65% of survey respondents say that structural racism has been a moderate or serious problem in their careers
September 14 (San Francisco, California): The Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) today released its new report: “Good Workers – Not Leaders: Unconscious Biases That Stall AAPI Advancement.” The report, which was co-sponsored by Backstop Solutions Group, details the results from a survey of 100 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) investment management professionals based in the U.S., as well as more than a dozen qualitative interviews. The themes of the report will be explored further with speakers from the industry, including Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!, at AAAIM’s national conference on September 15 and 16: AAAIM Together.
The “bamboo ceiling” is a daily obstacle faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the workplace that manifests itself in regular microaggressions and structural racism, preventing these executives from reaching senior management or C-Suite positions. More than 90% of investment managers who responded to the survey believe the bamboo ceiling is a problem in their careers, with 65% of respondents believing it to be a moderate or serious problem. The full report can be read here.
“It is disheartening to hear that so many Asian American and Pacific Islander investment managers continue to face challenges in their careers on the basis of their race and background,” said Gordon Liao, Board Vice-Chair of AAAIM. “There is much to be done to achieve equal opportunity for advancement in the investment management industry, and we believe that the results of the survey and interviews illustrate the unconscious biases that too many AAPIs experience. We hope that this provides CEOs, HR leaders and managers in the industry with a reference point for what it will take to create a truly inclusive environment, so that we can continue to strive towards breaking the bamboo ceiling.”
The challenges that AAPI investment managers face in their daily experiences include those of a woman, Kate. Kate was called Stephanie 2.0 by her white male co-workers because they believed she was a “better” version of another Asian American woman named Stephanie, who had previously worked at the firm. The nickname had nothing to do with the merits of her work and everything to do with the fact that the prior Stephanie had been tasked with disciplining these male co-workers for bad behavior. There are multiple similar stories from other survey participants outlined in the report.
The idea of AAPIs being the “model minority” is a key factor that often disadvantages those in the community. 75-90% of survey respondents find AAPIs to be associated with positive perceptions of the model minority, such as “good workers.” Yet, 70% of respondents believe that they are not perceived as good leaders. Almost 40% agree they aren’t considered good managers or strategic thinkers. Thus, perceptions of the bamboo ceiling and hindrances to advancement, despite general competence, are clear.
The co-sponsor of the report, Backstop Solutions, serves multiple sectors of the institutional investment community and have long been advocates of diversity and inclusion within the industry. Backstop Solutions’ Chief Marketing Officer Maryling Yu stated: “Given the rise in hate and violence against the AAPI community brought on by the pandemic, we believe it is more important than ever for the AAPI community to speak out and share their experiences. That’s why we jumped at the chance to support AAAIM in this critical research. The experiences narrated by the respondents in the study show that there is a lot more work to do, so we recommit to the cause of diversity and inclusion both within our own organization and in the larger investment management community that we serve.”
AAAIM’s report provides tangible solutions for companies, allies, and AAPIs seeking to address these systemic issues in the workplace. Through the report, the non-profit organization recommends AAPIs themselves focus on networking, become more outspoken, try to stake a claim within their workplace, and find a mentor.
AAAIM strives to support many of these initiatives through its networking groups and advocacy for diversity, equity and inclusion. As dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion evolved in 2020, AAAIM leaders and members sough to raise awareness of the challenges and bigotry that AAPIs face in the workplace. For more information, visit aaaim.org.
The Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) is a national 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in the investment management industry, serving as a powerful voice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Our goal is to elevate underrepresented groups through education, networking, and empowerment.
About Backstop Solutions:
Backstop Solutions’ mission is to help the institutional investment industry use time to its fullest potential. Backstop develops technology to simplify and streamline tasks and processes, enabling clients to quickly and easily access, share, and manage the knowledge that’s critical to their day-to-day business success.
Director, Montieth & Company