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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not just words but values that are exemplified through our culture at Cadence. In the DEI@Cadence blog series, you’ll find a community where employees share their perspectives and experiences. By providing a glimpse of their personal stories, we celebrate our One Cadence—One Team culture and the importance of sustaining it as we learn from diverse perspectives.
Being a part of launching Cadence’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Inclusion Group has been incredibly exciting for me, especially while taking on the role of group lead. Our mission is to make an immediate and lasting positive change at Cadence and within our community through recruitment, events, and professional development opportunities. We are thrilled to continue moving the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion and to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month as a company.
I was honored to introduce Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, a renowned Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategist at Stanford Graduate School of Business, for an inspirational keynote presentation and fireside chat on May 11. Lori shared her insights as a DEI leader and the impact of her work on the AAPI community.
One of my key takeaways was that, according to a study, 30% of workers in the tech industry are from the AAPI community, perpetuating the myth of Asian success. Lori stated that this is
a widely held belief about why things are the way they are. And those myths prevent us from examining things, and I will debunk them, so we can find strategies that help everyone move forward.
Even though the AAPI community is well-represented in the tech industry, they still face obstacles such as stereotypes, unequal representation in executive positions, and pay disparities. There is a harmful belief that Asians are only skilled in technical roles, adding challenges for highly capable Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to advance into leadership roles. Further, the myth of Asian success can hinder our ability to recognize the significant contributions made by Asian communities to our society as well as forget sections of our past. For instance, while rail barons are commonly credited with building the transcontinental railroad, it was Chinese immigrants who primarily constructed it, and we must not forget the Japanese Americans who were unjustly forced into internment camps during World War II. It is crucial that we preserve, recognize, and appreciate all of our AAPI history.
Whether you're a first-generation immigrant or have lived in the country for 30+ years, you may still be viewed as a perpetual foreigner and subjected to questions about your origin. This can cause individuals to alter their behavior to avoid being seen as outsiders, which is known as "covering.” Additionally, violating stereotypes can occur when Asians act dominantly instead of being agreeable, and Asian women may feel pressured to conform to feminine stereotypes, potentially facing backlash for being assertive.
With all of this in mind, Lori suggests the following strategies:
The idea of success should not blind us; instead, we should dare to recognize the barriers and changes that still need to happen. One way to break down the misconception that a community is a monolithic entity is by telling stories and sharing experiences. This can help us shift from prioritizing our individual interests to working towards a common goal and creating connections within the group. It's important to invite others to engage in this process rather than demand their participation.
Have you ever heard of someone being referred to as having “sharp elbows?” It's an odd phrase. We could consider that she is just being direct. Similarly, Asian men are often told they are “soft speakers.” However, their reserved nature may be simply a sign of thoughtfulness. Perhaps, the real issue lies in how we perceive and interpret their behavior, rather than behavioral challenges.
To gain a broader perspective, consider utilizing various sources and reading books. Here is The Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month of Learning project, created by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and sourced from our community. Don't shy away from difficult tasks that challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. Try to be more open-minded and accept assignments that require you to stretch.
The AAPI community encompasses multiple cultural and ethnic groups, including people with a heritage rooted in all Pacific Islands and Asia. These groups have diverse histories, perspectives, and accomplishments. Lori's impactful session inspires our community and allies to move forward with collective interest and take tangible actions.
Cadence celebrated AAPI heritage throughout May with an inaugural social event, donations to impactful community organizations, and employee spotlights sharing personal stories. Additionally, the cafeteria featured wonderful cuisine and chef demos, and a LinkedIn Learning course will help allies understand and support AAPI employees. This is just the beginning, and we are excited about our journey ahead!
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