Bamboo and Glass Ceiling – Do Asian Women Have Two Ceilings To Break Through?



The Bamboo Ceiling is a term relating to the lack of representation of leaders in Australian business’ from Asian backgrounds.  A 2013 DCA reports suggests a huge underrepresentation of women leaders from Asian backgrounds – 29 female versus 233 male.  Furthermore, a BRW article by Fiona Smith and Michael Bailey state that the same DCA report “suggests there are no female directors with South-East Asian cultural origins. This is compared with 0.9 per cent male directors. There were also no female senior executives reported from that region”.  Does this mean that Asian women have two ceilings to contend with?

If this is the case, what can individuals do to deconstruct this challenging career structure? Beatrix Tanuwidjaja writes in her blog for DAWN (Diverse Australasian Women’s Network) that Asian graduates do report finding themselves hitting both the bamboo and glass ceiling.  And, while there are many contributing factors, Beatrix also refers to 3 tips to assist in advancing Asian Australian careers; namely:

  • Sharpen your presentation skills
  • Be aware of your environment
  • Seize every opportunity

Interestingly, Jane Hyun, American author of “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling” talks in an interview about both organisations and individuals having impact.  She also refers to being able to pitch your accomplishments as well as one of her career ‘a-ha’ moments about the importance of building an informal relationship with your manager.

From my perspective as a Career Practitioner, I can see value in the insights from both Beatrix and Jane for all women at any stage of their career.  In fact, all of these strategies are about career development.  If we are to break through any gender barriers we must be successful in self-managing our career development.  This requires the ability to understand your value and how it relates to contemporary business needs teamed with the ability to promote, network and ultimately engage.

Career Development tips:

  • Understand what value you add
  • Set objectives and create a flexible career plan
  • Develop a networking plan
  • Manage your online profile
  • Get a mentor

Posted by Felicity McLaughlin

This is the latest in a series of articles about career development for women, espcially those returning to work. If you would like to discuss your own career options following maternity leave and/or raising children, or following long-term carer’s leave, please contact Bravo Consulting about how we can help you achieve your career goals.

BonnieSue Nevin

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