Why we should stop lumping all Asian Americans into one diversity bucket
Photo: Mimi Thian/Unsplash

Why we should stop lumping all Asian Americans into one diversity bucket

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This excellent piece by Delia Cai is making the rounds, and it’s a must-read for anyone following the way we work (or don’t work) right now. In other news, if you’re on the West Coast, please do your best to stay hydrated.

Today, it’s time to stop lumping every worker from the most populous continent on the planet into one single diversity bucket. Plus, how one professor stood up to the toxic culture at computer science conferences, and new research shows that hiring freezes and layoffs are still increasing.

— Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

“Asian Americans are a bit misunderstood”

McKinsey’s team of workplace experts is doing the research and writing the reports and getting the receipts on all the meaty complex cultural stuff we cover in this newsletter. I’ve written about the company’s annual women in the workplace analysis and about how diversity initiatives aren’t advancing blue-collar workers. Now, out today, we’ve got a new set of takeaways on Asian Americans in the corporate world.

If you remember anything from today’s newsletter, I hope it’s that lumping “Asian Americans” together in a bucket just does not work for research or for improving outcomes. It’s a grouping we’ve invented that mushes together the experiences of people tied to countless cultures and countries on the most populous continent on the planet.

The report found that depending on ethnicity, education and immigration status, Asian American workers have very different outcomes. But no matter how they identify, most surveyed for this report have the same problems we see for women of color and minority groups in general in the workplace — lower levels of pay and promotion, and a lesser sense of meritocracy, fairness and inclusion than white and male counterparts.

I sat down with one of the report’s authors, Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner and director of McKinsey’s Global Institute, and asked her to give me the most important takeaways for employers.

  • The first thing that Ellingrud told me is that she hopes companies really internalize how harmful it can be to lump people together under the umbrella of a shared Asian American experience. “Indian is very different than Chinese, is very different than recent Chinese immigrant. You need to understand what the education is, what those experiences are, the variability, the dispersion of outcomes, the underlying issues,” she said. “Asian Americans are a bit misunderstood. People think, ‘Oh, they are pretty well represented.’ Actually there’s a lot of variability in Asian American outcomes.”
  • If nothing else, Ellingrud suggested that employers begin by disaggregating their diversity data based on whether someone identifies as South Asian, Southeast Asian or East Asian.

In addition to better and more specific data collection, Ellingrud emphasized the importance of sponsorship. Most women and minority groups report receiving plenty of mentorship, but sponsorship is in fact very different — and far more important.

  • “Sponsorship is creating opportunities for someone else. Could look like helping you get a promotion, helping you get staffed on a project, speaking positively about someone or in a review. It usually means I am using my earned political capital to help you in your career. It could mean I'm risking some of my reputation to help you advance,” she said.
  • The best employers quantify and track sponsorship very closely, she said. At McKinsey, Ellingrud gets a score for her sponsorship that identifies how many people she sponsors, where they are in their careers, how they feel about her sponsorship and how she compares with other senior company leaders. That’s a practice she encourages every employer to take seriously.
  • “Advice is cheap. It’s worth exactly what you pay for it. While it’s helpful to have a broad set of mentors, sponsorship is much more of an intense investment, a mutual commitment. Most leading companies on diversity, equity and inclusion have both defined it and are measuring it,” she said.

Requiring sponsorship and tracking it closely helps to address the fact that without rules in place, people are often more inclined to sponsor those who look and act like them. “And when we see others who are quite different, it’s hard for us to interpret skill and capability accurately. We don’t recognize it because it’s not in our frame of reference,” Ellingrud said.

— Anna Kramer (email | twitter)

Calling out toxic CS culture

Last month, the University of California, Berkeley’s much-respected Edward Lee — a professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer sciences, who for several decades has served on program committees that judge research papers — caused an uproar in the CS community after he shared a scathing review of the system. Ever since conferences adopted a new review process that shields the names of judges, as well as papers’ authors — many made the change in the early 2000s — critics say a new problem has arisen: Rejection notes are often so random, or just factually incorrect, that applicants suspect nobody actually read their paper. Reporter Anna Kramer spoke to Lee about why he’s chastising the community he’s been a loyal member of for so long, and what he thinks can be done to address the problem.

Read the full story.

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By the numbers: Layoffs are increasing

HR budgets are shrinking and hiring is still slowing down in many organizations, according to a new report from Gartner. The consultancy surveyed more than 160 HR leaders last week to find that hiring freezes and slowdowns, HR budget cuts and layoffs are all more widespread than they were earlier in the summer.

  • 37% of respondents said they were slowing down hiring, up from 27% in June and 32% in July. 12% admitted that they were doing layoffs, up from 2% in June and 9% in July.
  • Nearly one in four HR leaders said they were implementing a hiring freeze. Only 9% said the same in June and 13% in July.
  • One in five leaders said they were slashing HR budgets, up from 13% in both June and July.
  • Most leaders (54%) said in June that they weren’t taking any steps to cut costs, while only 37% said the same last week.
— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬆️ Need a job? Head to Minnesota.

⬇️ Sources: VMware is bleeding talent ahead of the Broadcom acquisition (partly because Broadcom’s CEO might end remote work).

⬇️ Fintech company Revolut is allegedly revoking job offers to new grads.

⬇️ Recent hires, millennials, high earners and other workers who should watch their backs when it comes to layoffs.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but don’t start rumors about your co-workers (even if they get the promotion that should have gone to you). (Ask a Manager)

Would you hire someone anonymously? (Twitter)

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy won’t force workers back to the office. (CNBC)

Very bad bosses. (WorkLife)

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