Video: Why Are Asian Women Underrepresented in Corporate Leadership?

Janet Wong (L) moderates a panel on Asian Pacific women leaders with (L to R) Janet Yang, Anna Mok, Leona Tang, and Purnima Kochikar. (7 min., 18 sec.)

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Sunday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, which aims to celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women. But for the rest of the year, women — particularly Asian women — remain underappreciated in the United States. Overall corporate representation for Asian Pacific men and women is comparable to their population shares, but this representation drops sharply the higher up the leadership ladder you go. The drop is even more acute for Asian Pacific women.

Studies have found that companies with a higher proportion of women and minorities in high leadership positions perform significantly better financially than those that don’t. So why aren’t more companies seizing this opportunity?

At an Asia Society Northern California event on February 25 entitled Asian Pacific Islander Women in Leadership, this question was put before four accomplished business leaders. "I think people are generally emotional beings more than they are totally rational beings," said Janet Yang, president of Janet Yang Productions and The Manifest Film Company. "Ultimately, you do what’s comfortable for you and hang around people who are more like-minded. If these institutions have been run by white men for a long time, it’s going to take a lot to change that overnight."

Leona Tang, executive vice president of Internal Audit at Charles Schwab & Co., said that fixing the situation necessitates educating everyone about it. "Slavery didn’t end because slaves said slavery is bad," she said. "It required others within power knowing that, understanding, and then accepting that there needs to be change."

In the above clip, panelists Yang, Tang, and Purnima Kochikar share different views on the question of why Asian women are still so underrepresented in leadership positions, and what can be done about it.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Eric Fish

Eric Fish was a Content Producer at Asia Society New York and is author of the book China's Millennials: The Want Generation.