Avanade Voices: Where does the Asian community fit in the Inclusion & Diversity conversation?
- Posted on December 17, 2020
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
“Avanade Voices” is our new series in which we sit down with people from Avanade’s various Employee Networks. The series will serve as a platform to amplify different perspectives about meaningful societal and cultural issues, from racism to education to mental health. As a global company, there are so many different backgrounds at Avanade, and we have an opportunity to learn from each other by bringing our different viewpoints and passions to the table in dialogue.
This entry in Avanade Voices is authored by Kevin Pham, co-founder and co-chair of PANG and an infrastructure senior analyst at Avanade.
One of the questions I got asked when starting to think about this blog was, “How do you feel the Asian community fits into the Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) conversation?” And my response could only be, “How do you define ‘fit into’?” Because if I’m being really honest, I don’t know. It’s very hard for Asians – or Asian Americans, if I’m being specific – to identify our place in the conversation. As racial discrimination gets brought to the forefront of the discussion, other races and ethnicities are dealing with hate crimes and police brutality. When I think of the stereotypes that Asians often face, it’s that we’re soft spoken or good at math or that we stay inside the lines. These are not the same things; they are not the same struggles. But they are struggles, and we want to be a part of the I&D conversation because we face our own discrimination and our own issues living in America.
Asians are viewed as the “model minority.” This myth portrays Asian Americans as polite, hard-working people who do well for themselves by following the rules. It sets expectations for an entire race of people based not on who they are, but what they look like. And that’s harmful, including in the workplace. There’s pretty good data now from the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) that shows how common these stereotypes are and how they’re harmful to careers. Some Asian Americans are more reserved when they start out because they’re not sure how to navigate certain situations, but when they’re provided strong mentorship, you see a huge difference. Other Asian Americans are extremely vocal from the start and are eager to get into leadership positions to help others. As with anything, it depends on the person.
But the trouble with not knowing our place in the I&D conversation – not being a part of the majority, but not feeling included in the calls for minority support – is that we’re often overlooked. A great example of this is what has happened with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is so much fear and xenophobia and racism being directed at Asian people. Before lockdowns even started in the spring, our Chinatowns were deserted. And no one was talking about that. There was no media attention, no government aid, no calls for people to support Asian-owned businesses. So what happened? The Asian community relied on each other to provide support and give where we could.
There is a feeling that this is how it has always been and how it will always be. Over the summer, when protests erupted following the murder of George Floyd, I felt a divide between the generations of the Asian community. For Millennials and Gen Z, we had a desire to be a part of that and to advocate for the Black community. But for our parents or first-generation Asian Americans, they saw us going to those protests and got scared. “Why would you go out there? Those protests are turning into riots.” They have that old mentality that no one is going to help you, so you need to stay within the Asian community because that’s where you’ll be supported. So there is work to be done within our communities too – to educate our parents, to explain the importance of intersectionality and understand that if we’re in this together, we’ll all be better off. We need to make sure we’re included in these conversations.
Because it’s not true that we don’t need the support. If you look across the country at where there are the largest Asian populations, they are mostly concentrated to port cities because we gravitate to where there’s already a settled community where we can find help and feel safe. That’s part of the Asian culture, and it’s what we need in the workplace too – we need a place where Asians feel safe to open up, talk, seek support. That’s what we’re trying to build with the PANG Employee Network – a place where we can engage and support each other. And when we have that community, we can start connecting with other Employee Networks, creating bonds, furthering dialogue, and educating our other colleagues on decreasing stereotypes.