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Smash the Asian American Glass Ceiling 💥 打破职场天花板!

Thanks to the Model Minority Myth, most Americans assume that Asian Americans are “doing just fine.” 

In fact, we suffer from what I call an Age 30 Problem:

Starting out in life, things look rosy. 

We get the best grades.

We get into the best universities.

We get into the best companies.

BUT BUT BUT …. Around age 30, at precisely the moment when we should be starting to take advantage of all that education and hard work to take flight and soar….

We plummet. 

From being America’s HIGHEST potential group, to its LOWEST.

Companies LOVE to hire us. They just rarely get around to promoting us. 

We’re 7% of the population, 12% of the workforce – and 1.5% of Fortune 500 corporate officers. Our rate of promotion into management is less that that of whites, Blacks or Latinos. 

We’re 27% of Goldman Sachs’ U.S. professional workforce. And 0% of their corporate officers. 

Lots of companies operate that way. On the backs of Asian American professionals.

Asian American corporate pyramid glass ceiling

So, the Asian American Glass Ceiling doesn’t look like a slab of glass. It’s more like a haze, like air pollution. At first, it may be hard to see, but over time, it stifles the upward trajectory of nearly every Asian American.

We're Corporate America's best-educated, hardest-working worker bees.

What does the Asian American Glass Ceiling mean for you?

If you’re stuck under the glass ceiling, your company may consider you “valuable but not promotable,” which would make you interchangeable with other highly competent professionals, many of them Asian. If you leave, they’ll just find someone else. And you could find yourself with few opportunities to move up, or even to move out, of your organization.

You’d be stuck.

The financial implications of all this are huge. In your early 30s, you could be losing out on tens of thousands of dollars a year. Going into your late 30s, 40s, and 50s, that could rise to hundreds of thousands each year. Over your career, this translates into millions of dollars. And since in the U.S., wealth is built generationally, the lost earnings and opportunities are massive for you as well as your family.

That’s just the financial side.

When you start out in life with so much potential, and then watch your potential shrivel, that could result in a huge amount of frustration, disappointment and even shame.

More broadly, the exclusion of Asian Americans from leadership roles across American business, government, media, and society means that our world has been denied the unique contributions that could have been made by entire generations of Asian Americans.

And, as America’s perpetual outsiders, we become easy scapegoats for hate.

It’s tragic, the damage the Asian American Glass Ceiling does to individuals as well as to our community.

If you are an Asian American, and your career has slowed down, know this:

You are not alone. The barriers you face confront all Asian Americans

It’s the pervasive but little-known Asian American Glass Ceiling.

And it's my thang.

At this point, you may be wondering who I am and why I’m so obsessed with the Asian American Glass Ceiling.

In fact, I grew up surrounded by it.

A little about me

My parents had saved and sacrificed to buy a house in a good school district, which meant that we were the oddball Chinese in a school that was almost all white.

Joy Chen family

That’s me in the pink and white sweater. My brother. My parents. And in the middle, my grandmother, our Nainai, who lived with us. 

One evening, I was about 13, we were sitting at home and my Dad said, “Tonight’s the night of my department’s Christmas party.” 

Surprised, I asked why he didn’t go. He said, “Because when I go those things, I never know what to say to people.” 

I felt like a lightning bolt had suddenly crashed down on my head. ⚡

I realized two things. 

First, my old man and I had the same problem:

We didn’t know how to talk to white people! 

Second, I realized that this problem would forever limit his career, and his life.

It didn’t matter that he was born in Nanchang, had made it all the way to MIT where he got a master’s in engineering, and now was the hardest worker in his department. 

In Dad’s entire 30-year career, he managed ONE person: the blind guy, because no one wanted to manage the blind guy. 

My mom? Shanghai-born Cornell biochemist. Thirty-year career, never managed a soul. 

The only adults I knew were my parents’ friends, and they all were just like them: Chinese immigrants, Asia's best and brightest, arrived to top U.S. schools under full scholarships, who graduated became scientists and engineers in technical roles.

Me, I didn’t just want to go to an Ivy League school and become a worker bee. I wanted to be someone, change the world.


That night, I resolved to figure out how mainstream American society actually works, so that someday, I could get out there and make a difference.

To be honest, I doubted I ever could, because, at school, I was so awkward

The Americans – we called the white kids “Americans” as if we weren’t Americans, too! – the white kids, they were so carefree! How could they be so carefree?? 

My dream was that one day, I would wake up, and discover that my entire life had been a gigantic mistake. I would have blonde hair, and blue eyes, and be living in a big house, and then, finally, the other kids would like me. 


Looking back, it is CRAZY how much energy I expended into simply trying to belong.

After college, I wanted to try living in a place with more Asians. So, with no money and no connections, I packed up my car and drove 3,000 miles to Los Angeles, the city of dreams. 

In the early years, I struggled to stay afloat, money-wise. I lived in a string of low-cost apartments with roommates I found on bulletin boards in coffee shops. 

I kept trying to figure out the Americans around me. How they talked. How they joked. How they were so damn carefree in a world which was so damn hard. I copied them.

Finally, after many awkward and humiliating encounters, it worked.

I got myself belonged. 

At age 31, I was appointed a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles.

From there, I was headhunted to become an executive recruiter, or "CEO headhunter," for Fortune 500 companies across North America, Europe and Asia. 

During my seven years in headhunting, I interviewed 4,000 of the world’s top leaders, and I learned from every one of them. 

I started a blog in Chinese and English called Global Rencai (“Global Talent” in Chinglish), to teach other Chinese how to smash the glass ceiling and get to the top. My blog went viral on the Chinese social network of the time, Renren,

That's when a publisher in China asked me to write a book for women there. I said yes.

My books DO NOT MARRY BEFORE AGE 30 《30岁前别结婚》and HOW TO GET LUCKY IN YOUR CAREER 《30岁趁势而为》became best-sellers, launching me in China as a celebrity executive coach and expert on global careers.

The traditional Chinese ways that my parents had instilled in me, that had made me such an outsider in America, helped me to soar. I felt like I was operating on zero gravity. 

Partnering with brands including Olay, SK-II, Mercedes Benz, I created viral videos, social media, events and trainings which by now have helped millions of Chinese women to unleash their potential in a global world. 

Joy Chen Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times

Now, I’m the executive coach the Wall Street Journal dubbed a “Lean-In Guru” and the Los Angeles Times refers to simply as “The Networker.”

Which is pretty ironic for the shy Chinese misfit who once upon a time did not know how to connect.

August of this year, spurred by the still-surging anti-Asian hate, I closed a decade’s work in China and returned to the States to launch JOYOUS, an executive/career coaching and leadership development firm just for Asian Americans.


All the anti-Asian hate is only the most visible part of the overall exclusion of Asian Americans that has continued from the very beginning of American history until the present day. The way that exclusion manifests in the workplace is: the Asian American Glass Ceiling.


Among Asian Americans, I was one of the lucky ones. 

Looking back, I now see that my background as an outsider was actually a blessing in disguise. It gave me the impetus to learn and master the unwritten rules of the corporate game, and to learn to connect with folks from all different cultures. 

And that's what allowed me to work at the top of 3 industries on 3 continents.

Now, my mission is to give other Asian Americans the insider guidance to overcome exclusion and gain access to opportunities at ALL levels of American business and society -- not just at the bottom. 

I feel grateful that my unusual career path has equipped me to with the experience, skills and knowledge to now address the glass ceiling problem that has haunted me my whole life.

Now you can see why, for me, this is personal. 

For *THREE (3)* generations, I have watched people I love suffer needlessly under the Asian American Glass Ceiling.

generations ago, I watched it cut down my parents and their entire generation of Asian immigrants.

generation ago, I created my Global Rencai blog to address this problem. Nevertheless, it persists.

Enough is enough. 

It’s too late to help my Dad. He died in the pandemic. 

So now, I’m here to help YOU. 

Joy Chen having coffee with you

This blog is here to help YOU gain more opportunities

Not only will this blog give you access to a bigger salary and better titles, but it’ll show you how to become a magnet for new opportunities, whether you want to move up in a big company, or start your own company. 

This way, even as the world changes crazily from year to year, you’ll be able to keep reinventing yourself, just as I and the world’s most successful people continuously do. 

I want to help you gain power. 

And then, I want to work with you to create a world without insiders and outsiders. A world of true inclusion, where EVERYONE is fully respected and valued, and everyone has the opportunities they need to succeed. 

Sound good?

I’m so glad you’re here. 

Let’s get smashing, shall we ? 💥





If you like this blog, your friends will, too. Please subscribe, and share this blog across your networks. Let’s work together to lift up our community!

If you’d like more JOY in your LinkedIn feed, follow Joy Chen 陈愉 and my hashtag #JoyousTips.

For instant access to my free 3-part video mini-course, “How to Smash the Asian American Glass Ceiling,” click here.

If you’d like to meet me to discuss how we at JOYOUS can help you smash the glass ceiling and soar in your own career, click here.


Joy Chen blog thumbnail

Joy Chen 陈愉

I help Asian Americans build GREAT careers 我帮你实现事业上质的飞跃 ◇ Former L.A. Deputy Mayor & Fortune 500 executive recruiter ◇ Speaker ◇ WSJ "Lean-In Guru" ◇ L.A. Times "The Networker" ◇ Come visit >>

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