In honor of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (ANHPIHM), Edelman’s ANHPI employee network, Boundless, led a series of events with the theme of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Inspired by the critically acclaimed film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, we chose this theme to highlight what it often means and feels like to be part of this community. Cultural theorist and Princeton University Professor Anna Anlin Cheng aptly summarizes this complex and nuanced feeling as: “To be an immigrant is to live in a fractured multiverse, one riven with geographic, temporal and physical dissonances.” As first-generation Asian American women, this is a feeling that deeply resonates with us both — oftentimes feeling an acute sense of otherness and loneliness in the spaces that we occupy and call home.
Building upon last year’s first-of-its-kind panel event that centered the voices of junior-level employees, we invited three junior- and mid-level employees to join us for this year’s panel to explore what it feels like to be everything everywhere all at once as Gen Z Asian Americans. We worked closely with our Boundless colleagues to bring the event to life.
During the panel, we discussed the current state of play for Gen Z ANHPI individuals and communities; the unique intergenerational dynamics that many of us are navigating as we come of age in a world that’s vastly different from our parents; and dissecting the nuanced challenges we face in the workplace. We concluded the panel by identifying opportunities for our employers and colleagues to help cultivate and develop the next generation of ANHPI communications leaders. Much of the discussion centered around the ways in which we balance our personal and cultural values coupled with our strong desire to mobilize change while listening to the overtones of lessons learned being raised in multigenerational households. Like living in a multiverse, the balance of these behaviors in the workplace is complex. This is particularly true for ANHPI employees who balance respect and potentially conflicting cultural values, like hierarchy bias and ageism.
We discussed how our parents have prioritized assimilating into traditional Western cultures to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, while we personally place more focus and urgency on finding ways to break the mold and resist adhering to values that are inconsistent with ours. As the rising generation of ANHPI leaders, finding this balance is key, especially as we look for mentors and advocates who share our experiences and find ways to navigate workplaces where stereotypes impact how we advocate for a seat at the table. A study from the global think tank Coqual found that Asians report facing microaggressions at work at higher rates than other races. Asian Americans continue to be the least likely to be promoted to management positions, with this gap even steeper for Asian women. These points illustrate how representation alone isn’t enough — we must ensure that workplaces are also built for retaining and sponsoring ANHPI talent.
During the event, we also identified the following inclusive workplace practices for companies to better support Gen Z ANHPI in the workplace:
Create a pipeline of future ANHPI leaders
Companies can help address the representation and leadership gap for ANHPI employees by creating a pipeline that intentionally connects junior- and mid-level employees with senior mentors and advocates.
Invest in employee resource groups (ERGs)
ERGs are one way for employees to find belonging and community in workplaces, but when run poorly, they can be a burden on the very communities they’re meant to support. Leadership can support ANHPI employees by investing in ERGs through tangible contributions such as providing a budget for activations and professional development, standing executive sponsorship programs, and recognizing the time, labor and effort put forth by ERG members and leaders through compensation.
Check in on your ANHPI colleagues
Anti-Asian hate crimes continue to persist in the shadow of Covid-19, compounding upon one another and effectively impacting the mental health and overall wellbeing of ANHPI communities. A gesture such as asking a colleague how they’re doing or offering to support them in difficult times goes a long way and helps make them feel seen and supported in the workplace.
With almost one in four Asian Americans (24%) who say they have felt excluded from discussions about diversity and inclusion in their workplace, one in two Asian Americans who feel unsafe in the U.S., and nearly 80% of Asian professionals who say they don’t completely feel they belong and are accepted, Asian American and NHPI workers need to be fully considered in DEI efforts. While strides in ANHPI representation in the workforce is a step toward inclusion, it must be coupled with workplaces that create meaningful opportunities and encourage professional development. ANHPI individuals deserve to be championed and recognized. This is the work of equity and inclusion, it’s gradual and requires intention from employees at every level.
Judy Alterado is Account Supervisor, Brand and Multicultural & Sharon Cho is Vice President, DEI & U.S. Multicultural