The announcement of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion in June came like a thunderbolt to our group. We strongly believe that real and lasting change must come from the top. Learning that 175 CEOs from across all industries and non-profit groups were banding together to pledge personal commitments to further advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace is exactly in line with our vision for the development of the New Majority.
We’re thrilled to be representing the Asian American business community within the CEO Action, and to join a number of familiar non-profit partners who work with African American and Hispanic business groups as members of the CEO Action.
As a non-profit, we have been fortunate over the decades to receive support from Fortune 500 companies. Our sponsors have seen the value of combining purpose with profit, and know that true success must draw on the full spectrum of its workforce, including those who are under-represented in leadership positions and who may need encouragement to take risks and break into unfamiliar roles.
Asians in America have long been a minority among minorities. To many observers, we are viewed as the “model minority”—known for keeping our heads down, working hard and not making a fuss. At the same time, statistics show that many Asian Americans tend to be highly educated, entrepreneurial and economically strong.
So, what’s the problem?
As a first-generation immigrant to America from Taiwan, I was familiar with many of these characteristics within the Asian community. When I began my career as an urban planner focused on economic development in New York City, I noticed that many of my fellow Asians, who seemed to embody so many of the positive qualities of citizenship, were also isolated within their own communities.
This is what inspired me to create the Asian American Business Development Center in New York City in 1994, to encourage Asian Americans to be more involved in mainstream communities and businesses.
Because, while it may be true that many Asians strive for – and achieve – economic success in America, it has come at the cost of not focusing on social and political strengths. I saw that other minority groups including African American and Hispanic communities were much further developed in societal and political goals.
It’s becoming clear that these three key minority groups are gaining a foothold in mainstream economic life. In fact, the consumer power of minority ethnic groups in the U.S. is forecast to reach over $4.1 trillion in 2019 and, if it were a separate country, this “New Majority” would be the third largest economy in the world, after the U.S. and China.
So, we are at the new frontier of diversity and inclusion.
Our organization still believes that our core mission is to develop, highlight and encourage strategies to bring new Asian American talent into the C-suite and boardrooms of America. For example, a signature event we have been running for 16 years is recognizing 50 Outstanding Asian Americans in Business annually. More recently, we began hosting an Asian American Business Roundtable, with the 2017 summit highlighting the New Majority as a central theme.
I’m pleased to say that in this year’s roundtable, we gathered 300 Asian Americans, Latinos and African Americans from small and large corporations, entrepreneurial enterprises, academia and government, who enthusiastically explored issues of personal and professional identity, business competition and mutual economic empowerment from different vantage points.
I was glad to learn that we had made an impact with this milestone event to build partnerships among the minority groups. But this is just the beginning.
Our list of future in-depth work includes: to motivate companies to be active in their diversity and inclusion programs; to make the business case for diversity; and to involve majority members as diversity advocates and champions. So, when the announcement of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion first appeared we felt that, at last, we found the partner we have been looking for.
Getting to the higher levels within companies and organizations will not be without challenges. We expect that New Majority professionals will face push back from the mainstream as they gradually assume more prominent roles as leaders and decision-makers in entrepreneurial and corporate settings.
But this is why partnerships and mutual support among the minority groups as well as from champions at the top ranks of companies – such as the CEO Action – will be crucial to overcome persistent barriers to New Majority communities’ visibility, presence and influence.
I am optimistic that the New Majority will make a positive difference in businesses. I hope that we will be given the chance to be a 21st century asset to Corporate America.
In this series, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ signatory CEOs share their dedication to acting for workplace diversity and inclusion to make impactful changes that benefit both business and society. Follow along with #CEOAction and learn more at CEOAction.com.