Minorities face a wide range of challenges in the working world. Some of these challenges stem from gender or race bias, and are chronic problems that many different businesses struggle to deal with. The term bamboo ceiling refers to the racial bias that can limit the ability of some Asians to succeed in Western industries, especially the job markets of the United States.
The term bamboo ceiling has its roots in the term glass ceiling, which refers to an employee or set of employees who can only be promoted to a certain position, but cannot attain any level above that position due to company ethics, business practices, lack of skills, or stereotypes. Bamboo ceiling is a more specific term; it refers to the practices that keep Asians, especially the Chinese, from entering higher-paying and more prominent jobs in the United States.
There are several reasons for the bamboo ceiling. One reason is common bias and stereotyping; many businesses are simply unwilling to consider Asians for leadership roles and seek diversity with African-Americans or Latino populations instead. Other businesses assume that Asian workers may be skilled in some areas, but lacking in knowledge or leadership skills. Sometimes the Asian culture, which can encourage no aggressiveness, plays a part in keeping Asians from fighting for the more prominent management positions.
Many different industries experience a bamboo ceiling, but common examples are found in science and commercial business sectors. Scientific communities have a very low number of Asians or Asian-Americans in key positions, and commercial industries that deal with marketing, consultation and salesmanship are more likely to be biased against Asian-American attitudes.
Sticky floor is another term that is often used in conjunction with bamboo ceiling. While the bamboo ceiling keeps Asians and Asian-Americans from winning important positions within a company or community, the sticky floor references the ability of Asians to be hired, but the decreasing likelihood that they will find themselves in positions of leadership. Many companies assume that the Asian minority in the United States is hardworking and quiet, and these assumptions lead many to believe others are more qualified for management positions.
Now that bamboo ceilings have been identified as a common problem in Western industries, various programs and initiatives are being put into place to help solve the problem. Companies are developing training programs to decrease bias and encouraging more Asian-Americans to apply for higher positions. On the other side, Asian-Americans are beginning to encourage one another and develop techniques for breaking through the bamboo ceiling on their own.