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Asian American lawyers who gathered in Chicago last year to discuss roadblocks to a career advancement expanded their roundtable program to the West Coast last month. A roundtable event in California's Silicon Valley, focused on Asian American GCs, sought to provide networking opportunities and dialogue about the careers of Asian American in-house attorneys.
The meeting, hosted by the legal consultancy Major, Lindsey and Africa and the firm Shearman and Sterling, brought together both firm and in-house lawyers to discuss career advancement and obstacles.
Many Asian American lawyers who have excelled at law school and landed prestigious jobs find their careers slowing prematurely, a phenomenon that some have described as a "bamboo ceiling." Though Asian Americans have made strong inroads into the legal profession, they are often underrepresented at the highest levels. For example, a 2010 survey of Fortune 500 general counsel found that only 11 companies had Asian Americans as GC.
The West Coast is no exception to this pattern. While Asian workers in the Silicon Valley's thriving tech industry are often some of the few non-white employees, they are still under-represented in high level positions, according to Inside Counsel. White men and women are more than twice as likely to become executives as Asian workers, according to a report by the Ascend Foundation.
These roundtables, which began in Chicago last year, focus on frank discussion about the issues facing Asian attorneys in the workforce. Bringing together both attorneys early in their careers, and successful industry leaders, allows attorneys to discuss barriers facing them and strategies for advancement. It also creates important networking opportunities.
The discussion leaders for the first West Coast round table represented some of the most important lawyers in the area. They included Yul Kwon, Deputy Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook, Hyun Park, Senior VP and GC for Pacific Gas and Electric, and Dorothy An, GC for the peer-to-peer file sharing company BitTorrent.
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