Asians and Pacific Islanders have played an integral role in American history, and each May, we celebrate their contributions during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. From the first settlement of Filipinos in Louisiana 11 years before the Declaration of Independence, through the Chinese role in constructing the transcontinental railroad, to today’s multiethnic expressions of architecture, fashion, and technology, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander contributions are an essential part of American culture.
This month is also a time to reflect on how you can support the employee experience of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in your workplace. Whether it’s a conversation about their career goals or addressing discrimination, your efforts will support their mental health and keep them engaged.
Here are three ways to get started.
Studies show an achievement gap for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the workplace. While they represent 12% of the United States’ professional workforce, they are less than 1% of S&P 500 CEOs and the least likely group to be promoted to management.
One of the reasons why Asians are left out of discussions regarding success in the workplace is their portrayal as the model minority, where they are lauded for being well-educated, hard-working, and successful. Additionally, many Asians and Pacific Islanders grow up with elders who emphasize deference and humility, which can sometimes be at odds with western professional approaches.
These challenges present opportunities to elevate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in your company. Start by encouraging them to speak up about their wins at work, pointing them towards leadership opportunities, and including them in decision-making.
Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians are diverse groups represented by nations in the Middle East, Pacific Rim, and Polynesian Islands. For those who may not know about cultural differences, it’s easy to stereotype and make generalized statements that can be hurtful and marginalizing. Examples include making monolithic statements about cultural challenges or assuming similar foods, despite more than 50 countries being represented. Perpetuating these stereotypes creates a hostile work environment that can create discomfort toward collaboration and success.
Many companies have launched Asian American and Pacific Islander ERGs. Such communities offer career-focused and cultural programs to create a more inclusive, psychologically safe, and welcoming employee experience. If you’re considering a program in your organization, gain your leadership’s buy-in and know what your goals are before you launch.
At Oracle, the Oracle Professional Asian Leadership (OPAL) ERG supports Asian and Pacific Americans in their professional and personal endeavors. With chapters globally, members join in building their leadership skills by celebrating cultural festivities, attending career advancement workshops, and hearing about their colleagues' successes.
“Joining an ERG like OPAL is one way to increase visibility and be proactive in building one’s network,” says Lay-Hoon Song, Business Analyst, and chair of the OPAL Pleasanton Chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Many of our members volunteer for activities on a short or long-term basis, helping them improve their communications and listening skills.”
It’s a time to think about how we can support our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues. By elevating their achievements, providing education to overcome stereotypes, and creating community, we can create a better employee experience.
Enjoyed reading this blog? Subscribe to our newsletter, HR matters to keep in touch.
Albert Qian is the senior content marketing manager for the Oracle Cloud HCM Campaigns team and the editor-in-chief for this blog. He's passionate about telling the story of HR technology and how it can create better workforces.