The Atlantic

The Problem With ‘Asians Are Good at Science’

Stereotypes of “worker bees” and “dragon ladies” are holding Asian Americans back in STEM careers.
Source: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

It’s a familiar stereotype: Asian people are good at math and science. This belief has pervaded American pop culture and media for decades, perhaps best exemplified in a now-infamous 1987 Time magazine cover that showed six young students, sitting behind a computer and books, with the caption “Those Asian American Whiz Kids.”

Since the stereotype ostensibly is a compliment, there’s a temptation to think that pursuing careers in science, technology, math, and engineering is easier for Asian Americans. Indeed, diversity initiatives in these STEM fields tend to focus solely on supporting African Americans and Latinos. But often the opposite is true.  

In recent years, the authors of this article, alongside our colleagues at the Center for WorkLife professions. Our research has found that Asian Americans, especially women, often face significant career hurdles tied to perceptions about ethnicity and race.  

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