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AAPI Heritage Month: Five Reasons Why AAPI Representation Matters in the Workplace

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) is an annual month-long celebration that originated as a weekly celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Congress passed Public Law 102-450 in 1992, moving the week-long celebration to a month-long one. May was chosen as the month to represent the first Japanese immigrants who arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843. Additionally, it marks the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad's completion on May 10, 1869, in which most of the workers were Chinese immigrants.

During AAPI Heritage Month, it's important to understand the culture, history, and challenges that the community faces. Reviewing your organization's policies, benefit offerings, and diversity initiatives is also a good time. Remember that these efforts should be ongoing throughout the year, but this month is a great opportunity to reinvigorate them.

Overcoming the 'Asian American' Bias this AAPI Heritage Month

There are almost 20 million Asian Americans in the US, with 35% being East Asian, 35% Southeast Asian, and 27% South Asian. Using the term "Asian American" fails to recognize the diversity that exists among these individual groups. The monolithic approach, which treats them as a uniform group, is not accurate.

Overcoming bias in the workplace can be achieved by recognizing and addressing AAPI stereotypes. Here are a few examples of such stereotypes that you may encounter:

  • Asian Americans are often viewed as outsiders in the US regardless of their history in the country. This phenomenon is known as the "Perpetual Foreigner" stereotype.

  • Asian Americans are often stereotyped as the "Model Minority," implying that they are naturally successful and have not faced significant struggles, particularly in comparison to other marginalized groups.

  • Implicit bias occurs unconsciously and influences behavior towards a particular person or group. However, it can be reduced by increasing awareness and using effective bias-reduction strategies.

  • Microaggressions are biased statements, expressions, or actions that can make a person feel uncomfortable or insulted. Examples of microaggressions include feeling like a stranger in your own country, being stereotyped as intelligent or not intelligent based on your race, being told that you don't see race, being associated with criminal activity because of your race, and more.

Multiculturalism in Your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy

Creating a company culture that is diverse and inclusive, and embraces multiculturalism, can help employees feel a sense of belonging and pride in their cultural identities. This can be achieved by providing an environment that welcomes and values people from different backgrounds. If you're wondering where to start, here are some tips to consider:

  1. When analyzing data about Asian American employees, collect detailed information to identify their specific contributions, challenges, and needs. This will provide a better understanding of how to support them.

  2. Display support during significant moments. By utilizing detailed data, you can make more informed choices regarding recruitment, evaluations, and promotions. Upon investigating the experience of Asian-American employees, you can identify areas for improvement, such as eliminating implicit bias, confronting microaggressions, and preventing discrimination during job interviews and evaluations.

  3. Identify the challenges faced by your Asian American employees. This will enable you to develop targeted solutions. Invest in educational opportunities to prevent implicit bias and microaggressions. Create an employee resource group (ERG) to promote inclusion and support.

  4. If you want to support Asian American workers, sponsoring opportunities can be an effective way to engage with them. Sponsoring opportunities can offer more engagement and can be especially useful for lower levels of corporate America. This type of support is a great way to show your backing for Asian American communities.

  5. It is important to include Asian American issues within corporate responsibility initiatives. Nowadays, younger employees are more interested in social responsibility, and by encouraging Asian Americans to participate in such initiatives, we can promote inclusion and educate others about the Asian American communities.

When we work with clients, we always ask them an important question to ensure their success: "Is your DEI strategy inclusive enough?" This question is crucial because it helps us identify areas that need improvement, whether that's addressing talent turnover through employee engagement or helping clients find the right candidate for their job openings.

At ATS+Partners, we are dedicated to being thoughtful partners for our clients, and we are always ready to help them achieve their goals.

Happy AAPI Heritage Month!


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