The Tiger Mom: Do Chinese Mothers know the secret to professional success?

Amy Chua with her daughters, Louisa and Sophia, at their home in New Haven, Conn. Erin Patrice O’Brien for The Wall Street Journal

Many of us first learned about Amy Chua, a law professor at Yale University, from her wildly popular Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” The attention-grabbing headline compelled over 10,000 people to comment on the article – some quite passionately.

For the record, ANY stereotype makes the entire PDN team squeamish.  Our staff is comprised of a multi-cultural, multi-racial mixed bag of professionals from far and wide.  We also understand that as a group, Asian Americans encompass over 50 nations with many different ethnicities.  But we thought we’d pose the question:  When it comes to success in the workplace, is Amy Chua on to something?

Here’s a quick overview:

In the piece, which is excerpted from her New York Times best-selling book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Chua asserts that when it comes to parenting, there are marked differences between Asian Americans (the term “Chinese Mother” is used loosely) and Westerners.  Namely that Chinese parents give their children rocket fuel for success by demanding straight A’s and unquestioning respect for elders. If that means not allowing them to watch TV, play video games, or choose their own extracurricular activities, so be it.  The offspring of these families are succeeding while lenient, self-esteem obsessed Western parents are letting their children fall behind, she wrote.

Chua didn’t end there.  Her latest book, “The Triple Package” – co-written by her husband Jed Rebenfeld; also a Yale law professor– declares the most successful groups of people in the United States share three distinguishing cultural traits. In a nutshell, this includes inherent superiority, a sense of insecurity, and impulse control.  And yes, the book combines a discussion of race, ethnicity, upward mobility and education in ways that may have ignited more kitchen table talk than Kimye’s wedding.

The opening paragraph of the Pew Research Center’s study The Rise of Asian Americans begins “Asian-Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.”

As an aside, it might be surprising that Asian Americans also have a higher poverty rate (12.3 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (9.8 percent).  We mentioned these stats, because our mission is to connect diverse candidates with employers that value diversity.  We believe access to good paying jobs is a major factor in alleviating poverty.

In an interview with the NY Post, Chau’s says the main point of  “The Triple Package” ‘is the promise of a day when there are no longer any successful groups in the United States – only successful individuals.’

So, what do you think drives success? Do Chua’s assertions that cultural factors and Tiger Mom parenting styles can increase your odds for career mobility as adults? Tell us your thoughts below and happy job hunting!

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