Fiona Lee & Amy Ko, UM Psychology

Navigating the Bamboo Ceiling: Perceptions and Stereotypes of Asian Leaders
Fiona Lee
Amy Ko


Winter 2018
Lecture Time: 
Friday, January 12, 2018 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business
Introduced By: 
Emily Vargas


Objectives: In the United States, Asians are often under-represented in positions of leadership. Known as the “bamboo ceiling”, this phenomenon has been attributed to racial stereotype of Asians as highly competent, but lacking in the essential leadership characteristics of warmth and sociability. Methods: Drawing on stereotype subtyping theory, we tested the effect of this stereotype on perceptions of Asians’ leadership effectiveness. Results: Two experiments found that stereotype-consistent Asian employees (high competence but low social skills) are seen as less effective leaders than White employees with identical skills, even though both employees are seen as equally qualified as leaders. Stereotype-consistent Asians are also seen as less effective leaders that stereotype-inconsistent Asians (low competence but high social skills). We replicated these effects in contexts where Asians experience low and high race-occupation fit (retail vs. academia respectively). Conclusions: These findings have theoretical implications for understanding how racial stereotypes influence contribute to the bamboo ceiling, and practical implications for how Asians can more effectively attain leadership positions.

Additional Notes

Professor Lee's research focuses on 3 main topics under the broad topic of social behaviors in organizational and work contexts: (1) Identity Integration: How do people negotiate between their multiple identities? (2) Power: How does having power (or not) affect the way people behave? (3) Culture: When do cultural differences affect people and organizations?
Professor Lee teaches Introduction to Organizational Psychology (Psychology 260) and Research Methods in Personality and Social Context (Psychology 854 and 855).

From Amy: I examine topics related to workplace diversity and strategies for coping with racial discrimination. Currently, my research examines how Asian Americans navigate glass ceilings in the workplace. Although Asian Americans are often believed to be well-represented in the general workforce, they remain underrepresented in positions of leadership. My dissertation examines how the model minority myth (i.e., the racial stereotype that Asian Americans are highly competent, but lack warmth/charisma) contributes to the lack of Asian Americans in leadership and strategies Asian American professionals can use in navigating glass ceilings. A second line of my work examines how Asian Americans cope with racial discrimination. Specifically, I examine how trait mindfulness moderates the relationship between coping with discrimination and health outcomes.