2 min read

Asian Americans Suffer from an Age 30 Problem

Asian Americans suffer from an Age 30 Problem

by Joy Chen

Thanks to the Model Minority Myth, most Americans assume that Asian Americans are “doing just fine.” In fact, we suffer from an ❗Age 30 Problem ❗

Starting out in life, things look rosy. 

We get the best grades.

We get into the best schools.

We get into the best companies.

BUT BUT BUT: Around age 30, just when we should leverage 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 than that of whites, African Americans or Latinos.

Corporate pyramid to an Asian American

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

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. You could find yourself with few opportunities to move up, or even to move out.

You’d be stuck.

The implications 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. 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 future shrivel, that can result in a huge amount of frustration, disappointment and even shame.

More broadly, the exclusion of Asian Americans from leadership 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.

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

It’s tragic, the damage wreaked by the Asian American Glass Ceiling.

If you're Asian American, know this:
You are not alone. The barriers you face confront us all.


Enough is enough.

I know that after 2 years of pandemic and surging anti-Asian hate, many of us are grieving, and tired, and scared, for ourselves, for our parents and loved ones. But let’s not compound all the tragedy by failing to act.

For 200 years in this country, Asian Americans have been the invisible minority, the perpetual foreigner. And right now, in 2022, thanks to big data, you and I, we now have the best opportunity we’ve ever had to turn the tide of exclusion.


My new blog and all my work is dedicated to helping you unleash your own potential and to unleash the potential of those in your organization.

Please have a look around, and subscribe for future insights. But as I like to say, insights without action is just overhead. So...

Let’s get to work dismantling that glass ceiling.

With love,



I'm glad to be in conversation and community with you! Please follow or connect with me on LinkedIn here.

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Joy Chen (陈愉) is CEO of JOYOUS, a human capital consulting firm which uses AI and advanced analytics to help companies operationalize inclusion. She previously served as Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. Learn more at getjoyous.net.


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