For Asians in America, finance still the last frontier

Author Jane Hyun discusses ways to break through the barriers facing Asians in the American business world.

By Stephanie Xiao

Jane Hyun, author of Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling, discussed the cultural challenges to success for Asians in the American workplace and highlighted the broader merits of multicultural understanding among corporate leaders at 5710 S. Woodlawn last night.

Hyun, former Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Development at JPMorgan and Director of Recruiting at Deloitte, currently serves as the founder and president of Hyun & Associates, a firm dedicated to executive coaching and leadership training.

In a talk entitled “Lessons from Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for a Changing World,” Hyun drew upon personal cross-cultural observations and experiences in work and education that underscored the extent of stylistic and value differences between Asian and non-Asian cultures. She especially drew on recollections from her earliest days at JPMorgan.

“Asians were never talked about. I knew they were counted as minorities, but somehow it was never part of the mainstream dialogue,” she said. “We need to consciously do something about it. It’s not going to happen magically.”

Hyun defined the bamboo ceiling as a combination of individual, cultural, and organizational characteristics that impede Asians’ career progress in the corporate world. These factors, which can include a lack of close relationships with higher-ups and timidity in meetings, can be solved through cultural fluency and understanding on both sides, according to Hyun.

“Multicultural thinking brings about a better solution at the end of the day,” she said.

The event was sponsored by PanAsia as part of Spring Festival 2012, an annual celebration of Asian Heritage Month featuring numerous events around campus.

According to fourth-year PanAsia board member Robert Lin, previous Spring Festivals typically feature discussions about pop culture and portrayals of Asian Americans in the media, but this year the RSO has chosen to focus on and draw more attention to the intersection of multiculturalism and business.

“It’s something that’s definitely not talked about a lot so I think it’s important to draw attention to it. And there’s an audience for it, especially at our campus where there are a lot of Asians students who are interested in business. This year we saw a need to highlight that issue and create a space for this conversation to happen,” Lin said.