USDA_Report by xiaoyounan


									N E IT H E R B L A C K N O R W H I T E :



                SAMUEL WONG, PH.D.

N E IT H E R B L A C K N O R W H I T E :



                SAMUEL WONG, PH.D.
Samuel Wong, a former president of the Asian Pacific American
Network in Agriculture (APANA), was the Acting Assistant
Administrator for Administration of the Office of International
Cooperation and Development (OICD) until its recent merger with
the Foreign Agricultural Service in USDA. Before Civil Service, Dr.
Wong was an Associate General Secretary of the Commission on
Religion and Race, the United Methodist Church. He has written
several papers on race relations for publications such as
Engage/Social Action, the United Methodist Reporter, the New
World Outlook, and the Interpreter. His most recent publication is the
paper Communication and Career Advancement: the Asian Pacific
Experience in USDA. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Northwestern

                         TABLE OF CONTENTS

FOREWORD ......................................................................... v

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .........................................................vii

.............................................................................................. ix

THE GLASS CEILING PHENOMENON ............................... 1

THE JOB SITUATION .......................................................... 15

..............................................................................................   23
Lack of communication skills ................................................                    23
Too research-oriented ..........................................................                 25
Key Barriers ..........................................................................          26
Prejudice ...............................................................................        27
Lack of career planning ........................................................                 29
Hostile environment ..............................................................               29
Lack of organizational savvy.................................................                    32
Other barriers ........................................................................          34
Lack of a mentor ...................................................................             35

.............................................................................................. 37

HOW TO OVERCOME THE BARRIERS............................. 49

ENDNOTES .......................................................................... 55

REFERENCES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                              59

APPENDIX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                            61


                                   David Montoya
                       USDA Office of Civil Rights Enforcement

Advocates of equal employment opportunity have observed that barriers to career
advancement are flexible lids. For the groups who are reserved in their interaction styles,
their lack of assertiveness is cited as a barrier. For those who are less advanced in formal
education, their relatively low level of educational attainment is a barrier. For those who are
vocal, they are considered as too loud and therefore a liability to their career. For those who
are focused in their professional pursuit, they are deemed to be not managerial material
and they are left in their "technical ghetto." Some are blocked from advancement because
they are too specialized; others are kept from upward mobility because they lack technical

Many employees feel that they work in an environment of shifting values. If the selecting
officials happen to like the employees; they focus on the strengths of the employees. If the
selecting officials happen not to like the employees, they focus on the purported
weaknesses of the employees. The key is in the definition of the situation. He who has the
power to define the situation determines the outcome of that situation. The practice of "like
hires like" is common in the employment world. It is not absent in the public sector.

This dynamics of shifting values is reported in the study on Asian American experiences in
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Sam Wong, a staff member of the Foreign
Agricultural Service, directed the study for the USDA Senior Executive Candidate
Development Program. The USDA Office of Civil Rights Enforcement had the opportunity
to review the report and decided to publish it. I congratulate Dr. Wong for making an
exceptional contribution to the cause of equal employment by this "labor of love." Writing
this report was not his regular work assignments.

Almost one thousand -- one of every two -- Asian American employees in the U.S.
Department of Agriculture participated in the study. The response rate is high and the
findings are representative. The study clarifies the problems and challenges facing Asian
American employees, and their employment situations might be representative of the
conditions confronted by women and other ethnic and racial minority workers.

Being neither Black nor White should not keep Asian American employees, or any
employees of whatever color or gender, from career advancement. The employment
systems must be reformed to make full use of all the talents of all employees. A new USDA
needs the gifts of all people; we must remove the barriers that keep them from reaching
their full potentials.

Washington, D.C.
June 1994

        This study is the by-product of a management project undertaken in the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP) in 1993.
 Reiko T. Sakata of the Sakata Consulting Group, California, was the preceptor of the project. In
that capacity, she worked with the author to develop the conceptual framework and the
questionnaire for the survey of Asian Pacific American employees in the USDA. The project
concluded with a paper titled Communication and Career Advancement: The Asian Pacific
Experience in USDA.

      John Miranda, former Acting Administrator, USDA Office of International Cooperation and
Development (OICD), provided the resources for the author's participation in the SESCDP and the
implementation of the survey project.

       Larry Slagle, former Director, USDA Office of Personnel, authorized the use of the list of
Asian Pacific American employees from the central personnel database. The 981 employees who
responded to the survey are the real authors of this study.

        Recognized Asian Pacific leaders in USDA including Vi Baluyut, Pat Basu, Fumiko Church,
Angel Cielo, Nilda Godwin, Eva Kaufman, John Kusano, Karen Liu, Hao Tran, and Jinhee Wilde,
pre-tested the questionnaire and offered valuable comments on improving the questionnaire and
other aspects of the survey.

       Wardell Townsend, Jr., USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration, endorsed the project
and encouraged Asian employees to participate in the survey.

        Zhixu Zheng, a visiting scholar from China, developed the computer program in FoxPro for
the analysis of the survey data. She also assisted in preparing the questionnaire for mailing.
Lorraine Sigler, a computer specialist in OICD, provided assistance in scanning the mailing list from
the Office of Personnel.

         Staff members of OICD, including Helen Stanard, Theresa Przybylek, Mary Griffin, Angela
Robinson, and Lauren Beatty, provided valuable assistance at various stages of the management

       Other colleagues in USDA, including Mike Alexander, Bob Franco, Norm Franklin, Lon
Hatamiya, Karin Leperi, and Bill Payne gave critical comments on various drafts of the concept
paper and the project report.

      Laura Whitaker, a colleague in OICD, read the complete draft of this study and made helpful
suggestions for improvement. She also gave critical comments on the project report.

        Marcus Fang, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, offered valuable
insights on the problem of cross cultural communication. Joan Wallace, former Administrator,
OICD, made available Maurice Dawkins' study of the problem of minority under-representation in
the U.S. Department of State and offered cogent comments on how to overcome the barriers to
career advancement.

       Cathy, Philip, and John Paul Javier-Wong, the author's teenage children, gave invaluable
assistance in data entry. Mercedes Javier Wong, the author's spouse and resident critic, made
inestimable investments in the management project and this study.

     David Montoya, Director, USDA's Office of Civil Rights Enforcement, wrote the
FOREWORD for this report and provided resources to publish and distribute the report.

        Vi Baluyut, in her capacity as the Acting Asian American Program Manager of the USDA
Office of Civil Rights Enforcement, provided oversight to the publication and distribution of this

        Ed Poe and Phil Villa-Lobos, staff members of USDA's Office of Communications, directed
the review, editing, and publication process.

        The contributions of these mentors, friends, and colleagues, and the USDA employees who
responded to the survey made possible the completion of the SESCDP management project and
this study.

                                EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

•981 Asian employees responded to the survey, yielding a response rate of 55.2 percent.

•Nine out of ten (94 percent) of the Asian employees (91 percent of the females) feel they can
       communicate well or very well.

•Four out of five (83 percent) of the Asian employees (65 percent of the females) are college
       graduates, and 43 percent have advanced degrees.

•Four out of five (82 percent) of the Asian employees (79 percent of the females) do not believe that
       Asians are so research-focused that they cannot supervise people.

•Seven out of ten (70 percent) of the Asian employees (75 percent of the females) are from the
      three established ethnic groups in the Asian community -- Japanese, Chinese/Taiwanese,
      and Filipino.

•Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the Asian employees (56 percent of the females) believe they
       have "organizational savvy."

•Six out of ten (62 percent) of the Asian employees (58 percent of the females) have career plans.

•Almost six out of ten (59 percent) of all the respondents (50 percent of the females) feel there is a
       glass ceiling in USDA.

•Slightly over one-third (37 percent) of the Asian employees (27 percent of the females) believe that
         their agencies discriminate against Asians.

•Slightly over one-third (36 percent) of the Asian employees (43 percent of the females) have

•One-third (34 percent) of the Asian employees, both male and female, have difficulty in balancing
       career and family.

•Three out of ten (30 percent) of the Asian employees (25 percent of the females) are more
       comfortable dealing with their own ethnic groups than with other racial/ethnic groups.

•Almost three out of ten (29 percent) of the Asian employees (32 percent of the females) feel they
       have been undercut (sabotaged) by their co-workers or supervisors.

•Most Asian employees are not in upper grades. Only 8 percent are in Grades 14 and 15. There
       are no career senior executives. More females are in lower grades.

•Grade 12 seems to be the modal grade for Asian employees with Doctor's or Master's degrees.

•Grades below 11 seem to be the modal grades for Asian employees with Bachelor's degrees.

The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                     1

        In recent years, Americans of Asian       Pacific Americans in Silicon Valley, little
descent i have voiced concerns over the           hard data is available on the nature of the
phenomenon of the "glass ceiling" in their        barriers facing Asian Pacific American
workplace. Like women in the workforce,           employees in the workplace.
Asian Pacific American employees have
encountered the artificial barriers that kept             This study of the "glass ceiling" for
them from career advancement. They "can           Asian Pacific American employees in the U.S.
see their way to the top of the career ladder,    Department of Agriculture is the by-product of
but bump into an invisible barricade when         a project in the Department's Senior
they try to make the climb."              They    Executive Service Candidate Development
participated in roundtable discussions            Program. It is a follow-up of an unpublished
convened by the U.S. Commission on Civil          report of the USDA Office of Advocacy and
Rights to register their complaint that "highly   Enterprise on workforce diversity. The report
educated Asian Pacific Americans earned           found that "low percentages of minorities and
less relative to their white counterparts....     women in selected occupations, in particular
[They] were much less likely to be in             professional     occupations;     and     low
managerial      jobs      than    comparable      percentages of minorities and women in
non-Hispanic whites." iii In the Fortune 500      higher grades, in particular GM/GS 13-15 and
companies in the U.S., only 0.3 percent of        in management and executive positions;
senior executives are of Asian descent.iv         [were] the two most significant problems of
                                                  workforce diversity in USDA."viii
        In a recent study titled Evolving
Workforce Demographics: Federal Agency                    This study is focused on the Asian
Action and Reaction, the U.S. Merit Systems       employees. It is an assessment of the
Protection Board found that minority workers      barriers that keep one group of minority
are also under-represented in the senior          people from moving into the senior grades
grades in the Federal workforce. v          It    and into the management and executive
recommended that Federal agencies "expand         positions. It makes no attempt to compare
their efforts to develop and advance the          the Asian experiences with those of other
careers of minorities in order to achieve full    minority groups or with the dominant group in
representation at all grade levels."              the USDA. The study attempts to contribute
                                                  to a better understanding of the "glass ceiling"
        Thus, in both the private and the         problem by letting Asians speak out for
public    sectors,   the      "glass   ceiling"   themselves.      And as they speak out,
phenomenon is present for Asian Pacific           strategies for overcoming the "glass ceiling"
American and other minority employees.            problem are identified and recommendations
They are kept from advancement to senior          for needed corrective actions are evolved.
positions in the corporate world and in the
Federal Government. However, except for
the study on glass ceiling issues facing Asian
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                    2

It is the policy of the United States to
insure equal employment opportunities             Table 1:Asian employees are a
for employees without discrimination
                                                            small segment of the
because of race, color, religion, sex, or
national origin.                                            USDA workforce
5 United States Codes 7201.
                                                                         1984            1993

                                                  Percent of Asian
                                                  employees in
        Of course, the responsibility for
overcoming the "glass ceiling" problem does
                                                  All Positions          1.1%            1.6%
not rest with the Asians alone. In fact, in the
public sector, the Federal Government, under
                                                  Senior Positions       1.6%            2.3%
5 U.S.C. 7201 and the Civil Service Reform
Act of 1978, has the statutory mandate to
eliminate situations in which a minority group
in the civil service is under-represented. The             In the U.S. civilian labor force, Asian
data presented in this study are a call to the    Americans and Pacific Islanders accounted
Government to hasten its efforts in expanding     for 1.6 percent in 1980 and 2.6 percent in
and assuring opportunities for equal              1990. ix In 1984, the U.S. Department of
employment for all Americans.                     Agriculture had a total of 97,624 employees in
                                                  the permanent workforce of which Asian
                                                  Pacific American employees accounted for
                                                  1.1 percent. In 1993, the total permanent
                                                  workforce in the USDA had increased to
                                                  99,903, and the proportion of Asian Pacific
                                                  American employees had also increased to
                                                  1.6 percent (Table 1).x Thus, the proportions
                                                  of Asian Pacific American employees in the
                                                  USDA were less than their proportions in the
                                                  civilian labor force, but the Department had
                                                  increased its recruitment and hiring of Asian
                                                  Pacific Americans between 1984 and 1993.

                                                          In 1984, a total of 10,671 USDA
                                                  employees held senior level positions,
                                                  Grades 13 and above. Of these, 1.6 percent
                                                  were Asian Pacific American employees. In
                                                  1993, the total number of senior positions was
                                                  13,399, with Asian Pacific American
                                                  employees occupying 2.3 percent of the
                                                  positions (Table 1). Thus, the proportion of
                                                  Asian Pacific American employees in senior
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                    3

level positions is considerably higher than       larger agencies would provide more
their proportion in the total permanent           opportunities  for   development      and
workforce in USDA, even though none of the        advancement, however, this is not true for
career senior executives in USDA in 1993          Asian Americans.
was an Asian. xi Based on these data, one
might conclude that Asian Pacific American                 Asian employees are in 160-plus
employees fare reasonably well in the USDA.       different occupations, with 31.9 percent of
                                                  them in the following five most populous job
                                                  series: veterinarian (701 series), plant
        According to the records of the USDA      protection and quarantine (436 series),
Office of Personnel, the Department had           computer specialist (334 series), chemistry
1,778 Asian Pacific American permanent            (1320 series), and forestry (460 series).
employees on its roll in June 1993. Of these,     Again, to bring results to the advancement
59 percent were male and 41 percent were          efforts, it might be more effective, as a short-
female. They work in 36 of the 40-some            or mid-term strategy, to focus on these more
agencies and staff offices of the Department,     populous occupations.
with a concentration in six agencies: the
Forest Service (28 percent), the Food Safety              Asian employees are found in all the
and Inspection Service (17 percent), the          states and many of the U.S. territories. Many
Agricultural Research Service (15 percent),       of them are in California, Maryland, Hawaii,
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection            Virginia, and Oregon.
Service (12 percent), the Farmers Home
Administration (6 percent), and the Soil                  To assess the status of the "glass
Conservation Service (5 percent).        The      ceiling" in the USDA, a questionnaire was
remaining 18 percent are found in the other       mailed in August 1993 to the 1,778
30-some agencies and offices of the USDA.         employees who were self-identified in the
                                                  central personnel database as Asian
         As a strategy for moving Asians          Americans or Pacific Islanders. A total of 981
upward on the career ladders in the USDA, it      responded to the survey, yielding a response
might be more effective to concentrate the        rate of 55.2 percent.xii
group efforts in the six agencies where the
employees are already present in the pipeline,
 than to expend energies in the entire
Department.         Besides, some Asian
employees in these six agencies have
explicitly expressed the lack of promotional or
developmental opportunities in their agencies.
 One of these agencies, for instance,
envisions that "minorities will make gains
starting at the entry level positions." No
recognition is given to the representation of
minority employees at the senior levels.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                      4

                                                   as the analysis in the section on the gender
Table 2:More of those in upper                     factor shows, since more Asian females are in
                                                   lower grades, and employees in lower grades
          grades responded to
                                                   tend not to respond to the survey, the
          the survey                               under-representation of females in this study
                                                   is probably due more to the grade factor than
               Population          Survey          the gender factor.
Grade                        %         %
15                    1.45           1.36
14                    5.19           7.00
13                   11.21          13.58          Table 3:The most populous job
12                   20.58          23.20                    series     are      not
11                   15.62          17.45                    over-represented in the
10                    0.22           0.31                    survey
09                   16.06          16.30
Below 09             29.67          20.80                                 Population     Survey
                                                                          %              %
               N= 1,778          N=957             Veterinarian           12.05          10.55
                                                   Plant Protection
                                                   & Quarantine             7.14          5.64
        While the findings of this study reflect   Computer
the views and opinions of one of every two         Specialist               5.19           3.97
Asian Americans in the USDA, they are more         Chemistry                3.85           2.51
representative of the employees in higher          Forestry                 3.57           4.81
grades, except for those in Grade 15 (Table                           N= 1,778         N= 957
2). Those below Grade 9 have not responded
to the survey in proportion to their presence in
the workforce. Perhaps, with the opportunity               Given their relative dominance in the
for advancement ahead of them, many of             workforce, and the "promotion" of the survey
them do not perceive or anticipate any             by a senior staff person in Food Safety and
barriers, and the emphasis of the survey is        Inspection Service and the Asian Pacific
less relevant to them. It might also be            American program manager of the Forest
possible that these employees, being in lower      Service,xiv employees in the veterinarian and
grades, feel that usually "nobody listens to       forestry job series, along with those in the
them" and therefore chose not to respond to        other three most populous occupations (plant
the survey.xiii                                    protection    and    quarantine,     computer
                                                   specialist, and chemistry), can be expected to
        Proportionately, there were fewer          have a dominance in the survey. The findings
female Asian Pacific Americans in the survey       might reflect more of the opinions and views
than in the total population in the USDA (36.5     of these employees. However, as shown in
percent in the survey; 40.9 percent in the         Table 3, except for those in forestry,
population).       The reasons for their           employees in four of the most populous
under-representation are unknown. Perhaps,         occupations were slightly under-represented
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                    5

in the survey. The survey results cover a
broad spectrum of Asian employees.

        The     Asian    Pacific     American
respondents are in 130 different occupations
(another 30 occupations are not represented
in the results) and about two-thirds are in
technical or research jobs. None of the
respondents is in a blue collar or wage-grade
position. About 40 percent of them are in
supervisory or managerial positions. xv This
diversity in occupations is probably more
representative of the general Asian white
collar employment situation than one might
expect from a Federal agency.
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                       6

Table 4:Asian employees have many more years of service in the Government

Age groups:            Under 30              31-40        41-50           50+          Total
                           %                 %            %               %
01-10                        18              32           30              20             393
11-20                         0              33           36              31             359
20+                           0               1           33              66             194
Total                         8              26           33              33             946

*YOS= years of service

        Slightly more than two out of five (42       is a continuing frustration that would sap their
percent) Asian employees have less than 10           energies and undermine their productivity. It
years of service in the Federal Government           makes equal opportunity into another
(Table 4). Of these, 18 percent are under 30         "American Dilemma."xvii
years old, 32 percent are in the 31-40 age
group, 30 percent are in the 41-50 age group,
and 20 percent in the oldest age group. If
they remain in Government service, and if the
average retirement age among them is 65,
most of them will have 15 to 25 more years of

        Almost two out of five (38 percent) of
the Asian employees have 11-20 years of
service. Of these, 33 percent are in the 31-40
age group, 36 percent are in the 41-50 age
group, and 31 percent in the oldest age group.
 Like their colleagues with less than 10 years
of service, many of them will also have 15 to
25 more years of service.

        Thus, four out of five (80 percent) of
the Asian employees in USDA will likely have
15 to 25 more years of service in the
Government. xvi Those who are near their
retirement age might be expected to tolerate
the status quo of inequity. For people with 15
to 25 more years of service, the "glass ceiling"
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                 7

                                                  reflection of prior investment in education.
Table 5:Asian employees are from                  Most Asian employees, it is believed, have
                                                  acquired a high level of education which then
           diverse origins
                                                  enables them to be assigned to the relatively
               (N= 926)
                                                  senior positions. This argument appears to
                                                  be supported in the survey.
               Number               %

Japanese           257              28
 Taiwanese         243              26
Filipino           152              16
Indian              82               9
Pakistani           47               5
Vietnamese          40               4
Korean              37               4
Other Asian/PI*     68               7

* includes Hawaiian, Thai, Cambodian,
Okinawan, Indonesian, and immigrants from
other Asian countries and Pacific Islands and
U.S. Territories.

        A majority of the Asian Pacific
American employees in the USDA come from
the more established ethnic groups such as
the Japanese American, the Chinese and
Taiwanese American, and the Filipino
American (Table 5). Some of them are from
India and Pakistan, South Korea and Vietnam.
 In addition, 20-some other countries-of-origin
are represented among the Asian Pacific
American population in the USDA.
Three-fourths of the Asian Pacific American
employees are married.

        Advocates of equal employment
opportunity, especially those of Asian descent,
have consistently argued that the relatively
high number of Asian employees in senior
positions in the workforce is not as much an
indicator of career advancement as it is a
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                             8

Table 6:Most of the Asian Pacific American employees are college graduates

              Bachelors      Bachelors      Masters   Doctors   Total
                   %             %               %         %
Below 11          39             49             11          2    356
11                 7             52             25        16     167
12                 3             32             24        41     221
13                 3             31             14        52     129
14 & 15            1             17              8        75      79
Total             17             40             17        26     952

        Of the Asian employees in this study,
26 percent have doctorates, 17 percent have
master's degrees, and 40 percent have
bachelor's degrees (Table 6). Among the
Asian Pacific American employees in senior
grades (grades 14 and 15), 99 percent are
college graduates. At Grades 12 and 13, 97
percent are college graduates. At Grade 11,
93 percent. Even among those below Grade
11, 61 percent are college graduates.
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                   9

Table 7:Most Asian employees are not in upper grades
               (in number)

                       Bachelors       Bachelors   Masters        Doctors           Total
Below 11                   138             173         38               7            356
11                          12              86         42              27            167
12                           6              71         53              91            221
13                           4              40         18              67            129
14 & 15                      1              13          6              59             79
Total                      161             383        157             251            952

       Among the Asian employees are 251           Asian Pacific Americans are facing an
"doctors,"   157 "masters,"      and 383           insurmountable glass wall."xviii
"bachelors." However, only 79 of all of them
are in Grades 14 and 15, 129 in Grade 13,                 It might be argued that career
and 221 in Grade 12. Most of the employees         advancement is more of a function of
with master's and doctor's degrees are in          experience (i.e., seniority in service) than
Grade 12, and most of those with bachelor's        education. Given the same conditions, those
degrees are below Grade 11 (Table 7).              who have more years of service are likely to
                                                   be higher in grade. This argument, however,
         If career advancement is contingent       does not appear to be supported in this study.
on educational achievement, more Asian
Pacific American employees should be in the
senior positions than the current 2.3 percent
in USDA. Of course, it is possible that the
higher educational attainment of the Asian
employees might work against them, as noted
by a respondent: "The credentials of those in
management are so sparse that there is no
desire to recognize people of superior talent."
 (Case 53) The highly educated employees
may be perceived as a threat rather than an
asset to their supervisors and managers. The
relatively low proportion of highly educated
Asian Pacific American employees in higher
grade positions confirms the perception that
in USDA, as in the corporate world, "most
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                         10

Table 8:       Years of service have no consistent impact on grade level
               (N= 953)

YOS*:          01-05          06-10              11-20       21-30           30+             Total
                    %              %                  %           %                %
Below 11            30             22               35             10               4            357
11                  28             13               38             15               6            165
12                  19             20               38             19               4            221
13                  14             11               49             23               4            130
14 & 15             10             23               34             29               5             80

*YOS= years of service

       Among Asian Pacific American                   those below Grade 11 and those in Grades 12
employees with 1-5 years of service, there is         or 13.
a concentration in the lower grades, 11 and
below (Table 8).                                              Thus, only for two "tenure" groups,
                                                      1-5 years and 21-30 years, grade level is
        For those with 6-10 years of service,         apparently and partially determined by
there is practically no difference among those        seniority in service. However, given the fact
below Grade 11, those in Grade 12 and those           that seniority in service does not consistently
in Grades 14 and 15; or between those in              lead to higher grades, it cannot be said that
Grade 11 and Grade 13.                                career advancement is primarily a function of
                                                      seniority in service.
        Among those with 11-20 years of
service, there is practically no difference
between those below Grade 11 and those in
Grades 14 and 15, and there is no difference
between those in Grades 11 and 12. A large
proportion of them, however, are in Grade 13.

        For those with 21-30 years of service,
there is a concentration in the upper grades.

        For those with more than 30 years of
service, there is practically no difference
between those in Grade 11 and those in
Grades 14 or 15, and no difference between
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                              11

Table 9:Grade 12 seems to be the modal grade for Asian employees with the
           doctor's degrees (N=249)

Grades:        Below 11             11            12          13            14 & 15     Total

                     %               %            %            %             %
01-05                 6             25            35          22            11            63
06-10                 4             11            33          17            35            46
11-20                 0              4            40          37            20            87
21-30                 2              2            38          24            34            50
30+                   0              0             0          33            67             3

*YOS= years of service

        To reduce the variation of educational
levels and years of service on grade levels,              Grade 12 seems to be the modal
employees who are college graduates are            grade for Asian employees with a doctor's
isolated for further analysis. Among those         degree. Proportionately, there are as many
with doctorates and 1-5 years of service, a        employees with 6-10 years of service in
majority are in Grade 12. Those with 6-10          Grade 14 (35 percent) as are those with
years of service are more concentrated in          21-30 years of service (34 percent).
Grades 12 and 14 (Table 9). Those with
11-20 years of service are concentrated in
Grades 12 and 13, and those with 21-30
years of service are mostly in Grades 12 and

        If seniority is a "determinant" of
grades, one should find proportionately more
Asian "doctors" with more years of service in
the upper grades. This expectation is partially
met among those in Grade 11 with 1-5 years
of service (25 percent) and those in Grade 12
with 6-10 years of service (33 percent), and
those in Grade 13 with 11-20 years of service
(37 percent). However, there are fewer
"doctors" in Grades 14 and 15 with 21-30
years of service (34 percent) than those in
Grade 13 with 11-20 years of service.
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                            12

Table 10:Grade 12 seems to be the modal grade for Asian employees with the
           master's degrees (N= 157)

Grade:         Below 11            11            12   13    14 & 15   Total
                    %              %             %    %     %
01-05               34             36            24    6     0          50
06-10               27             21            39    6     6          33
11-20               17             21            40   19     4          53
21-30               17             28            28   17    11          18
30+                  0             33            67    0     0           3

*YOS= years of service

        For those with master's degrees
(Table 10) and 1-5 years of service, a
majority are below Grade 11 or in Grade 11.
Those with 6-10 years of service are
concentrated in Grade 12 or below Grade 11.
 Those with 11-20 years of service are mostly
in Grade 12, and those with 21-30 years of
service are in Grades 11 and 12.
        The expectation that more "masters"
with more years of service will be found
among the upper grades is partially met
among the Grade 12s. However, there are
more "masters" with 1-5 years of service in
Grades below 11 than those with 6-10 years
of service in Grade 11. And the Grade 13 with
21-30 years of service are fewer than those in
Grade 12 with 11-20 years of service. Thus,
the impact of experience and educational
level on grades is inconsistent among
employees with master's degrees.

      Like the employees with doctor's
degrees, Grade 12 seems to be the modal
grade for Asian employees with master's
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                   13

Table 11:Grades Below 11 seem to be the modal grades for Asian employees
           with the bachelor's degrees (N= 381)

Grade:         Below 11             11            12            13             14 & 15      Total
01-05               72              15            10             1              1              79
06-10               60              12            23             5              0              75
11-20               37              30            17            11              5             151
21-30               18              26            28            25              4              57
30+                 21              26            21            21             11              19

*YOS= years of service

        As shown in Table 11, the modal            comparable to other employees with similar
grades for employees with the bachelor's           level of education or similar years of service.
degrees are Grades below 11.              The
expectation that holding educational level
constant, one would find more "bachelors"
with more years of service in the upper
grades is met, except for those with 1-5 years
of service.

        It was reported in the MSPB study
(1993) that "experience and education are
two of the most important factors in career
advancement in the Federal Government.
Those at the highest grade levels... tend to be
those with the greatest length of Federal
service, and those with the most formal
education." xix This might be true for the
Federal workforce, as a whole; but for Asian
Pacific American employees, years of service
or high level of education, or both, do not
assure that they would be in the senior
positions in USDA.

Being in positions that are not commensurate
with their educational achievement or years of
service, Asian employees are in effect denied
the opportunity to earn an income
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon   14
The Glass Ceiling Phenomenon                                                                    15


        How do Asian employees feel about
their job situations? Are they in the right
positions? Are their careers at a stand- still?   Table 13:Many Asian employees
Do they plan to move elsewhere? What                        feel their careers are at
chances do they have for promotions? These                  a standstill
are some of the questions asked of the                                            Not
employees.                                                        Yes             Sure    No      Total
                                                                  %               %       %
Table 12:Most Asian employees feel                Below 11        54              23      23      355
           they are in the right                  11              42              25      33      165
                                                  12              53              21      26      222
           positions                              13              50              21      29      129
                                                  14 & 15         34              33      33      79
In the right positions:                           Total           49              23      27      950
             Yes      No       Not Sure Total
              %        %            %
Below 11 45           36            19     352            As shown in Table 13, 49 percent of
11            55      29            16     163    the Asian employees feel that their careers
12            51      32            16     220    are at a stand still; only 27 percent feel
13            55      29            16     127    otherwise. Another 23 percent are not sure of
14 & 15       61      23            17      79    the status of their careers. Most employees in
Total         51      32            17     941    Grade 12 and below Grade 11 feel their
                                                  careers are at a standstill. One-half of those
                                                  in Grade 13 also have the same feeling.
                                                  Those in Grade 14 and 15 are about evenly
         One of every two (51 percent) Asian      divided among the ones who believe their
employees feel that they are in the right         careers at a standstill, those who are not sure,
positions. Almost a third feel they are not       and those who believe their careers are not at
(Table 12). There are more of those in higher     a standstill. More than one-fifth of the
grades who feel they are in the right positions   employees at each grade level are not sure if
than those in lower grades. There is a            their careers are at a stand still.
sizeable number of Asian employees, across
every grade level, who are not sure if they are             The proportion of those who feel their
in the right positions.                           careers are at a standstill (49 percent) is
                                                  exactly the complement of those who feel
                                                  they are in the right positions (51 percent).
                                                  There are more employees who are not sure
                                                  if their careers are at a standstill (23 percent)
The Job Situation                                      16

than those who are not sure if they are in the
right positions (17 percent).

        Conventional wisdom in the Federal
workforce, especially among employees in
upper grades, is that employees should
always look around for new opportunities for
promotion or other challenges.        Smart
employees, it is said, look for other job
opportunities regularly. Do Asian employees
follow the conventional wisdom?

Table     14:A majority of Asian
              employees    are   not
              actively seeking other

Seeking other jobs:
               Not looking            Did Apply in
                  now                   last 3 years
                     %                      %
Below 11            70                    59
11                  71                    61
12                  73                    57
13                  77                    53
14 & 15             81                    46
Total               73                    57
               N= 951                 N= 954

        As shown in Table 14, 73 percent of
the Asian employees are not looking for
another job now. Those in higher grades tend
not to be actively looking for another job.
However, 57 percent of them did apply for a
job in the last three years. Again, those in
higher grades tend not to have applied for
another job in the last three years.
The Job Situation                                                      17

Table 15: Most Asian employees feel they have the same chances for

Chances:       Poorer          Same         Seeking   Better   Total
                   %              %              %        %
Below 11            30            38            15       17     348
11                  26            26            33       15     163
12                  34            33            19       14     222
13                  40            25            27        9     128
14 & 15             28            31            29       12      78
Total               31            33            22       14     939

        Among Asian employees, 22 percent
are not seeking a promotion, 31 percent feel
they have poorer chances for promotion than
their co-workers, 33 percent feel they have
about the same chances, and 14 percent feel
they have better chances (Table 15). More
employees in Grade 13 feel they have poorer
chances of promotion than their co-workers,
and more of those below Grade 11 feel they
have about the same chances as their
co-workers or better chances to get promoted.
 More of the Grade 11 are not seeking
promotion, and more of those in Grades
below 11 feel they have better chance for
The Job Situation                                                                                18

Table 16:Profile of employees not                          The analysis thus far has shown that
                                                   almost one-half (49 percent) of the Asian
           seeking promotion
                                                   employees in USDA feel their careers are at
                                                   a standstill, slightly under a third (32 percent)
Satisfied with present grade (N= 203)
                                                   of them feel they are not in the right positions,
        Not very satisfied          9%
                                                   almost another one-third (31 percent) feel
        Somewhat satisfied         52%
                                                   their chances of promotion are poorer than
        Very satisfied             39%
                                                   their co-workers, and one-fourth (27 percent)
                                                   are actively looking for another job now.
In the right position (N= 200)
         Strongly disagree          4%
                                                            It is not clear at what point the
         Disagree                   9%
                                                   dissatisfaction of a group of individual
         Not sure                  12%
                                                   employees becomes a group issue. Perhaps,
         Agree                     55%
                                                   as long as the individual employees feel that
         Strongly agree        19%
                                                   their situations were unique and no
                                                   recognition is given to the systemic nature of
Actively looking for another job (N= 203)
                                                   their problems, the individual malaise will
        Yes                           8%                                                         xx
                                                   remain within the individual domain.
        No                          92%
                                                   Moreover, the individual "problems" at the
                                                   workplace are either moderated or
Did apply for another job in last 3 years (N=
                                                   aggravated by the employee's perception of
                                                   the support they receive from their
       Yes                          36%
                                                   supervisors. If the perception is positive, the
       No                           64%
                                                   relatively negative situation at work might be
                                                   neutralized. If the perception is negative, the
Career at a standstill (N= 202)
                                                   negative situation might be further
       Yes                          31%
       Not sure                     25%
       No                           44%
                                                          What kind of working relationships do
                                                   the Asian employees have with their
                                                   supervisors?    Do they feel that their
        Among the employees who are not            supervisors are supportive of their career
actively seeking promotion (Table 16), 91          development?
percent are satisfied with their present grades,
74 percent feel they are in the right positions,
but only 44 percent feel their careers are not
at a standstill (and 25 percent are not sure).
Slightly over a third (36 percent) of them did
apply for another job in the last three years
and 8 percent are actively looking for another
job (perhaps a change of environment,
without promotion potential).
The Job Situation                                                              19

Table 17:Most Asian employees feel their supervisors are supportive of their
           career development

Supervisors are:      Supportive             Not Supportive **        Total
                          %                       %              %

Below 11                    65                    13             23      356
11                          66                    13             19      166
12                          68                    11             22      219
13                          70                     7             23      130
14 & 15                     71                    12             18       78
Total                       67                    12             21      949

** don't know

        Table 17 shows that 67 percent of the
Asian employees feel that their current
supervisors are supportive of their career
development; only 12 percent feel otherwise.
 There is almost no difference across grade
levels among those who feel that their current
supervisors are supportive, but those in the
higher grades tend to feel their supervisors
are supportive of their career development.
Conversely, with the exception of those in
Grade 13, there is not much difference
among those who feel that their supervisors
are not supportive. The 21 percent of Asian
employees who are not sure of their
supervisors' support might indicate a lack of
communication between the employees and
their supervisors.
The Job Situation                                                                              20

Table 18:Supportive supervisors seem to make a difference

Employees who have                           Supportive            Non-Supportive
                                             supervisors           supervisors

(on the grade issue)                         (N= 634)              (N= 108)

are not very satisfied with grade                  31%                   69%
are somewhat satisfied with grade                  47%                   29%
are very satisfied with grade                      22%                    2%

(on the career issue)                        (N= 632)              (N= 110)

feel careers are at a standstill             40%                   77%
are not sure of their careers' status              25%                   16%
don't feel careers are at a standstill             35%                    6%

        Table 18 shows that of the employees        supervisors are non-supportive who feel their
who feel no support from their supervisors, 69      careers are not at a standstill.
percent are not very satisfied with their
present grade, and 77 percent feel their                    Thus, it appears that supportive
careers are at a stand still. While it is not       supervisors are a key factor in how an
claimed that non-supportive supervisors are         employee feels about his/her job situation. To
a contributing or causal factor for an              cultivate better support for Asian employees
employee's dissatisfaction with his/her             and to enhance their career advancement,
present grade or the feeling his/her career is      Asian American organizations might design
at a stand still, there is a strong positive        or sponsor seminars and workshops targeted
correlation among these variables. In fact, in      for supervisors of Asian employees. These
the AACI's study, over 30 percent of the            supervisors might be given some incentives
respondents note the "lack of encouragement         to attend the seminars and workshops to help
from supervisors" as an obstacle of career          them provide better support to Asian
advancement.xxi                                     employees.

        Employees        with   non-supportive               From the data on years of service,
supervisors are twice as many as those with         educational attainments, and grade levels,
supportive supervisors to feel not very             one might conclude that a "glass ceiling"
satisfied with their present grades. There are      appears to be present for Asian employees in
almost six times as many employees whose            the USDA. The question is, do the Asian
supervisors are supportive than those whose         employees themselves feel there is a "glass
                                                    ceiling" in their agencies?
The Job Situation                                  21

Table 19:Most Asian employees feel
           there is a glass ceiling
           in USDA

Is there a glass ceiling?

           Yes      No        *   Total
            %        %       %
Below 11     50      35      15    342
11           60      34       6    163
12           65      26       9    216
13           68      25       7    125
14 & 15      67      27       6     79
Total        59      31      10    925

        While 49 percent of the Asian
employees feel their careers are at a standstill
(Table 13), 59 percent of them feel there is a
"glass ceiling" in their agencies (Table 19).
However, 31 percent are certain there are no
barriers that would keep them from
advancement, and 10 percent of the Asian
employees do not understand the concept of
"glass ceiling."

       Except for those below Grade 11,
more than 60 percent of the Asian employees
at each grade level feel that their agencies
have a "glass ceiling." Even for those below
Grade 11, 50 percent feel the same way.

       Among those who believe that a
"glass ceiling" is present in their agencies
(415 out of 925), 33 percent feel it is very
widespread, 44 percent feel it is somewhat
widespread, and 23 percent feel it is a little
The Job Situation                                                 22

                    BARRIERS  TO                      CAREER

                           Lack     of    communication
                    skills. Among the persistent perceptions of
                    Asian Pacific Americans held by the dominant
                    group in America is the impression that Asian
                    Pacific Americans lack good communication
                    skills.xxii As the ability to communicate well
                    orally and in writing is among the basic criteria
                    for supervisory, managerial, and executive
                    positions in the Federal Government, this
                    presumed deficit in social skills is cited as a
                    key barrier to career advancement. It is
                    reaffirmed in the AACI's study in which 25
                    percent of the respondents feel that written
                    and verbal communication skills are the main
                    obstacles to career advancement.xxiv To put it
                    simply, Asian Pacific Americans are not
                    promoted to senior positions because they
                    are unable to communicate well.

                             What        are      the      necessary
                    communication skills in the corporate world?
                    Gary T. Hunt         specifies that "perception,
                    listening,     planning,      organizing,     and
                    presenting" are the communication skills
                    essential to a business organization. Owen
                    Hargie, in A Handbook of Communication
                    Skills, identifies non-verbal communication,
                    questioning,       reinforcement,      reflecting,
                    starting or ending [a conversation], explaining,
                    self-disclosure, and listening as the core
                    social skills in communication. He further
                    includes humor and laughter, handling strong
                    emotions (such as anger and violence),
                    asserting and confronting, and showing
                    warmth and
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                 23

                                                communication skills as very well, 55 percent
                                                as well enough, and 6 percent as poor. This
empathy as some of the special dimensions       is contrary to the popular impression. The
of communication.                               Asian employees in USDA do not "buy into
                                                the stereotype" to accept it as valid for
         If being able to communicate is        themselves. The employees in Grade 13
essential for career advancement, how well      have the highest proportion (48 percent)
do Asian Pacific Americans communicate?         among those who consider themselves
Are there differences in communication skills   having superior communication skills. The
among Asian Pacific American employees? If      difference between those in Grade 11 and
so, what are these differences, and what        those below Grade 11, and those of Grade 12
effect is there on career advancement? Do       and those in Grades 14 or 15, is slight. In
employees with a high level of communication    both instances, the difference is three points.
skill tend to have higher grades in              On the other end of the scale, there are
Government Service? These were some of          notable numbers of Asian employees in
the questions addressed by the survey, and      Grade 13 and those below Grade 11 who
the responses were presented in the Wong        consider     themselves      inadequate      in
paper (1993).                                   communication skills.

                                                         Asian employees have also been
Table 20:Possession of a high level             criticized for the accents in their speechxxvii or
                                                speaking English haltingly. It is also believed
           of communication skills
                                                that their co-workers have problems
           does not necessarily                 understanding what they say.             These
           lead     to      career              criticisms are accepted by only a minority of
           advancement                          the Asian employees in USDA: 22 percent
                                                feel they have strong accent in their speech;
Level of Skills:                                8 percent feel they speak haltingly in English,
                   Poor   Well   Very   Total   and 20 percent believe their co-workers have
                                 Well           problems understanding what they say.
                   %      %      %              These patterns are probably to be expected in
Grade                                           a diverse people; not everyone in the Asian
Below 11           9      58     33     346     community is a Laurence Olivier or a Ronald
11                 5      59     36     165     Reagan; but neither is everyone in the
12                 4      51     45     219     dominant group in the USDA workforce!
13                 7      45     48     128
14 & 15            1      57     42     79              The question is, what level of
Total              6      55     39     937     communication skills is acceptable to the
                                                dominant group? Does the attainment of a
                                                set level of communication skills ensure that
        As shown in Table 20, 39 percent of     the employee would be moved to a higher
the     employees    rate   their   overall     grade, or, would she/he meet with other
                                                barriers? Why is it acceptable to have
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                              24

German or French accents in one's speech          "What do you feel are the obstacles to career
and not Japanese or Indian accents? Is it         advancement for Asian Pacific employees in
plausible that the oft-repeated stereotype        your Agency?") that some employees believe
about Asian Americans not having good             that some aspects of inadequacy in
communication skills is a generalization by       communication skills are among the
the dominant group in America from their          obstacles to career advancement for other
interaction with the segment of Asian             Asian Pacific American employees! Some
community       that    has     inadequate        of the typical comments include:
communication skills?
                                                  "Asian Pacific employees have the tendency
       The     analysis  in   the    paper               not to express their feelings to their
Communication and Career Advancement:                    supervisors involving the issues
The Asian Pacific Experience in USDA,                    related to their work." (Case 18)
shows that Asian Pacific American
incumbents of higher grades do not                "Poor ability to express ideas, thoughts and
necessarily have a higher level of                       feelings." (Case 117)
communication skill. Conversely, lack of a
high level of communication skill does not        "Most Asian Pacific scientists are modest and
necessarily keep an Asian Pacific American               somewhat introverted. Language is a
employee from attaining a high grade in                  barrier also. I don't think we know
Government service.                                      how to 'toot our own horn' like
                                                         extrovert managers." (Case 203)
        The fact is, while a vast majority of
Asian Pacific American employees in the           "Most of us are not good sales persons; it's
USDA workforce feel that they have adequate              not our nature to promote our
or more than adequate communication skills,              accomplishments.     We somehow
most of them are not in higher grade positions.          need to overcome this." (Case 220)
 Probably, there is some truth in the
observation       of     one      respondent:     "Poor communication skills. Traditionally, we
"Management pre-selects the employee for                 are taught to listen and not speak. At
the vacant position. Therefore, it doesn't               work, this means our work is
matter about the communication skills you                under-appreciated and overlooked."
possess." (Case 373) Possession of good                  (Case 266)
communication skills or a lack of good
communication skills has no consistent            "Asian Pacific employees lack effective
correlation with career advancement.                    communication skills. They are too
                                                        emotionally attached to their cultures
       More importantly, the Asian Pacific              and paradigms." (Case 284)
American employees in the USDA do not
accept the stereotype that they lack good         "Being too cautious, afraid to speak up/out.
communication skills, as the stereotype is               Grow tire and be wary of the politics
applied to them. There is some evidence (in              easily. Feeling being left out or not
the responses to the open-ended questions,
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                25

       wanting to be a part of the system (to     as technologists (technical coolies)" and
       avoid the politics)." (Case 757)           "being discriminated against because of their
                                                  cultural style."xxxii This phenomenon is also
       Too           research-oriented.           reported for women in the workforce where
Another persistent stereotype on Asian            stereotyping "acts as a barrier." xxxiii Ann
Pacific Americans held by the dominant group      Morrison, in her study of non-traditional
in America is the perception that Asian Pacific   leaders, expands on how stereotyping is a
Americans are un-aggressive and too               barrier to career advancement: "[S]tereotypes
technical to become managers, xxviii or that      make it acceptable... to ignore, disparage, or
they are "so research oriented and technically    discount the qualities and contributions of
focused that they are not able to supervise       nontraditional managers." xxxiv It is plausible
people."xxix As in the case of communication      that the persistent perceptions that Asian
skills, the Asian Pacific American employees      Pacific American employees lack good
in the USDA reject this stereotype by 82          communication          skills  or    are    so
percent.                                          research-oriented and technically-focused
                                                  that they cannot supervise people are a form
        Until recently when recognition was       of subtle discrimination.
given for senior-level positions in research, a
scientist could only advance his/her career by             Key Barriers. Ann Morrison, in
being a manager. This practice might explain      the study of non-traditional leaders, has
why 86 percent of the Asian employees who         identified six barriers for career advancement:
are not supervisors or managers now, want to      (1) prejudice: treating differences as
enter those ranks. xxx This is considerably       weaknesses; (2) poor career planning; (3) a
higher than the 74 percent in the AACI's study    lonely,     hostile,    unsupportive    working
who are interested in managerial positions.       environment for nontraditional managers; (4)
                                                  lack of organizational savvy on the part of
       Thus, most Asian Pacific American          nontraditional managers; (5) greater comfort
employees do not feel that they are so            in dealing with one's own kind; and (6)
research-oriented or technically-focused that     difficulty in balancing career and family. xxxv
they cannot supervise people. A vast majority     Maurice Dawkins, in his study of the glass
of them feel that they are interested in          ceiling problem in the U.S. Department of
supervisory or managerial jobs. And more          State, emphasizes the importance of having
than 95 percent of them (547 of 574) feel that    the right person to be one's mentor. Thus,
they have the necessary skills to supervise or    lack of a mentor can also be a barrier to
manage people. The rub is, most of them are       career advancement.
not in supervisory or managerial jobs; and
most of those who are now supervisors and                While the SESCDP project was
managers are not in the higher grades.            focused on the perception of Asian Pacific
                                                  employees on the relationship between
        In Thomas' study, Asians cite             communication      skills     and      career
stereotyping by the dominant group as the         advancement, the survey included some
key barrier to their advancement.         They    questions on the key barriers as identified by
face the twin barriers of "being pigeon-holed     Morrison, Dawkins, and others.
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                26

Table 21:Asian employees have to
           be better performers                    Table 22:More employees in higher
           than white employees                               grades believe their
           to get ahead                                       agencies discriminate
                                                              against          Asian
           Yes         Not Sure     No    Total               employees
            %               %        %                                           Not
Grade                                                             Yes            Sure    No     Total
Below 11     56              23      22    338                    %              %       %
11           59              18      23    165     Grade
12           69              17      14    218     Below 11       29             33      38     347
13           71              17      12    127     11             29             31      40     163
14 & 15      70              11      19     79     12             49             23      28     218
Total        63              19      19    927     13             41             29      29     126
                                                   14 & 15        44             26      29     79
                                                   Total          37             29      34     933
       Prejudice. In the AACI's study,xxxvi
26 percent of the Asian respondents cited
"racial prejudice and stereotypes" as a factor            The employees were also asked, "Do
in limiting their advancement. Does this           you feel that your Agency discriminates
barrier work in the USDA? The employees            against Asian Pacific employees?" Those
were asked, "Do you feel that Asian Pacific        who agree account for 37 percent of the
and other minority employees in your Agency        respondents, those who disagree account for
have to be better performers than white            34 percent. The "not sure" are 29 percent
employees to get ahead?"            More than      (Table 22).
three-fifths (63 percent) of them feel that they
have to be better performers, almost one-fifth              Employees in Grade 12 have the
(19 percent) feel otherwise, and another           highest proportion -- almost one of every two
one-fifth (19 percent) are not sure (Table 21).    --who believe their agencies discriminate
                                                   against Asian employees.         More than
       Among those who feel they have to be        two-fifths among those in Grade 13 and in
better performers than white employees to          Grades 14 and 15 also hold such a belief.
get ahead are 70 percent of the Grades 14          Almost three out of ten (29 percent) in Grade
and 15, 71 percent of the Grade 13, and 69         11 and below Grade 11 believe their agencies
percent of the Grade 12. For those in Grade        discriminate against Asian employees. Do
11 and below Grade 11, the proportions are         the views and opinions among these
smaller but still well over 50 percent. Might      employees suggest that Asian employees in
one speculate that as the employees move           higher grades are more likely to have
higher up in the career ladder, they are more      experienced discrimination in their agencies
observant of the disparate expectation?            thus the higher proportion who hold the belief
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                 27

that their agencies practice discrimination? In   proportion (41 percent). The ability and
any case, prejudice may be a factor in the        capability of Asian employees to assume
lack of career advancement for some Asian         extracurricular assignments seems to be
employees in the USDA.                            recognized and utilized by the USDA
                                                  agencies and by the Department. Prejudice
       The puzzle is, why do many of those        in the form of denial of visibility assignment
who feel they have to be better performers to     does not seem to be working against Asian
get ahead (63 percent) do not feel that their     employees.
agencies are in discrimination against their
kind (34 percent)? Is this acceptance of                  Nonetheless, Asian employees in
disparate treatment a factor in keeping them      USDA do feel that they have been
from moving ahead in their careers?               discriminated in other ways. The following is
                                                  a sample of their observations:

Table 23:Many Asian employees                     "My current supervisor is young and not as
                                                        experienced as I am. I believe I've
          have had high visibility
                                                        been discriminated against because I
          assignments                                   was not born here and look different.
                                                        I've enough data to prove my belief."
           Yes              No           Total          (Case 731)
            %                %
Grade                                             "I have tried every possible way to get
Below 11     41             59             344           promotion        or       to        get
11           45             55             162           position/remuneration relevant to my
12           46             54             219           qualifications but had no success.
13           43             57             125           Being a foreign-born professional, I
14 & 15      56             44              79           have no chance of getting certification
Total        44             56             929           for executive service." (Case 75)

                                                  "I made 13 certificates for promotion to
        Prejudice in the workplace takes                GM-13 grade but unable to get the
many forms. Not being given the opportunity             promotion. I don't know what else I
for high visibility assignments is one form of          have to do." (Case 903)
prejudice. However, Asian employees have
a high proportion of visibility assignments.      "Minority groups always have to work harder
There were 44 percent of them having had                  and prove themselves. There still is
high visibility assignments in the last 3 years           some unconscious discrimination
(Table 23).                                               based on stereotypes." (Case 307)

       Those in Grades 14 and 15 have the         "In my last panel review, the subject specialist
highest proportion of Asian employees having              could not even understand my work,
had high visibility assignments (56 percent).             not to mention to do the same." (Case
Those below Grade 11 have the lowest                      731)
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                               28

                                                           Hostile environment.             The
Table      24:Most    Asian    Pacific            environment and the corporate culture in
              American    employees               which one works are key factors in career
                                                  advancement.         If the environment is
              have a career plan
                                                  supportive, the employee may be moved
                                                  along and moved up in his/her career. If the
           Yes              No              **
                                                  environment is hostile, the employee's career
            %                %              %
                                                  may be stalled or regressed. This process is
                                                  reported in Dawkins' study of the
Below 11     59             32               8
                                                  under-representation of minorities at the
11           62             32               6
                                                  State Department.         Dawkins found a
12           63             30               7
                                                  conspicuous absence of minorities and
13           68             26               6
                                                  women in mid-level and senior-level positions
14 & 15      66             30               4
                                                  in the State Department. "Asians were not
Total        62             31               7
                                                  making as much progress as Hispanics,
                                                  Hispanics were lagging behind Blacks, and
**Do not know how to make a career plan.
                                                  Blacks were making less progress than [white]
                                                  women."xxxviii Some Asian Pacific American
                                                  employees of the State Department reported
        Lack of career planning.                  that some "managers and supervisors are
Most minority employees, it is believed, do not   sanctioned [and rewarded] for failure to
have a career plan. Early in their careers,       comply with equal opportunity provisions,"
many of them are channeled to staff positions     and their special contribution to the linkage
with little or no promotion potential in the      with Asian nations is not recognized or
organization. They are in a display case          utilized. xxxix (Dawkins, nd:4).  The State
rather than on a fast track.        Among USDA    Department does not appear to be a friendly
Asian employees, lack of career planning          environment to these employees. How do
does not seem to be a factor for keeping the      Asian Pacific American employees fare in the
majority of them from career advancement;         USDA?
62 percent of them have a career plan.
However, 7 percent do not know how to make                How well do the Asian employees
a career plan, and almost one-third (31           interact with their co-workers and supervisors?
percent) of the Asian employees do not have        How much freedom do they have doing their
a career plan (Table 24).                         jobs? Do they have opportunities for formal
                                                  training for career development? Have they
         While those in upper grades are more     been undercut or sabotaged by their
likely to have a career plan, the variation       co-workers, subordinates, or supervisors?
among the different grades is slight. Lack of     These are some of the indicators of the "tone"
career planning does not appear to be a           of the work environment or the culture of the
factor in the lack of advancement for most of     organization.
the Asian Pacific American employees in the
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                     29

Table 25:Most Asian employees                         Table 26:Most Asian employees
          have a lot of freedom                                 have attended some
          on the job                                            formal   development
Amount of freedom:
                                                      No. of courses:
           A lot Some None                   Total
              %     %   %                                      None         1-2      3    or    more
Grade                                                        Total
Below 11      60      34        6             354                  %       %               %
11            60      34        6             167     Grade
12            63      32        5             220     Below 11     26      36              39    351
13            65      31        4             130     11           27      42              31    165
14 & 15       74      24        2              80     12           24      41              35    220
Total         63      32        5             951     13           30      51              19    130
                                                      14 & 15      26      45              29     80
                                                      Total        26      41              33    946
       Table 25 shows that 63 percent of the
Asian employees feel they have a lot of
freedom to do assignments in their own ways,                  Table 26 shows that between 24
32 percent feel they have a small amount of           percent to 30 percent of Asian employees
freedom, and 5 percent feel they have no              across the grade levels have not had formal
freedom at all.                                       development courses in the last three years.
                                                      Employees in Grade 13 have the highest
        As they move up in grades, more               percentage among those who have not taken,
employees have more on-the-job freedom.               within the last three years, formal training for
For instance, 74 percent of those in Grades           career advancement. However, in the same
14 and 15 report having a lot of freedom, but         time period, most Asian employees have had
only 60 percent of those in Grades below 11           at least one formal development course.
feel they have a lot of freedom. The reversed         Those below Grade 11 have the highest
pattern is also true for employees in lower           percentage among the ones who have
grades. There are more Asians below Grade             attended more than three courses. While
11 who feel they have no freedom to do                many of those in Grade 13 have not attended
assignments in their own ways. Except for             any formal development courses within the
those in the top grade levels, there is very little   last three years, they have the highest
difference across grades among Asian                  percentage among the ones who had
employees who feel they have some freedom             attended at least one course.
on the job.
                                                             It might be noted that the inquiry was
                                                      about attending formal development courses
                                                      in the last three years. Attending three
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                               30

courses in that period is equivalent to                  Lack of organizational savvy.
attending one course per year, not a lot of     To some human resource consultants, the
formal training for career development.        possession of organizational savvy is the
                                               critical factor for career advancement. The
                                               Shields term it "corporate street smarts." xl
Table 27:Asian employees have                  John Fernandez, Donna Thompson, and
          been undercut by their               Nancy DiTomaso call it the "soft" side of a
                                               corporate culture. xli It involves the
          co-workers         or
                                               understanding of the politics of an
          supervisors                          organization, knowing the key players in the
                                               organization, and having access and
              Undercut by    Undercut by       connection to the grapevine. Indeed, the
              co-workers     supervisors       comments of many of the respondents, as
                     %              %          listed below, show their grasp of this crucial
Grade                                          concept.
Below 11             26             29
11                   33             30         It   is   "comparable to the stereotypical
12                   28             31                   'woman's intuition' - a gut feeling
13                   33             28                   about how one's agency works, who
14 & 15              32             29                   to go to to get things done, when to
Total                29             29                   act, when not to act, how to do a job
                                                         that superiors will like...." (Case 60)

        In their work experience in the last   "Knowing who are the key players in an
three years, 29 percent of the Asian Pacific         organization who hold power,
American employees feel that they have been          interacting with them, and making that
undercut or sabotaged by their co-workers            knowledge work to your advantage."
and their subordinates, and the same                 (Case 80)
proportion of them feel that they have been
undercut or sabotaged by their supervisors     "Know when to speak up and when to shut up.
(Table 27). Thus, for most Asian Pacific              Know how to float out trial balloons
American employees, the environment is not           and let your boss take some credits,
too hostile.     Nonetheless, the sizeable           make your boss look good. Know
number of employees who feel hostility in            how to plant ideas into your
their environment or the corporate culture           administrator's head so it will become
should be a concern for the senior managers          his/her ideas. Do not rush to take
in the USDA. Is it normal for almost 30              credit in front of public; let someone
percent of a group of employees to feel that         else do it for you." (Case 220)
they have been sabotaged by their
co-workers or supervisors?       Is there a    "Understanding who makes decisions and
standard of acceptable hostility in the               what gets priority, how to please your
workplace?                                            supervisor and make him look good,
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                  31

       what to pay attention to, and what to
       ignore." (Case 251)                         Table 28:Many of those in upper
                                                             grades feel they have
"To have a feel for the current 'climate' of the
       entity and use this knowledge to                      "organizational savvy"
       better serve you and your objectives."
        (Case 388)                                            Yes       No      *          Total
                                                               %         %     %
"Knowing what battles to fight and with whom.      Grade
       Understanding what the political            Below 11    60       21    19            343
      alliances are, but remaining as neutral      11          64       20    16            164
      as possible." (Case 389)                     12          66       16    17            214
                                                   13          67       17    17            126
"Playing the games, but not losing your            14 & 15     73       22     5             77
       integrity.   Networking, going to           Total       64       19    17            924
       meetings/lunches, joining committees.
        Be seen. Get to know the people            * Do not understand the meaning of
       with power." (Case 510)                     "organizational savvy"

"It's 3-D chess -- understanding not just
        what's happening at your level, but at             In the survey, the Asian Pacific
        levels above and below, putting all        American employees were asked, "Do you
        together." (Case 520)                      feel you have 'organizational savvy?'" More
                                                   than three-fifths (64 percent) of them
"Knowing the unwritten rules to use to one's       answered "Yes," and almost one-fifth (19
      advantage in an organization." (Case         percent) answered "No." However, slightly
      653)                                         under one-fith (17 percent) of them do not
                                                   understand the meaning of "organizational
"Ability to work the system to get things done.    savvy." (Table 28) Those in the upper grades
          To know the right people to talk to to   (14 and 15) have a higher proportion who feel
         get decisions or answers to questions,    they have "organizational savvy" than those in
         while not offending other people. To      the lower grades (below Grade 11). However,
         know when to go up the line for a         there is very little difference among those in
         decision or to go around it." (Case       grades 11 through 13.

"One must have good peripheral vision as           Table 29:Most Asian employees are
      well as forward look." (Case 817)                       attuned to the political
                                                              nuances     of    their
"To be included in the agency's 'inner circle'
       through     political  and      other                  environment
       connection." (Case 967)
                                                                  Yes    No      **     Total
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                 32

               %       %       %                              Yes         Not Sure     No   Total
Grade                                                          %               %        %
Below 11       54      36      7       343         Grade
11             64      35      2       165         Below 11     50             38      12     347
12             59      40      1       210         11           48             35      17     163
13             60      39      1       126         12           49             34      17     217
14 & 15        55      42      4       77          13           46             42      12     127
Total          59      37      4       921         14 & 15      47             38      15      79
                                                   Total        49             37      14     933
** do not understand the meaning of "political
                                                           As being "in the know" is an indicator
                                                   of "organizational savvy," a reliable source of
         Almost three-fifth (59 percent) of the    information is a key element in organizational
respondents feel that they are tuned to the        savvy. About one-half (49 percent) of the
"political nuances and subtleties" of their work   Asian Pacific American employees feel they
environment but almost two-fifth (37 percent)      have reliable sources of information, but
feel otherwise. Another 4 percent state they       under two-fifths (37 percent) are not sure, and
do not understand the expression "political        14 percent do not have reliable sources of
nuances and subtleties." (Table 29)                information (Table 30). If being "in the know"
                                                   is a reliable indicator of "organizational
         Most of the Grades 14 and 15 are          savvy," only one-half of the Asian employees
attuned to the political nuances of their work     really have this "smartness." This is 15-point
environment, however, they are also the least      less than those who claim to have
among the ones who are so attuned. More of         "organizational savvy."
the employees in Grade 11 are attuned to the
political nuances of their work environment                While those below Grade 11 have the
than their colleagues in lower or higher           most claiming to have reliable sources of
grades. For Asian employees, grade levels          information in their agencies, most Asian
do not appear to have consistent correlation       employees across all grade levels feel that
with being in tune with political nuances. The     they have reliable sources of information.
high proportion of those who are not attuned       The variation across grades is only 4 points -
to the political nuances of their environment      not a lot of difference. However, a higher
indicates that this may be an area for             percentage of the Grade 13 (42 percent) are
intensive development for Asian employees          among those who are not sure if they have
who wish to advance their careers.                 reliable sources of information in their
                                                   agencies. It is unclear whether the "not sure"
                                                   is a substitute for the seemingly more
Table 30:Most Asian employees feel                 negative "no."      It appears that Asian
                                                   employees need to expand their information
           they    have    reliable
                                                   contacts to make sure that their sources of
           sources of information                  information are reliable. How this can be
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                 33

done is yet another area for training and
development.                                       Table 31:Asian employees do not
                                                              necessarily find it more
       Other barriers. In addition to the
                                                              comfortable      dealing
above key barriers, Ann Morrison has
identified "greater comfort in dealing with                   with people from their
one's own kind, and difficulty in balancing                   own ethnic group
career and family" as the other barriers to
career advancement. In the survey, the Asian                  Yes         Not Sure     No   Total
Pacific American employees were asked how                      %               %        %
difficult it is for them to balance their career   Grade
and their family and whether they find it more     Below 11     33             13      54     355
comfortable to deal with people from their         11           30              9      61     164
own ethnic background than those from other        12           32             13      55     220
racial/ethnic background.                          13           26             11      63     126
                                                   14 & 15      25             14      61      80
                                                   Total        30             12      57     945

                                                           On the issue of being more
                                                   comfortable with one's own kind, 57 percent
                                                   are in disagreement; only 30 percent feel that
                                                   they are more comfortable dealing with
                                                   people from their own ethnic/racial group
                                                   (Table 31). Among those in upper grades,
                                                   only 25 percent or 26 percent feel they are
                                                   more comfortable dealing with their own
                                                   ethnic groups but there is a higher proportion
                                                   among those in lower grades. Among those
                                                   who are not necessarily more comfortable
                                                   dealing with people from their own ethnic
                                                   background than those from other
                                                   racial/ethnic background, there is little or no
                                                   difference for those in upper grades and in
                                                   Grade 11, or those in Grade 12 and in Grades
                                                   below 11. For some Asian employees, being
                                                   in higher grades do seem to make for a
                                                   greater disposition to deal with other groups.
Barriers to Career Advancement                                                                34

                                                 sponsor is probably it. While more than one
Table 32:Both Asian males and                    third (36 percent) of the respondents report
                                                 they have people who act as a guide, advisor,
          females have about the
                                                 or counselor at various stages of their careers,
          same      difficulty in                the majority of them do not have a mentor.
          balancing their career
          and their family                               Among the mentors identified, 244
                                                 are Whites, 74 are Asian Americans, 21 are
               Difficult Not Difficult           Afro-Americans, 6 are Hispanic Americans,
               %                         %       and 7 are Native Americans. and 256 are
                                                 males and 56 are females. The contribution
Men            34.1                      65.9    of these mentors to the career advancement
Women          33.6                      66.4    of Asian employees has not been determined.
Total          33.9                      66.1     Given the general acceptance of the crucial
                                                 role of mentors and sponsors in making
                                                 contacts and building networks for their
        On the issue of balancing their career   "mentees" and "protégés," the high proportion
and family (bearing in mind that 75 percent of   of Asian employees not having a mentor or
the respondents are married), 66 percent feel    sponsor may be a factor in their difficulty in
that it is not difficult, and 34 percent feel    shattering or bypassing the "glass ceiling."xliv
differently (Table 32). There is no difference    Thus, mentoring is another area of
between male and female on their                 development for Asian employees.
assessment of the "balancing act." The same
proportion of Asian men and women have
about the same difficulty or no difficulty in
balancing career and family.

        Lack of a mentor. In the study of
under-representation of minorities at the
State Department, Maurice Dawkins reported
that "mentoring was the glue that held the
process together." He cited numerous cases
in which having a mentor did make a
difference in one's career advancement. xlii
Finding a mentor, according to the Shields, is
a success planning strategy.         Do Asian
Pacific American employees in the USDA
have mentors? Who are their mentors?

      If there is a weaker area in the career
advancement strategy of Asian Pacific
American employees, the lack of a mentor or
Barriers to Career Advancement                                               35

                                 THE GENDER FACTOR
                                         It was reported that female Asian
                                 employees, for whatever reasons, did not
                                 respond to the survey proportionately to their
                                 presence      in   the   USDA     workforce.
                                 Nonetheless, 349 did respond. The number
                                 of female respondents in this study is larger
                                 than the total number of respondents for the
                                 California study (AACI, 1993).

                                         It has often been said that "women
                                 have to work twice as hard" and "company is
                                 not willing to take risks on women." xlv A
                                 woman senior executive noted that "women
                                 have to prove through their dealing with
                                 people that they are competent and reliable.
                                 With men, it is assumed [they are competent]
                                 and they have to prove they are not."xlvi Or,
                                 as one of the respondents of this study wrote:
                                  "I have had to prove myself in every position
                                 I've been in. First with my supervisor and
                                 then continually with both the public and other
                                 employees. If there is any one major gripe I
                                 have, it is that I feel I have to work 10 times
                                 harder than a white male before I can gain
                                 respect, and people always question my
                                 competence before I am ever given a

                                         Minority women face a double
                                 discrimination, for being a minority and being
                                 a woman. In the MSPB study, it is reported
                                 that "minority women are even more poorly
                                 represented in top-level jobs in the
                                 Government        than     are    non-minority
                                 women."xlvii Given the scarcity of data on the
                                 employment situation of Asian women, it
                                 might be instructive to compare the
                                 perceptions of male and female Asian
The Gender Factor                                                                             36

                                                          taught to be content with what is doled
                                                          out. Consequently, many of us will
employees on the "glass ceiling" problem in               not ask for opportunities to advance
the USDA.                                                 careers." (Case 677)

        To highlight the uniqueness of the         "Being female and a minority, my opinions or
data and to look at the survey results from a             contributions are often dismissed as
different perspective, the comparison of the              of little consequence. Only by being
Asian female and male experiences in the                  very assertive and vocally promoting
USDA will be presented in graphs.         Much            my accomplishments can I advance."
of the comments on the employment                          (Case 266)
conditions of Asian employees as stated in
previous sections are, by definition,              "The management goals [for removing the
applicable to the condition of Asian women.              glass ceiling] given to our state office
However, there are some unique experiences               affect only 'target' grades in the upper
only the Asian females know first-hand, as               management grades GS 11 through
shown in the following remarks.                          13. Lower grades were not included.
                                                         We in the 'trenches' who daily deal
"My main obstacle is my supervisor. He                   with the general public are in probably
     resents my technical knowledge and                  the worst situations... We endure high
     my abilities to get along with my                   levels of stress." (Case 348)
     regional and headquarters staff. He
     has a tendency to harass Asian
     females in our office. He does not like
     me because I always speak up about
     the unfairness and incompetence in
     our work place." (Case 54)

"Male supervisors do not consider female
      workers (especially if you are a racial
      minority) as equal. If you work hard
      and out-perform your peers, you
      become a target of resentment and
      jealousy, and become isolated."
      (Case 166)

"The obstacles are more due to my gender
       than my race. It is difficult to break
       into the white male management
       layer." (Case 66)

"Traditionally in our culture, female Asians are
        not asked for opinions. We have been
The Gender Factor                                                                               37

  Figure 1                                            Figure 2

One of every two (50 percent) of the Asian          Over two-fifths (41 percent) of the female
female employees in USDA have been in               employees are below Grade 9, and none of
Government service for 1 to 10 years.               the respondents is a Grade 15. l They are
                                                    also fewer in the upper grades.
Slightly over one-third (36 percent) have
served for 11 to 20 years.                          As discussed in the previous sections, in
                                                    USDA, Asian employees as a whole are not
In contrast, slightly over one-third (37 percent)   moving ahead in their careers. Asian female
of the Asian male employees have served for         employees, it appears, are doing worse than
1 to 10 years and almost two-fifths (38             their male colleagues.
percent) have served for 11-20 years.
                                                    This pattern is similar to what is found in the
As the MSPB study noted, "to the extent that        MSPB's Government-wide employee survey:
advancement depends on experience,                  "[Women] are frequently found in the lower
women in the Government are at a                    graded jobs."li
disadvantage."xlix This is applicable to Asian
women in USDA.
The Gender Factor                                                                         38

  Figure 3                                      Figure 4

For educational attainment, female "doctors"    There are more Asian females of Japanese
are 30 percent of the male "doctors," and       and Filipino background.
female "bachelors" are 94 percent of the male
"bachelors."                                    The Chinese/Taiwanese American females
                                                have practically the same proportion as the
However, there are more female "masters"        males.
than males and 32 percent of the Asian
females are not college graduates.              Together, the 3 established groups account
                                                for 65 percent of the males and 74 percent of
MSPB noted that "there is a tendency for        the females.
those in top-level jobs to have more formal
education than those in lower level jobs."lii   The female group has less ethnic diverse
                                                than the male group.
Given many Asian women are without a
college degree, their advancement to
senior-level positions might be further
The Gender Factor                                                                              39

  Figure 5
                                                     Figure 6

Asian females below age 45 account for 67          Whether it is due to women's ability to reach
percent of the respondents.                        out to other people or their more acceptability
                                                   to other people, more of them (61%) feel they
In contrast, 42 percent of Asian males are         are not necessarily more comfortable dealing
under 45.                                          with their own ethnic groups than dealing with
                                                   people from other racial/ethnic background.
More Asian females are younger than their
male counterparts.                                 Despite their higher educational attainment
                                                   and their self-perceived better communication
As discontent with lack of promotional             skills, more men feel more comfortable
opportunities tends to increase with age,liii it   dealing with their own ethnic groups.
can be expected that unless the "glass
ceiling" is shattered or bypassed, more Asian      The greater ease of Asian women to reach
women in the USDA in the next decades will         beyond their own groups is a strength to build
complain more vocally about "double                on for their career advancement.
The Gender Factor                                                                             40

                                                 Table 33:Adequacy in
                                                            Communication Skills

                                                 Very well
                                                 & Well enough in             %               %

                                                 Non Verbal
                                                  Communication               83              82
                                                 Asking Questions             88              87
                                                 Reinforcing                  89              87
                                                 Feedback                     85              83
                                                 Starting & Ending
                                                  Conversation                97              94
                                                 Explaining                   93              87
                                                 Disclosure                   86              81
                                                 Listening                    98              97
  Figure 7
                                                 Assertiveness                87              80
                                                 & Negotiating                87              77
More Asian females feel that their overall       Keeping supervisors
communication skills are not very well.          informed                     96              95
However, they are a minority, about 3 percent.   Speaking up
                                                 in meetings                  83              67
                                                 Writing                      92              89
More than 90 percent of them feel that their
overall communication skills are adequate.       Disagreement with

                                                 Accent in speech             58              67
                                                 Speaking English
                                                 haltingly                    79              80
                                                 Co-workers having
                                                 problem understanding
                                                 employee                     70              70

                                                 On each of the eight Hargie's core social skills
                                                 in communication (Table 33), liv        Asian
                                                 females are behind their male colleagues.
The Gender Factor                                                                               41

However, except for starting or ending a
conversation, explaining, and disclosure, the
difference is less than 2 points.

Noteworthy is the high proportions, in both the
female and male groups, who rate
themselves as having adequate or more than
adequate command of the skills in question.

In the four job-specific communication skills,
male and female employees have no
difference on keeping supervisors informed of
the status of their projects. The female
employees are behind the male in the other
three skills, especially the one on speaking up
in meetings. In fact, on this as well as the one
about persuading and negotiating with
co-workers, many female employees might
benefit from further skill training or practice.

On the three situations unique to the Asian          Figure 8
condition, the female employees are ahead of
their male colleagues in two issues (accents       More female employees (34%) do not have a
and speaking English haltingly), and               career plan and more of them do not know
practically even with them on the third one        how to make a career plan.
(co-workers' problem in understanding the
employee). Both female and male have               It is more likely for them to be encouraged "to
about the same views on these issues. They         stay in staff positions rather than move to line
might benefit from having specialized training     positions.
to smooth out the rough edges in their oral                                   Thus, when they apply for promotions they
                                                   are not as competitive as men who have line

                                                   What they need is what the Shields sisters
                                                   called "success planning" which involves
                                                   developing and implementing a series of
                                                   career strategies.
The Gender Factor                                                                           42

                                                  Mentors are people who can help an
                                                  employee to discern and build on their
                                                  strengths and skills.

                                                  They make important contributions to one's
                                                  knowledge of how things work, values,
                                                  technical competence, growth in character,
                                                  knowledge of how to behave in a social
                                                  situation,   understanding      the   world,
                                                  understanding of how to get things done in or
                                                  through an organization, moral development,
                                                  and so forth. "The mentor is particularly
                                                  valuable as a conduit for passing along
                                                  organizational culture and history, thereby
                                                  ensuing     continuity   in    organizational

  Figure 9

In the MSPB's study, it has been shown that
"women are somewhat more likely than men
to have been helped by 'having a senior
person/mentor looking out for [their]

Thus, it appears to be a weakness in the
career advancement strategy of Asian
women that less than one-half of them (43%)
have a mentor or a sponsor.

As stated in a previous section, "mentors"
have been identified as a key factor for career
advancement for many people.
The Gender Factor                                                                       43

  Figure 10                                        Figure 11

Unlike the private sector where "people tend
to have mentors of their own gender,"lx more     Similarly, since Asians and other minority
females in USDA tend to choose males to be       employees are relatively few in the upper
their mentors.                                   grades, the choice of a white person to be
                                                 one's mentor appears to be a wise move.
This is perhaps due to fewer women in senior
positions available to mentor them.
As the upper grades in USDA are still
dominated by males (only 15 percent of the
Grades 13-15 and only 10 percent of the SES
positions were filled by women in FY 1990),lxi
having a male mentor might be a wise
strategy for career advancement.
The Gender Factor                                                                            44

                                                   Figure 13
  Figure 12

"Organizational savvy," what the Shields         More Asian females (32%) feel they have
sisters call "corporate street smarts," has      been undercut by their co-workers and
been extensively defined by the respondents      subordinates than males.
(pp. 32-33).
                                                 It has been shown (Table 27) that fewer of
It might be noteworthy that there is a 9 point   those in lower grades were undercut by their
difference between men and women who feel        co-workers, and a high proportion of Asian
they have organizational savvy, and another      women are in lower grades (Figure 3),
6 point difference among those who do not        therefore, the 32 percent of Asian women
understand what "organizational savvy" is.       who have been undercut by their co-workers
                                                 and subordinates are mostly those with a
Evidently, Asian females are less adept in       higher grade, probably the Grades 12 and 13.
"playing the game."

                                                 The higher up they move on the career ladder,
                                                 the more likely they are to be undercut by their

                                                 This phenomenon is due probably to the
                                                 relatively recent entry of Asian women into
The Gender Factor                                                                         45

the higher grades or supervisory positions,
and they had to "earn the respects" through

For female and minority people to succeed as
managers, their managers need to watch out
for signs of sabotage by their subordinates
and by the "managers of managers"

                                                 Figure 14

                                               Among Asian females in the USDA, 59
                                               percent are occupied in a technical or
                                               research field.

                                               In contrast, 72 percent of the Asian males are
                                               so occupied.

                                               Both males and females confirm the
                                               stereotype that Asians are drawn to technical
                                               and research jobs.

                                               However, many of these same technical and
                                               research personnel strongly dissent from the
                                               notion that Asians are so research-focused
                                               that they cannot supervise people.
The Gender Factor                                                                             46

While there are fewer female dissenting, they
account for almost four-fifths (79 percent) of
the female respondents.

Thus, those who disagree with the stereotype
include not only the scientists and technicians,
but also employees in the non-technical fields.

                                                     Figure 15

                                                   Slightly over one-fourth of the female
                                                   employees feel their agencies discriminate
                                                   against Asians.

                                                   This is considerably less than the 41 percent
                                                   reported for the male employees.

                                                   However, more females are not sure if their
                                                   agencies discriminate against Asians.

                                                   This pattern is similar to the AACI's study in
                                                   which 50 percent of male respondents feel
                                                   that promotional opportunities are inadequate
                                                   for Asians, while 38 percent of females feel

                                                   How Asian females are discriminated in the
                                                   USDA has already been stated in the words
                                                   of the respondents (pp. 37-38).
The Gender Factor                                                                             47

                                                  HOW TO OVERCOME THE
                                                          In the previous sections, the study has
                                                  referred to the barriers to career
                                                  advancement as identified by the experts.
                                                  How do Asian employees in the USDA define
                                                  the barriers that keep them from promotion?
                                                  The following are a sample of what they think.

                                                  "The stigma that Asians are not minorities in
                                                          need, that preference ought to go to
                                                          Blacks and Hispanics. The stigma
                                                          that Asians are technician-types, not
                                                          managerial." (Case 29)

                                                  "Asians are perceived as "shy, followers, and
                                                         non-assertive." (Case 93)

  Figure 16                                       "Managers' lack of understanding of Asian
                                                        cultures.     Lack of mentor and
                                                        networking by Asians. The need for
Fewer females than males feel there is a
                                                        Asians to be more assertive and
"glass ceiling" in their agencies.
                                                        visible." (Case 501)
However, those who so feel account for
                                                  "Our obstacles are lack of strong political
one-half of the female respondents and are
                                                        support and connections." (Case 79)
considerably higher than those who feel that
their agencies discriminate against Asians.
                                                  "Asians (males especially) are not as adept at
                                                         playing politics than whites and blacks.
Many of the female employees feel there is a
                                                          They are less likely to complain about
"glass ceiling" in their agencies (therefore
                                                         unfair     treatment      and     about
blocking their career advancement), but they
                                                         discrimination, and are therefore
do not consider it as a form of discrimination.
                                                         bypassed for upgrades/promotions in
                                                         favor of others who are more vocal
                                                         (and often less experienced and
                                                         qualified)." (Case 124)

                                                  "Being assertive, aggressive, and seeming
                                                         overconfidence      are   considered
                                                         undesirable traits and rude manners
                                                         [by Asians].       These traits and
How to overcome the barriers                                                                      48

       manners need to be developed in             "Play politics with manager and supervisor.
       Asian Pacific employees." (Case 134)               Go along or conform with their ways,
                                                          even though you strongly disagree...."
"Being too cautious, afraid to speak up/out.               (Case 54)
       Grow tired and be wary of the politics
       easily. Feeling being left out or not       "Either one or a combination of the following:
       wanting to be a part of the system (to              (a). Stick one's head in the sand and
       avoid the politics)." (Case 757)                    ignore things around you; (b). Appear
                                                           threatening, as if ready to file a
"Culture of the agency. It still is an 'old boys           grievance at the drop of a hat; (c). [Be
        network' and basically a white man's               servile, an apple polisher] -- the
        world. When they (agency power                     servile seems to advance more
        brokers) say minority, it usually is in            quickly; (d). Seniority outweighs merit,
        reference to Black or Hispanic."                   even when positions are announced
        (Case 846)                                         as 'merit promotion;' (e).        Know
                                                           someone higher up." (Case 98)
"There are many misperceptions by other
       minorities and Whites of Asian Pacific      "To follow orders like a dog and not cause
       persons [such as] we are the shadow                 'any ripples in the pond.' Don't cause
       race, not really seen; the gray color,              any problems that management
       not black or white; we are not                      would have to answer to or defend."
       assertive enough to make good                       (Case 114)
       supervisors; we prefer occupations
       that don't require or have little           "If we had more Asian males or females in a
       interaction with people." (Case 960)                supervisory capacity, we Asians on
                                                           the lower technical positions would
      The respondents also have come up                    not be overlooked." (Case 224)
with specific recommendations (including
some cynical ones) for dealing with or to          "It certainly isn't in your work performance or
overcome the barriers, as listed below.                     quality. It appears to me it's who you
                                                            associate with, who you hang around
"It might help some Asian Pacific employees                 and who you socialize with after hours
        to be able to look at the organizational            determines the criteria for career
        chart and see at least one Asian                    advancement. I feel the people I work
        Pacific employee instead of the typical             for don't support their people; only that
        middle-aged white male." (Case 696)                 they want your support to upgrade
                                                            themselves." (Case 319)
"Advancement       of    career   requires
      'acceptance.' Asians should improve          "Kissing up to people in power, going along
      speech, manners, and improve their                   with good old boys, having
      acceptability." (Case 11)                            connections in order to move around."
                                                            (Case 460)
How to overcome the barriers                                                                   49

"We need more people participate in the                  executives know the situation [about
     politics and lobbying for promoting the             glass ceiling]." (Case 19)
     Asian Pacific employees in the U.S.
     workplaces." (Case 478)                      "Be not afraid to speak up. Asians are too
                                                         preoccupied with their work and do
"Having a mentor is very important. I have               not take time to speak with managers
       seen many white employees shoot                   about their desire for promotion."
       past me on the career ladder with the             (Case 41)
       help of a mentor in upper level
       management." (Case 480)                    "Asian employees in management need to
                                                         serve as a mentor to other Asian
"Strong antidiscrimination enforcement and               employees. Asian employees need to
       change in attitude of the agency                  take advantage of the EEO and civil
       towards minorities in general. I have             rights and grievance processes.
       had more than enough training from                Many are afraid to use these means."
       [my agency] and advanced degree                    (Case 54)
       beyond DVM, such as M.S., and Ph.D.
       from this country. I don't know what       "Asian employees should get together and
       else it takes." (Case 838)                        help each other." (Case 87)

"It is easier for top USDA management             "There is a glass ceiling - bullet-proof. One
       officials at the Washington level to              strong asset of Asian Pacific
       realize this [glass ceiling] problem and          employee is hard working. We prove
       break it from above." (Case 887)                  ourselves by deeds not by words.
                                                         This asset in fact becomes the biggest
"You tell your superiors what they like to hear          liability because we become the silent
       and if you master the art, you might              sub-sub-minority." (Case 112)
       even get promoted." (Case 945)
                                                  "Network with other Asian Pacific American
"Asians should continue to demonstrate their            employees.         More      effective
       hard working habits, technical skills            organization like APANA which can
       and improve their communications.                articulate needs and provide support
       They should educate non-Asians                   to each member through programs
       about their heritage and culture."               like mentor program and information
       (Case 11)                                        sharing." (Case 139)

"Asians cannot isolate themselves. They           "Form a strong Asian political coalition to have
       need to be aware of what's going on in            a stronger voice and influence with
       the work place. They need to earn                 the Administration." (Case 175)
       respect from their co-workers and
       management, and they need to work          "Increase the awareness of the agency about
       together to let the high level                    'glass ceiling.' Organize and demand
                                                         equal opportunity through a national
How to overcome the barriers                                                                    50

        organization that represents Asian          themselves to implement many of these ideas,
        Pacific employees." (Case 209)              their employer, the U.S. Department of
                                                    Agriculture, has to ensure that it is indeed
"Perhaps one way would be to eliminate all          fulfilling its mandate as specified in the Civil
       references to employee name,                 Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA, 1978), to
       gender and ethnicity from the                recruit "minorities [including Asian Americans
       evaluation processes during hiring.          and Pacific Islanders] for positions in the
       This would help eliminate favoritism in      agency to carry out the [antidiscrimination]
       selection. Asians must also help each        policy... in a manner designed to eliminate
       other. Sometimes I think nothing             under-representation of minorities in the
       short of a class action suit will make a     various       categories    of    civil  service
       difference." (Case 480)                      employment...." (CSRA, 1978, Sec. 310) In
                                                    the context of Asian Americans, this means
"Make agencies practice what they preach!           the shattering of the "glass ceiling" that keeps
      'Value diversity.' Asians are different;      them from reaching the upper grades in
      accept us and our qualities. Don't            Government service.
      make us into the other ethnic groups."
       (Case 510)                                           The "glass ceiling" exists largely
                                                    because generations of managers in the
"Need more political associations with the          USDA have fostered a culture similar to that
      White House. We Asians need to be             in the private sector. It "recognizes and
      much more active in politics and on all       advances those of similar backgrounds with
      levels." (Case 581)                           like-minded attitudes."lxiv This culture has to
                                                    be changed in the interest of equal justice,
"Until there is a court case the 'glass' will not   and the infusion of fresh perspective and new
         be broken." (Case 758)                     blood into public service. This transformation
                                                    is necessary for "reinventing Government."
"Learn the hiring processes, rules and
      policies, and file grievances when                     Fifty years ago, the Swedish
      unjust hiring has occurred." (Case            economist Gunnar Myrdal published an
      774)                                          influential study on the U.S. Blacks and he
                                                    titled the work An American Dilemma. The
"Must have programs and support from                crux of the dilemma was, how a nation whose
      Asians who have made it to the top.           creed is equality of all men could promote and
      Strong group presentation. Be very            maintain a society of racial segregation.
      vocal, very supportive of one another.        Today, in the workforce, America is
       Mentor each other." (Case 782)               confronted with a new dilemma. It is the
                                                    specter of a group of highly educated men
        Clearly, the Asian community does           and women being denied of access to the
not suffer from lack of ideas. What is needed       upper echelon of American corporations and
is a core of committed "believers" to make          Government because of the color of their skin.
many of these ideas into reality. In addition to     They are neither black nor white. They are
what the employees can and should do
How to overcome the barriers                        51

"strangers from a different shore." They are
Asian Americans.

        In the past, Asian Americans have
remained silent.       They supported and
advanced the interests of their employers
despite discrimination. Through the medium
of a survey, some of them have now spoken.
 If a highly educated people are denied
access to higher grades in their occupations,
what is the value of education? Is a mockery
being made of the counsel on getting a good
education given to thousands in the younger
generation?     How much talent can an
organization afford to waste and not lose its
competitive edge? If a people of a different
color, neither white nor black, are denied
career advancement because of the color of
their skin, what is the meaning of equal

        The Asians have spoken. Are they
being heard? Should they not be heard in this
age of cultural diversity and reinvention?
Should they not be heard as their number
multiplies in the workforce? What should be
the responses from their employers? What
should be the responses from the people
whose fore-parents fought and died for equal
justice? Shall cynicism and resentment rule
the workforce?

         The "glass ceiling" issue is an issue of
fairness. Its impact reaches beyond the
workplace. It undermines not only the morale
of a workforce but also the social bond that
holds together a diverse people. It erodes the
hard fought gains for which generations of
civil rights leaders gave their lives. When a
people of a particular color are denied their
equal opportunity today, all people can expect
their opportunity similarly diminished. The
"glass ceiling" must be removed, now!
How to overcome the barriers   52
How to overcome the barriers                                               53

                               i . This group includes the traditionally
                               recognized Japanese Americans, Chinese
                               Americans, Filipino Americans, Hawaiians,
                               Korean Americans, and the self-identified
                               Indian Americans and Pakistani Americans,
                               and the more recent immigrants from
                               Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. For a
                               history of Asian Americans, see Takaki, 1989.
                                Unless noted otherwise, the terms "Asians,"
                               "Asian      Americans,"     "Asian     Pacific
                               Americans," and "Asian Americans and
                               Pacific Islanders," as used in this study, are
                               interchangeable. They include all these

                               ii. MSPB, 1992:2; also DOL, 1992.

                               iii. CCR, 1992:18.

                               iv. According to the Korn/Ferry's International
                               Executive Profile, cited in CCR, 1992:133.

                               v. MSPB, 1993:22.

                               vi. MSPB, 1993:39.

                               vii. AACI, 1993. However, this study is more
                               diverse than the AACI's study in ethnic
                               composition. The proportions of college
                               graduates in both studies are about even,
                               however, the Silicon Valley sample has a
                               higher proportion of holders of advanced

                               viii. OAE, p.1.

                               ix. MSPB, 1993:22.

                               x. USDA Work Force EEO Profile for 1984
                               (as of 9/28/85) and 1993 (as of 4/13/93),
                               compiled by the Office of Advocacy and
Endnotes                                                                                  54

Enterprise.                                     of USDA are not available for this study.
                                                However, according to the U.S. Office of
xi. Based on data compiled by the USDA          Personnel Management, as of December
Office of Civil Rights Enforcement (formerly    1991, 1.6 percent of the Federal workforce
the Office of Advocacy and Enterprise).         have doctorates, 7.5 percent have master's
                                                degrees, 2.1 percent have professional
xii. The methodology of the survey is in the    degrees, 24.5 percent have bachelor's
appendix.                                       degrees, 27 percent have some college
                                                education, 34.6 percent are high school
xiii. Deepak Bhatnager, a research geneticist   graduates, and 2.7 percent are not high
with the Agricultural Research Service,         school graduates. In contrast, according to
shared this observation with the author.        the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 percent of
                                                the U.S. workforce (age 25 and older in 1992)
xiv. Angel Cielo, a veterinarian in the Food    have doctorates, 6.5 percent have master's
Safety and Inspection Service and currently     degrees, 1.8 percent have professional
the president of the Asian Pacific American     degrees, 17.2 percent have bachelor's
Network in Agriculture (APANA), personally      degrees, 7.4 percent have associate's
encouraged his colleagues to respond to the     degrees, 18 percent have some college
survey. John Kusano, the Asian Pacific          education, 35.7 percent are high school
American program manager in Forest Service      graduates, and 12.4 percent are not high
and currently the vice president of APANA,      school graduates. Data on the Federal and
wrote a letter to the Asian employees in        U.S. workforces were compiled by the
Forest Service to request their cooperation.    Federal Times, published on May 16, 1994.
xv. Supervisory positions do not necessarily    xix. MSPB, 1993:13.
carry a high grade. Some employees in
Grade 7 are in supervisory positions. Many      xx . See C. Wright Mills' The Sociological
veterinarians at Grade 11 are supervisors.      Imagination (1959) for a discussion of the
Managers, by definition, are supervisors of     transformation of individual "troubles" into
supervisors. They usually carry a higher        public "issues."
grade, 13 or above.
                                                xxi. AACI, 1993:26.
xvi . Unlike the AACI's study, more of the
USDA employees are in the older age groups.     xxii . CCR,     1979:426    &   564;   CCR,
 The AACI's sample, as a whole, is much         1992:131-2.
                                                xxiii. From an OPM handout distributed to the
xvii. Myrdal, 1944.                             Senior     Executive  Service     Candidate
                                                Development Program.
xviii. CCR, 1989:66. Data on educational
attainment for the total permanent workforce    xxiv. AACI, 1993:25.
Endnotes                                                                                    55

xxv. Hunt, 1980:9.                             xlii . Dawkins, n.d.:29-30, 80-104; MSPB,
                                               1992:24; DOL, 1991:22.
xxvi. Hargie, 1986.
                                               xliii. Shields and Shields, 1993:67. The role
xxvii. Takaki, 1989:447.                       of a mentor will be further elaborated in the
                                               section on the gender factor.
xxviii . CCR, 1979:426 & 564, CCR,
1992:131-2.                                    xliv. The AACI's study merely mentioned "a
                                               lack of mentors" as an obstacle to career
xxix. Morrison, 1992:35.                       advancement. It was not highlighted as a key
                                               factor (1993:26).
xxx. Among Asian employees 373 are now
supervisors or managers; the number of         xlv. DOL, 1992:35.
non-supervisors/non-managers is 574. As of
June 1993, none of the senior-level research   xlvi. MSPB, 1992:29.
positions is occupied by an Asian, even
though Asians are known for their focus in     xlvii. MSPB, 1992:33.
                                               xlviii. It might be worthwhile to emphasize that
xxxi. Thomas, 1991:119.                        the graphs are presented in percentages.
                                               Thus, female employees are either
xxxii. Thomas, 1991:102; Dawkins, n.d.         proportionately higher or lower than their
                                               male colleagues on the issues in questions.
xxxiii. MSPB, 1992.                            In terms of absolute numbers, there are more
                                               males than females in most situations. The
xxxiv. Morrison, 1992:37.                      overall difference is 603 males and 349
                                               females. Unless noted otherwise, these are
xxxv. Morrison, 1992:34.                       the bases for comparison.
xxxvi. AACI, 1993:26.                          xlix. MSPB, 1992:13.
xxxvii . MSPB, 1992:2; Thompson and            l. According to the central personnel record,
DiTomaso, 1988.                                two Asian women are in Grade 15. However,
                                               neither one had responded to the survey.
xxxviii. Dawkins, n.d.:1.
                                               li. MSPB, 1992:9.
xxxix. Dawkins, n.d.:4.
                                               lii. MSPB, 1992:14.
xl. Shields and Shields, 1993:118-149.
                                               liii. AACI, 1993:17.
xli. Fernandez, 1981:278; Thompson and
DiTomaso, 1988:143.                            liv. Hargie, 1986.
Endnotes                                           56

lv. For a demur on the issue of accents, see
Takaki, 1989:447.

lvi. MSPB, 1992:30.

lvii. Shields & Shields, 1993:48-71. While the
book Work, Sister, Work by the Shields
sisters is written for Black women, Asian
females and males can benefit tremendously
from the practical advice. It is a "how to" book
for anyone serious about advancing his/her

lviii. MSPB, 1992:24.

lix. From materials distributed in the Senior
Executive Service Candidate Development

lx. MSPB, 1992:24.

lxi. MSPB, 1992:55.

lxii. Shields and Shields, 1993:118-137.

lxiii. AACI, 1993:16.

lxiv. Namkoong, 1992:13.

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