The Bamboo Ceiling in the Boardroom and the Classroom
Research Seminar
12 Jun 2023 (Mon)
10:30am – 12:00pm
LSK RmG001
Prof. Michael W. Morris, Columbia University

While Asians in the US excel in career and educational outcomes relative to most, the generalization of success misses some areas of lower attainment. The popular construct of a "Bamboo Ceiling" implies a problem for Asians broadly, but findings from recent research with Lu and Nisbett (Lu, Nisbett & Morris, 2020, 2022) reveal a stark difference between East Asians and South Asians. In leadership attainment, East Asians underperform (because of lower assertiveness) but South Asians do not. Profile experiments indicate whites feel less prejudice against East Asians but also less confident in them as leaders. In educational research on ethnic barriers East Asians have received limited attention, as they are commonly assumed to excel across all educational stages. Six large studies challenge this assumption by revealing that East Asians (but not South Asians) underperform in US law schools and business schools. This is not because East Asians are less academically motivated or less proficient in English but because their low verbal assertiveness is culturally incongruent with the communication style valued by these institutions. Online instruction (via Zoom) rather than an in-person classroom mitigated East Asians’ underperformance in courses emphasizing assertiveness and class participation. Results suggest ways that managers and educators can create more inclusive workplaces and schools.