But now, this national reckoning must extend to our businesses, where Asian exclusion from leadership represents a civil rights problem that damages the continued dynamism of American commerce. When companies prevent Asian Americans from ascending the corporate ladder, they deprive their organizations of Asian-American talents, experiences and contacts, which makes them less competitive. For our continued commercial strength and power, we must end this ostracization and leverage Asian-American talents in our C-suites and boardrooms.
It is of little surprise that over my 26 years as an Asian-American entrepreneur, I have often experienced exclusion and marginalization in our business communities. The first inkling was during my first job in 1993 in New York City — working for $19,000 a year at a medical device company. While I thought I would climb the corporate ranks of this firm, leveraging my experience and contacts at the World Bank and across Asia to power the company’s growth into new markets, my supervisor inundated me with secretarial work, leaving me exhausted, discouraged and unable to advance.
My only hope of shattering the “bamboo ceiling” was to become an entrepreneur. My husband and I quit our jobs, opened a company called Chesapeake Bay Candle, and began learning the complexities of national big-box retail, global supply chains and the consumer product and wellness industries. Our products struck a chord in the market, and after only a few years’ time, we ran a multi-million-dollar business and employed hundreds of people here in the United States and around the world.
It is time we as a nation look beyond the color of one’s skin and demand our business leaders reflect the diversity of this country.