But Why is it Made of Bamboo?

December 21, 2004

Not because I think it will explain the sad state of my career, though hey, I'm ready for any explanation. But because it seems like it may become one of those books that will become a reference point, whether you love it or hate it.

According to the Korea Times, "executive coach and career counselor Jane Hyun gets to the bottom of why many Asian Americans have been unable to move ahead in the workplace. As the title of this book suggests, Hyun explains that Asians have not been able to break the 'bamboo ceiling' because many are not aware that the Asian upbringing that shaped their individual characteristics, career choices and workplace behavior might also be causing them to be misunderstood by their colleagues and bosses."

I'm curious to hear how my "Asian upbringing" in Kansas influenced my career choices of journalist, documentary filmmaker, obsessive crafter and overall dilletante. And how nice it will be to explain my social ackwardness and the misunderstanding of my colleagues and bosses with a "multicultural" reasoning, instead of my own personal misanthropy plus shyness plus laziness that I've been relying on up to now.

But I shouldn't be so sarcastic --I haven't even read the book yet. It's not out to May, 2005. Maybe I'll read it and learn that there's some deep, Jungian, Asian thinking inside of me that I'm not even aware of. Or that being the child of immigrants will in fact have a deep imprint --it only makes sense, right?

That's the problem with generalizations, especially cultural ones. Impossible not to make, (how many times have we joked about Chinese people being cheap?) very sensitive (white men, don't you dare make fun of Chinese people being cheap) and both useful and useless at the same time.

I'll be interested to see if Hyun has any hard statistical analysis to back up her work, or if it's all based on anecdotal evidence. She's been a career counselor for a long time, including an advisor for Monster.com! but I didn't see any academic credentials --sociology, anthropology, or other studies of human culture and behavior. Which may not matter, but it kinda does.

Because then maybe she would have named her book differently. Bamboo until recently has been an Asian building material --wouldn't the "ceiling" be built of something used in the West? I guess "The Asbestos Ceiling," "The Foam Tile Ceiling" and "The Old Boys Network Grandfather Clause Ceiling" don't have the same ring.




i am hoping to get a peek at the book. is it me or could you insert almost anyone who is not a white male (and even some of them) and insert the 'affinity group de jour' into the description of issues, items or what-have-you into the list of 'reasons' that they (or people like them) have not broken through the 'your-culturally-appropriate-material- here ceiling'? is the real issue a pre-supposition on the part of the 'selector class' that those who 'do not look\speak\eat\live like them' are inherently less qualified and thus to be restricted? do we find ourselves constructing ceilings (or floors or walls) that effectively do the same thing to those who do not look\speak\eat\live like us? 14+14+6=34 or over 1/3 of the nation. build your own buildings without ceilings, but use all the materials at your disposal.