3 women in office looking at computer Asian American white-collar professionals are the least likely group to be promoted from individual contributor roles into management. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Asian Americans are “the forgotten minority in the glass ceiling conversation,” according to an op-ed in the Harvard Business Review by leaders of Ascend, a nonprofit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals.

Ascend’s analysis of national EEOC workforce data found that Asian American white-collar professionals are the least likely group to be promoted from individual contributor roles into management — less likely than any other race, including blacks and Hispanics. The nonprofit’s analysis also found that white professionals are about twice as likely to be promoted into management as their Asian American counterparts.

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The fact that Asian Americans represent 12 percent of the professional workforce while making up only 5.6 percent of the U.S. population has created a “potential blind spot” for many companies; because Asian Americans are not considered an underrepresented minority, they are given little priority or attention in management diversity programs, the nonprofit’s leaders write.

“The large numbers of Asian Americans in the professional workforce confirm that businesses are finding qualified Asian Americans to hire,” they write. “However, the disparity between the lower ranks and the executive levels suggests either that leadership potential is  disproportionately lacking in Asian Americans or — much more likely — that companies have not done an adequate job of identifying and developing Asian American talent.”

The nonprofit recommends key steps that corporations should take to “address the Asian glass ceiling,” including carefully reviewing the retention and promotion rates of Asian Americans by race and gender; securing proactive support from the C-Suite to rectify any gaps in management diversity programs; and making Asian American leadership one of the goals and sustained priorities of the company’s leadership development process, “not just as a one-time special diversity project.”

HR leaders must go beyond recruitment, hiring and inclusion and add advancement to the ranks of management as part of their organizations’ diversity and inclusion efforts, according to HRDive.

“Inclusion is essential in keeping employees engaged and is also key to establishing innovation as a core tenant of the company, recent studies reveal,” HRDive writes. “But to see real success, companies must make inclusion a key aspect of the company culture, rather than just a corporate policy.”