solutions for Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling

Diversity consultant Jane Hyun (C) chats at the reception prior to her workplace diversity talk hosted by ASTC in Houston on Dec. 2, 2010. (Asia Society Texas Center)
by Aliya Sabharwal
2 December 2010

HOUSTON, December 2, 2010 — Cultural values and differences "are not about right or wrong but about different lenses for looking at the world," diversity consultant Jane Hyun says. Operating effectively in a culturally complex environment requires "knowledge, sensitivity, and interpersonal astuteness."

Hyun, author of Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians, kicked off Asia Society Texas Center's new BP Diversity Series in a talk before employees of a cross-section of Houston industries. The series, underwritten by BP, aims to encourage workplace diversity and provide usable information to Asian-Americans seeking to rise on the corporate ladder.

In urging both Asians and non-Asians to become more aware of how cultural values and behaviors effect their perception of others, she said employees and managers need know how to adjust their behavior to make others more comfortable.

Hyun elaborated a series of contrasting cultural values that find expression in the workplace: Egalitarian vs. Hierarchical views of power, Individualistic vs. Collectivistic definitions of identity, Direct vs. Indirect modes of communication, Emotional Restraint vs. Emotional Expressiveness.

These differences can be the source of misunderstandings that affect not only work performance but prospects for advancement. For example, non-Asians may confuse Asian emotional reticence with lack of passion for a project or misconstrue an emphasis on group consensus with a lack of personal initiative, she said.

She encouraged senior managers to allow for variations in leadership styles and work-team dynamics. Prospering in a globalized economy requires businesses to "develop talent strategies with cross-cultural competencies at every level," she said.

A second lecture in the BP Diversity Series is planned for Spring 2011.

Reported by Fritz Lanham


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