Glass ceiling for the foreign born: Perspectives from Asian-born American R&D scientists

Chao C. Chen, Asha Rao, Isabelle Yi Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In today's globalized economy, more people are migrating to work and live in foreign countries as sojourners or immigrants. Biases against the foreign born can be blatant or subtle. We examined the phenomenon of the glass ceiling, a more subtle form of unequal treatment of the foreign born, for first-generation Asian American scientists in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, drawing from a study of their career aspirations, strategies, and challenges. Based on in-depth interviews, we identified 4 categories of career aspirations that shed light on their desire to pursue management and leadership positions in American research and development (R&D) organizations. We found that few Asian-Born American (ABA) scientists sought purely managerial careers. But 38% aspired to be executives while involved in scientific research. Further analysis suggested that ABA scientists saw a glass ceiling and identified its causes. Surprisingly, 1 key cause was the scientists themselves. We develop a Glass Ceiling model for the foreign born to frame future research and managerial approaches for leadership development of these R&D scientists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-257
Number of pages9
JournalAsian American Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Asian-born American
  • Foreign-born scientists
  • Glass ceiling


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