May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate and learn about Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture and history, as well as a reminder to continue to elevate AAPI voices.
Although this is a month of celebration, it would be a misstep not to acknowledge that the AAPI community continues to face unique challenges — especially in the workplace. Studies like the Edelman Trust Barometer have uncovered disheartening insight into trends related to AAPI employees’ experience in the American workforce. Edelman’s report found that “55 percent of Asian-American respondents say business has done very little in way of concrete actions to address systemic racism” and “67 percent believe business has largely ignored the problem of racism against their community.”
When it comes to amplifying AAPI voices and honoring their experience, there is a shared responsibility on both the employer and individual colleagues to support AAPI colleagues and leaders. A helpful resource exploring our personal bias is NPR’s “6 Charts That Dismantle The Trope Of Asian Americans As A Model Minority," which outlines common myths about the AAPI community and the real facts that combat those misconceptions.
One myth discussed in the NPR article is that Asians are a “single monolithic group.” It’s crucial to understand that the AAPI community is incredibly diverse and represents those with ancestry rooted in approximately 50 ethnic groups, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). So many unique cultures, languages and practices are represented within the AAPI community, creating a wide spectrum of experiences under the AAPI classification. Population trends indicate that AAPI communities and culture in the United States will continue to grow, with Pew Research forecasting, “The U.S. Asian population is projected to reach 46 million by 2060,” making it the fastest-growing minority population.
We hope that throughout May, you’ll immerse yourself in content and conversations that will help you learn more about the legacy and influence of AAPI individuals on society, as well as about how you can be a better ally to your AAPI colleagues at work.
Here are some recommendations on how to engage in Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:
- Peruse Social Justice Book’s recommended reading list for different age groups from early childhood to adult reads.
- Visit the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center, an interactive digital exhibit that hosts phenomenal resources from educational videos to culture labs and live events.
- Test your cooking skills by following one of these 31 AAPI recipes including classic dishes like Shrimp and Chicken Congee and Filipino Pancit Bihon.
- Explore the Today show's homage to AAPI Heritage Month, which includes spotlights on everything from pop culture to viral recipes.
- Review NPR’s "6 Charts That Dismantle The Trope Of Asian Americans As A Model Minority" to help uncover areas of unconscious bias.
- Be an advocate for your AAPI colleagues and community members by anonymously reporting hate incidents through Stop AAPI Hate’s online portal.
While you may have heard of the glass ceiling, a less familiar term, the bamboo ceiling, has emerged to describe the ways that bias prevents AAPI professionals from upward mobility in the workplace. A 2021 Forbes article, “Battling Discrimination And The Bamboo Ceiling: The Bias Facing Asian American Managers,” shared that “across industries, research shows that AAPI professionals fill middle management ranks, but their percentages plummet in senior management and C-suites.” There is still work to be done to increase the representation and inclusion of our AAPI colleagues and we all have a role to play in bringing about that change in our workplace.
At Alera Group, we continue to implement thoughtful programs in alignment with our internal Inclusion and Diversity mission statement “to foster a culture of respect and belonging that values the uniqueness of the individual in order to grow, innovate and strategically advance Alera Group.” Our core values rooted in the principles of the Collaborative Way help to promote inclusive behaviors, continuous learning and generous support of colleagues of all backgrounds. In our industry, the Asian American Insurance & Financial Professional Association (AAIFPA) is a nonprofit organization that supports AAPI professionals through networking, educational programming, and community work through local chapters and affiliate organizations.
Cultural awareness and heritage months serve as a reminder to press in and engage with content that will educate and inspire us, and hopefully, create a more inclusive future for minority communities. We hope that you will join us in engaging in intentional learning to become a stronger AAPI ally throughout the month of May (and beyond)!