Written by Maemalynn Meanor, Director of Public Relations & Communications at the Linux Foundation, Steering Committee Member for the Software Developer Diversity & Inclusive (SDDI) Project and Planning Committee Member for Making Our Strong Community Stronger Initiative
Currently, 22 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with their own unique histories and cultures. With such a record number, one would think that seeing Asians in the workplace and our communities would be the norm.
Unfortunately, according to a new survey, four in five Asian Americans don’t feel they truly belong in the United States, while more than half don’t feel safe in public places. In fact, of all the groups surveyed, young Asian American women are the least likely to feel they completely belong and accepted in the U.S. The main reason for this was discrimination and lack of representation of Asian American leaders in the workplace.
Taken earlier this year by The Asian American Foundation, the 2023 STAATUS Index survey continues to serve as the leading national study of American attitudes towards the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community. And I agree with most of the findings, particularly the one about young, Asian American women.
As a woman in the workplace, it already feels like we’re going against the grain. As an Asian woman, there aren’t many role models to look up to that have similar backgrounds. Thankfully, this is evolving – just not fast enough.
With May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this is the perfect time for us to honor the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to our history, society and culture.
Here are 3 ways you can celebrate AAPI Heritage Month:
Donate to an organization that advances the AAPI community.
Whether it is a national organization or a local one, donating resources or funds showcases your support to AAPI – not just this month but in general. There are several organizations to choose from but my favorite is Stop AAPI Hate. Hate against our communities has increased, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and can happen in large cities or small towns. It can happen to young Asian Americans or elders – unfortunately, in this case of racial attacks, there is no age discrimination – it’s open season for all.
For example, a few years ago, my daughter came home from school and asked me what a “chink” was. She said a male classmate called her that and used his fingers to manipulate his eyes into thin “slits.” She was eight years old and in third grade.
Or in San Francisco, where 88-year-old grandmother Yik Oi Huang was attacked while exercising one morning in a local park. She was beaten nearly to death, unrecognizable when rescuers found her and was in a coma after the attack.
Ask your AAPI colleagues and team members to share their stories.
Inviting your colleagues, team members and employees to share their personal or professional stories is a great way to get to know them better. Whether they write a blog, participate in a Q&A, informally share at a luncheon or have a one-on-one with an executive who they normally don’t have interaction with – this shines a spotlight on them and their culture. It makes them feel seen.
Open Mainframe Project has a global community and we encourage members, leaders and contributors to get to know each other and collaborate on projects. Through this collaboration, we’ve met a plethora of new voices and unique stories.
Some that you wouldn’t even know at first glance. For example, Open Mainframe Project Executive Director John Mertic has three adopted children from Asia. He speaks proudly of his diverse family often, you can read more about them here. Other leaders we learned about last year include Alex Kim and my lessons from mom.
This year, we will have more lessons learned from John Mertic, an executive profile and a new Open Mainframe Ambassador will share his journey.
Order lunch from a local restaurant to highlight a part of the culture.
I suggest this one last because this is the easiest and probably the most popular recommendation that people tend to do. Not only are you supporting a local business but you’re also showcasing your support for AAPI. There is so much to our culture but food frequently becomes the top highlight.
Don’t get me wrong – food is important. But people often think of it interchangeably with culture and that is wrong.
For example, I often get asked “where are you from?” or “what nationality are you?” In this diverse and political workplace and community, you’d think that people would learn not to ask but you’ll be surprised by how often this comes up. When I say “Thai” – the immediate response is usually how much they love Thai food or how they can’t take how spicy the food is. True – I love Thai food too but that doesn’t define my culture.
To wrap this up, I’ll give you the “wai,” putting my hands together in a prayer position and bowing touching your nose to your hands. This traditional greeting can mean hello, thank you and goodbye. The higher the hands go to the face and the deeper the bow, the more respect is shown by the greeting.
In this case, it means goodbye.