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Why AAPI Representation in the Workplace Matters

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), like most celebratory heritage months, started as a weekly celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. It wasn’t until 1992—nearly two decades after the week-long celebration was passed in Congress—that Congress passed Public Law 102-450, moving AAPI Heritage Month to be an annual month-long celebration. May was the chosen month as a representation of the first Japanese to immigrate to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, for which most workers were Chinese immigrants.

AAPI Heritage Month is not only a great time to ensure you understand the culture, history, and struggles the community faces, but to also revisit your policies, benefit offerings, and diversity initiatives within your organization. Though your efforts should be year-long, AAPI Heritage Month is a great reminder and opportunity to revamp your efforts.

AAPI Stereotypes in the Workplace: How to Overcome Bias

“Asian American”—a term that was once used to bring the community together is now working against them. With nearly 20 million Asian Americans residing in the United States, 35% are East Asian, 35% are Southeast Asian, and 27% are South Asian. Using a term like “Asian American” diminishes diversity amongst these individual groups and the monolith approach (a uniform group) has never quite resonated.

By recognizing the AAPI stereotypes in the workplace, you can discover ways to overcome bias. There are many kinds of stereotypes and biases, but here are a few to get you started.

  • Perpetual foreigner” is the societal perception that Asian Americans are outsiders in America regardless of their history in the country.
  • Model minority” is the stereotype that Asian Americans are innately successful and untroubled, especially in contrast to other marginalized groups.
  • Implicit bias happens automatically and unintentionally and influences judgments, decisions, and behaviors towards a particular person or group of people. It can be mitigated with awareness and effective bias-reduction strategies.
  • Microaggressions are biased statements, expressions, or actions that leave targeted individuals feeling uncomfortable or insulted. Examples of microaggressions include alien in own land, ascription of intelligence, color blindness, criminality, and more.

Why AAPI Women Need More Representation in Leadership Roles

AAPI women in leadership has been stagnating for quite some time, though AAPI men in leadership is also much lower than other marginalized groups. Research has shown that female stereotypes, such as hyperfeminine, passive, compliant, and “tiger mom”—an assumption that Asian women are stringent, critical, and indifferent caregivers—can impact them from advancing into leadership roles.

Asian Americans are handily represented in corporate jobs, yet their presence at director-level significantly drops with Asian American women experiencing a severe drop at 80%.

Organizations like AAPI Women Lead created the #ImReady Movement—raising visibility around AAPI women and celebrates the leadership and power of AAPI women in Education, Business, Technology, and Politics—and works to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms for AAPI communities in the United States.

Creating groups and initiatives in the workplace that cultivate equal opportunities for AAPI to move up the corporate ladder and progress in their careers is integral to the AAPI communities. Learning more about AAPI diasporas, histories, and experiences can help you navigate resources, tools, and support for higher success in their careers. Partnering with organizations like AAPI Women Lead who focus on specific issues impacting the AAPI communities can offer invaluable insights, specialized resources and tools, and additional support for your employees.

How to Foster Multiculturalism in Your Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

  1. Get granular in data collection. In analyzing your data about Asian American employees, get granular. This granular data can help identify specific contributions, challenges, and needs and thus, provide you a better understanding of how to support them.
  2. Show support at impactful moments. With the help of granular data, you can make more informed decisions about recruitment, evaluations, and promotions. In exploring the Asian American employee experience, you can recognize areas for improvement, such as removing implicit bias, addressing microaggressions, and preventing discrimination during job interviews and evaluations.
  3. Research specific challenges your Asian American employees face. By identifying specific challenges your Asian American employees face, the more specific you can get in your solutions. For example, if Asian American employees have experienced implicit bias or microaggressions, investing in educational opportunities across the organization can help all employees recognize, address, and prevent it from happening. Additionally, creating an employee resource group (ERG) for Asian Americans in your organization can help foster inclusion.
  4. Explore sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in and looking to sponsor opportunities for Asian American workers, sponsorship can offer higher engagement levels and is more effective at lower levels of corporate America. Sponsorship opportunities are a great way to show support for the Asian American communities.
  5. Integrate Asian American issues into corporate responsibility. Social responsibility is becoming more popular among the younger generation of employees entering the workforce, but encouraging Asian Americans to participate in corporate social responsibility initiatives can not only improve inclusion, but also educate others about the Asian American communities.

Fostering a company culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, including multiculturalism, can help provide a sense of belonging and pride in cultural identities for employees. If you’re looking for tips for more inclusive hiring, check out Namely’s talent management solutions.

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