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  • Writer's pictureDr. Michael "Soon" Lee

Has The Glass Ceiling Really Been Broken?

"I think we’ve broken that glass ceiling, we've ninja-kicked it to hell," said Michelle Yeoh, speaking on a panel for the Television Critics Association on January 13, 2023. Yeoh, 60, was born in Malaysia and was a major Hong Kong action movie star before moving to America to a vastly different Hollywood landscape.

She is now starring in the Disney+ series "American Born Chinese" which is a graphic novel story with a primarily Asian cast. "There were no faces that looked like me, there were no roles out there that represented us," said Yeoh. But the actress has helped blaze the trail, appearing in breakthrough films such as the 1997 Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies" alongside Pierce Brosnan, 2018's hit comedy "Crazy Rich Asians" and the landmark Marvel film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

However, she ignores the fact that the popular “Crazy Rich Asians” was over a decade ago and Shang-Chi was a rarity. According to a 2021 USC Annenberg study of the 1300 popular films released between 2007 and 2019 only 44 (3.4%) had an API lead or co-lead and one-third of those starred Dwayne Johnson who is of black and Samoan heritage.

Factoring him out because most viewers don’t think of him as Asian, only 2.3% of those films had an API lead or co-lead compared to the 7% of the Asian population in America.

Maybe things are better for Yeoh and a few others but the bamboo ceiling is still very much intact for the majority of Asian actors in 2023.

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Michael Soon Lee, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and trainer on diversity, equity, and inclusion. He has spoken over 1,000 times around the world to companies. He is also the author of the upcoming book, "Beyond the Bamboo Curtain: Understanding America's Invisible Minority". He can be reached by calling (925) 864-8848 or by emailing:


As a public speaking professional, he has been listed as one of the Top 5 Diversity Speakers in America by the Speakers Platform Speakers Bureau. Michael has spoken about selling to thousands of multicultural customers around the world for over 14 years.


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