Why do Few Asian Women Own Businesses in America? | DCR Workforce Blog

Why do Few Asian Women Own Businesses in America?

Asian Women Own Businesses in AmericaIn this post, we want to explore the prospects of the Asian community in America, specially focusing on whether Asian American women are reaching their potential as leaders in corporate America. If not, are policies needed to unleash the potential of this growing demographic, or are there other inhibitors that can’t be legislated against? These are all questions which beg answers.

We find that, as indicated in the pie chart below, as of July 2013, 5.3% of America is of Asian origin.

Why do Few Asian Women Own Businesses in America

Some Interesting Facts about Asians in America:

  • According to U.S. Census Bureau’s annual population estimates, Asian Americans have been the fastest growing ethnic group in America since 2010. Immigration has been driven by educational pursuits, job opportunities and family reunions. Largest among them are Chinese, Filipino, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan), Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, in order of size. Their total number stood at 19.4 million in 2013.
  • 50.5% of Asians aged 25 and above have a bachelor’s degree or higher education, as compared to 28% of the population at large. 86% of them are high school graduates. 21% of Asians age 25 and older have an advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.). This compares with 10 percent for all Americans 25 and older.
  • 80% of Asian Americans live in households with Internet use.
  • Median household income for Asians in 2012 was also the highest among all race groups.
  • According to the last available Census data – 8.6% of Asians are unemployed, while 70% of men and 58% of women over 16 years are employed. 49% of them work in management, professional and related occupations, such as financial managers, engineers, teachers and registered nurses.
  • 1.5 million Business ventures were owned by Asian-Americans in 2007, totaling $507 billion in revenues and 2.8 million employees.
  • 5.14% of the U.S. female population in 2012 consisted of Asian-American women, which could grow to 7.8% by 2050.
  • Many Asian women are found to be uninsured and they lack health coverage. They do not undergo routine health tests and have a higher rate of suicide, at 15.9 than the general population, which stands at 13.5%.
  • Asian American women achieve a higher level of educational attainment at 49.4% than the general population at 45.8%, and are usually on a par with their male counterparts in science and engineering education. But, in 2012 the total earnings of all the Asian women in America were but 73% of the total earnings of all Asian American men.

Many Asian countries emphasize science and technical education, medicine and more recently computer programming, to be followed by management education to fuel their high ambitions. Their work ethic and perseverance makes them successful, and they are considered an essential talent pool for America. To date, this hasn’t translated into leadership positions, except for a few well-known names like Indra Nooyi. But their visible success has excluded them from inclusive practices like affirmative action. This is not a recent phenomenon. New York Times asked in 2012, if Asians were too smart for their own good, thus losing out on opportunities they truly deserved.

‘Bamboo’ Ceiling:

With all the high acclaim the Asian American communities generally receive for their technical skills, we see very few of them reaching positions of leadership, unless they are at the helm of their own entrepreneurial ventures. The balance at Microsoft may have tipped a little bit, though, with the recent elevation of Satya Nadella, since Time published these numbers, but all of these ratios demonstrate that Asians struggle to break through the ‘bamboo ceiling’. Most Asians have been unable to reach top leadership positions at U.S. companies, with just 1.5% of them holding leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies

Asian Women Own Businesses in America

This disparity is much higher when we consider Asian women in leadership roles. Of the 1.5 million businesses owned by Asians in 2012, Asian women owned 620,300, reflecting a 156% growth since 1997. That represents 6.7% of all women-owned firms across the country, with total revenues of $105 billion. But, 82.5% of these firms are non-employers, while the rest of them employ 649,000 workers.

Apparently, hiring or promoting Asians and Asian-Americans is not counted as encouraging diversity even though it helps improve one’s diversity rating. Their exclusion from diversity and inclusion in leadership and non-tech sectors is not recognized by many corporates as the exclusion of a significant segment of their own markets.

In the ultimate analysis, diversity and inclusion are not about offering benefits which someone does not deserve. It is about offering the same opportunities to someone irrespective of their ethnicity, gender or other attributes. Let us hope to see Asian women gain the opportunities they fully deserve and feel encouraged to come forward and give free reign to their aspirations and abilities.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.