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McKinsey: 30% of Asian American women consider downshifting their careers

·Reporter
·3-min read

A new study from consulting firm McKinsey shows that 30% of Asian American women are considering stepping back from their careers in some capacity.

Using research from 317 companies, McKinsey and nonprofit LeanIn.org reported earlier in the month that challenges from the pandemic have caused women across the board to consider reducing work hours, taking a leave of absence, or switching to a less demanding job.

One possible reason for Asian American women in particular: a greater need to tend to issues at home. Compared to Asian American men, Asian American women were 14% more likely to say increased household responsibilities were keeping them from returning to work in their pre-pandemic capacities.

Asian American women were more likely than any other subgroup to list household responsibilities as the biggest challenge during the pandemic. East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian groups had varying responses when disaggregating the data.
Asian American women were more likely than any other subgroup to list household responsibilities as the biggest challenge during the pandemic. East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian groups had varying responses when disaggregating the data.

The challenge that Asian Americans and women face in ascending up the corporate ladder may also explain the desire among Asian American women to take a step back.

Jess Huang, a partner at McKinsey who was among the authors of the report, told Yahoo Finance that those pressures place the responsibility on companies to examine their “people processes” in the post-pandemic world.

“These two things together just make it so critical for companies to really think about how they retain Asian Americans and Asian American women,” said Huang.

Advice for companies

The McKinsey report advises companies to offer workplace benefits (like expanded sick leave and childcare support) to help women across the board.

Huang added that implicit bias trainings can also help break down biases that may be preventing management from advancing more diverse candidates up the ranks. The increased attention on Anti-Asian hate crimes throughout the country have cast a light on stereotypes that have disadvantaged Asian American in and out of the workplace.

“We all know that the pandemic has really exacerbated some Anti-Asian sentiment, racism, biases. And these are all things that have historically served as barriers to equity,” Huang said.

McKinsey noted that not all Asian Americans face the same challenges. For example, East Asians (men and women) appeared to express greater interest in taking a step back from their jobs than Asian Americans at large.

The report highlights how other groups, such as Black and Hispanic and Latino women, are similarly weighing pulling back on their careers since the start of the crisis.

Those groups may be held back for different reasons, with McKinsey reporting that childcare was a larger challenge among Hispanic and Latino women.

A Federal Reserve survey released Monday arrived at similar conclusions. The central bank said that as of November 2020, about 36% of Black mothers and 30% of Hispanic mothers were unable to fully return to work as they stayed home with their children, compared to 19% of white mothers.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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