A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Alumni Only event through the EDI Program to engage in a dialogue on racism, privilege, learning and purpose for the API community. Since it was an exclusive event only available to those who had the privilege of going through this program, so I definitely wanted to participate and show up as an ally who is willing to learn and do better as an API. I'm also excited to be able to share this workshop material with you!
During the workshop, we shared stories of our personal heritage and experiences with racism, reflected on the ways in which we claim or disclaim our "Asian-ness", explored our privilege and the role we may play, consciously or unconsciously, in racial disparity and discussed the potential for APIs to ally with other PoCs. The objectives of this workshop were to open up the dialogue on our racial identity, explore Asian American and Black experience and White supremacy, and define our personal commitments to learn and take action as allies. Our facilitator, Monica Lin-Meyer, Class of 2008 of the Leadership Navigation Class, is a People Advisory Services Consultant for Ernst & Young with 20+ years of communication and organizational effectiveness experience (see her full bio below). We had participants who came from immigrant backgrounds and of all API races so the dialogue was rich and diverse. Monica emphasized the importance of being open to learn and honor discomfort and recognizing that our experience is just one data point. Being Asian American does not make us NOT racist. With the expectations set forth, we dived right into the typical EDI introduction by stating our name, heritage and generation around the room, then completed our first breakout group discussion called the:
"I Am Not" vs. "I Am" exercise
This was a great diversity warm-up exercise to lay everything out on the table with the group in terms of implicit biases/stereotypes vs. who we really are as an individual.
Next, we discussed the spectrum of oppression in the Asian American Community and the Black Community.
Some terms to be aware of:
A myth perpetuated by Whites to drive a wedge between Asian Americans and other communities of color
Biased standards of beauty based on skin tone (the whiter, the better)
Racism against Black people by non-Blacks, including people of color
Supporting a movement or struggle, even when you don't know how it feels to be oppressed
Next, the group breakout discussion question was: In what ways could you be perpetuating racism against PoC, especially Black people?
Believe it or not, racism exists within the Asian community that is harming the PoC community. We took some time to reflect and share our personal experiences and stories.
Lastly, we engaged in several different scenarios to discuss and share how we would each respond to each given situation.
Scenario 1: You're at a grocery store and a white woman is yelling at black woman, who is in line ahead of her. "Get in the back of the line. You think you're special because you're Black and Black Lives Matter?"
*Think and reflect. How would you respond to this situation?
Scenario 2: During a work meeting, a senior colleague (white male) makes a joke about an Asian colleague out sick: "What happened to her? Did she eat a bat and get the Kung Flu or something?"
*Think and reflect. How would you respond to this situation?
Scenario 3: You approach the main doors to your apartment, and see a White woman arguing with a Black man, who is holding a food delivery bag in his hand. She says to you: "I'm not letting this man in. He says he's a delivery guy, but he's just some Black guy pretending to be a delivery boy so he can break into the building."
*Think and reflect. How would you respond to this situation?
Recommended approach to responding to acts of racism:
1. Draw Attention Away
2. Engage an Authority
3. Document What's Happening
4. Speak Up
5. Check in Afterward
Through this workshop experience, I have learned how critical it is to create a safe, non-judgmental space to encourage these types of productive conversations. For us to learn from one another, we need to be open and willing to understand different viewpoints. I'm also committed to continually checking my implicit / unconscious biases and standing up for others and speaking up and out to call out racism, even if it means feeling uncomfortable.
Hope this post has been informative for you. I urge you to take the time to go through these discussion questions, self-reflect and see how you would respond to each of these real-life scenarios. I'd love to hear your thoughts and perspectives so please feel free to comment and/or ask questions.
Thank you for your willingness to learn and be a better ally.
Monica is an executive coach and consultant with EY People Advisory Services. With 20+ years of organizational effectiveness experience, she has worked with companies like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, the Portland Trailblazers, Microsoft, Mercy Corps and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Monica has previously spoken at conferences including Disrupt HR and the Ragan Communicators Conference. She holds a master's degree from the Leadership Institute of Seattle and is currently completing the Hudson Institute executive coach certification program. Monica is a second generation Chinese American from the East Coast who now calls Portland home.
Prior to 2016, I was not aware that a leadership program existed that was built specifically for me as an Asian-American. The overall intent of this program is to strengthen multicultural leaders so that they are prepared to take on management and/or executive roles. For me, I've learned to build more confidence in myself and find my authentic voice. I was also ready to move up the ladder but didn't know how to navigate through the corporate world. After several years of making it known to my boss at that time that I was interested in this program, he finally gave me the approval to proceed. The EDI program was one of the most refreshing, educational and empowering experiences of my life. This 8-month long program involved dedicating one full business day per month to attend a face-to-face workshop concentrating on a monthly theme, like taking risks and conquering fears or public speaking and how to speak up as a minority leader. One of my most memorable moments was going through a team exercise called Personal Branding, where we had asked our peers to tell us one word that described us. Because we are our own worst critic, we don't often realize how we externally appear to others from their point of view. We also spent time giving back to our community and leading a community project as well as engaging in numerous networking events since it was all about building relationships and expanding our connections. I have learned so much more about myself by going outside of my comfort zone and focusing on my leadership growth. Fortunately, my company was able to take care of the tuition, so I would highly suggest asking your employer if they are able to fund this program as a training opportunity. Due to COVID-19, this program has been postponed for 2020; however, it does give you more time to consider applying for 2021!
SO WHAT IS IT? A unique leadership program that develops and empowers authentic, effective and intentional leaders. The curriculum is designed to explore the cultural values of Asian & Pacific Islanders and how culture impacts perceptions and behaviors in the workplace. Gain an understanding of how to remain true to yourself and your core values while getting the results that you want.
WHO SHOULD APPLY?
Emerging leaders committed to:
To learn more, visit the following site:
If you live in the greater Seattle or Portland area, I hope you consider applying! Please feel free to ask any questions below. Also, if you are aware of any multicultural leadership programs out there, please do share!
2016 Alumni of Leadership Discovery Program for APIs
As a Program Management Team Manager during this world-wide pandemic, I was faced with constant new challenges and setbacks each week. I needed to take the time to be intentional and mindful of what I was sharing to my employees, the vision I was setting forth and mindfully checking in with them to see how they were doing on a personal level.
Not being able to meet or see my team face-to-face was a huge challenge. It's difficult to build a connection with someone without having met them before, let alone lead them as a manager. So each week, I took the time to strategize how I was going to lead them through times of crisis. When I started looking for some virtual team building activities, they were few and far between. I wanted ones that were geared toward compassionate leadership, appropriate for this "new world" we are in. With a combination of research and what I've learned from other leaders, I've summarized some fun and thoughtful team icebreakers that you could host with your virtual team.
Team Icebreaker / Check In Questions:
To encourage my full team to participate, I used pollev.com to build interactive live surveys, which is very simple to complete. It also only takes 5-10 minutes of you and your team's time at the start of your meeting and a great way to start your day and warm up / get to know each other better.
Please comment below if you found any of the questions above and tools and strategies useful. Or, better yet, share any helpful team building icebreaker activities that you have found useful that others may not know about!
In the midst of a global pandemic, it is now the perfect time to reflect on your life while being quarantined. Many of us have unfortunately been laid off, furloughed, or are worried about the security of our jobs or businesses. In some cases, we are working-from-home if our employer allows for this opportunity. Most of us, who aren’t essential workers, are getting more time back in our day to focus on ourselves and our families for the first time in a long time. Many thanks to all of the essential workers, healthcare professional and first responders out there in our world, who are working tirelessly to save lives and putting themselves and their families in danger to fight this pandemic. We are so grateful for your compassion and sacrifices.
Prior to COVID-19 taking over our lives, our culture has always thrived on being busy and on-the-go. We've hardly had the time to stop and think about whether we are happy with where we are at in life. I, myself, have had plenty of time to mull over my thoughts and feelings. During this quarantine, I have found a sense of satisfaction by staying productive to accomplish the smallest of tasks. It is not in my nature to be stagnant a.k.a. a couch potato, although that does sound quite lovely. I typically feel a deep sense of guilt if I am not doing something that is adding value to my life or those around me. I am the true definition of a busybody and have been told too many times to truly embrace this time for fun and relaxation, but I am constantly wanting to better myself and build a better future. With this in mind, it is tough to not sit still.
Since March, I’ve worked on various hobbies and projects like learning to play the guitar, cooking new ethnic dishes, working on my vegetable garden, painting kindness rocks, completing new workouts, and even starting this new passion project with my youngest sister in an effort to give back to our Khmer community. I have also de-cluttered and re-organized my entire home for the first time in 5 years and completed some home projects that have always been on the back burner. I've also spent some time to really think about where I want to take the next phase of my life, personally and professionally. I am a planner, so envisioning where I want to take my life within the next 3-5 years, excites me. I like starting a new chapter of my life with a blank slate and coming up with new ideas and possibilities of what I could tackle and achieve.
During this pandemic, I have had some life altering experiences, like managing a virtual team without ever having met them in-person and relying on making connections through phone calls since we weren’t able to use our webcams to discovering the truest colors of some of my closest friends when it came down to sharing our stances on human rights. Through these experiences, I have learned so much more about myself. I have learned that I am capable of being a great leader despite not being physically present. I have learned the importance of educating myself about topics I’m not familiar on before passing judgment or choosing a side. I have learned that difficult and unexpected circumstances happen for a reason. Challenging times teaches us lessons. It either brings out the best or worst in us. Failures sometimes cause us to pivot to purposely make room for bigger, greater things in life.
To kick off this first blog post, I want to remind you that if you are not happy with your life, think about some changes you are able to implement in your life immediately. Some quick wins you are able to achieve within the next few weeks. Then, take action. Enroll in a course or program if you want to learn a new skill or advance in your education. Research positions or industries that you think is better suited for you. Remove any toxic people in your life who are doing more harm to you than good. By making small incremental, positive steps that are achievable, you will get closer to your end goals. I know it's easier said than done. But, trust me, as a Project Manager, everything is achievable if you break them down into small, bite-sized tasks to make them more manageable. I’ve always believed that anything is possible if we are consistent and put work into what we want to accomplish. You will always get somewhere by being proactive and taking charge of your life. Let’s use this time to improve on ourselves to come out of this quarantine stronger than we were from the start.
Best of luck & stay safe,