WOCA 2021: Resilient Leadership: Facing Bias & Violence Against AAPI Women 

The following session is from Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s fourth annual Women of Color and Their Allies event, held Oct. 21, 2021. This year’s theme was “Sustaining Workforce Positions for Women of Color.” Throughout the day, panels consisting of researchers, thought leaders and executives shared their insights and strategies for helping women of color overcome common workplace barriers and spotlight allies working to sustain their positions within the workforce.

It’s been a challenging year for Asian citizens following a 150% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. Pew Research revealed earlier this year that 45% of Asian respondents had experienced some form of offense since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Asian women, there has been a growing sense of discomfort not just in the world itself but one that has even spread into the workplace as well. In this session, panelists will discuss the experiences that Asian women face on the job and explore how stereotypes and unconscious biases hinder their careers. They will also share strategies for developing and advancing Asian women in the workplace.

Panelists for the session included Tracy Allen, Manager of Human Resources at Northrop Grumman (No. 21 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021) and MyKhanh Shelton, SVP of Enterprise Inclusion at WarnerMedia. Dana Noweder, Senior Manager of Client Fulfilment at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc, moderated the session.



Key takeaways from the session:


Allen on stereotypes facing the AAPI community

“One big thing many people need to remember is that Asian Americans are not a monolith. We are authentic with each of our ethnicities, with the 30+ countries that are in Asia. So, really highlighting that authenticity and making it known is very important and beneficial. There’s also the negativity that comes with the model minority myth. I believe that a lot of the general public doesn’t know what that means. Or there’s even a common misconception that it could be a good thing — so that’s another damaging stereotype we are continually fighting.”


Shelton on corporate strategies for developing allyship

“We find that the BRGs are a great place to foster community. We are also building additional ramps into the work of equity and inclusion, realizing that BRGs just aren’t for everybody. We have task forces and councils that have been really well received. We’ve had peer coaching groups that folks have really loved. As much as we say that BRGs are for everybody and you don’t have to share the same identity to participate, sometimes people still feel like it might not be for them. So, we respect that there needs to be a multiplicity of ways for people to get involved.”


Shelton on the biggest changes she has seen following the death of George Floyd

“When I think about right now, everybody now seems to understand things in perhaps a much more collective way — they see that we’re all in this together, and equity is only going to be good for everybody. Inequities are going to drag us all down. Inclusion is good for everybody. Setting an environment that is anything less than inclusive is going to be a drag on our own individual fulfillment in life.” 


Allen on the importance of inclusion

“Civility and respect in the workplace is invaluable. In a Harvard Business Review study I recently read about the price of incivility, researchers found that 38% of individuals decreased their quality of work when they experienced a microaggression, and 80% of those individuals ended up worrying about the incident long after it occurred. Look at that lost time; there is a price to it, and these damages can happen in seconds. It could be just a comment or the way that you speak to somebody or your tone. It’s not just managers sharing that; it’s coworkers. It’s those upstanders who really make the work environment a great place to work and for us to feel included.”