Are global companies on the right track in cultivation and promotion of Asian American and Asian talent? And are Asian Americans themselves coming forward and taking risks that show their executive abilities? Conference Co-Chair James Li said Asians commonly feel that they don’t have the opportunity to reach their full potential in global companies, and their behavior is often misconstrued or misunderstood because employers don’t appreciate their Asian cultural background.
CNBC Anchor, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
The perception of Asians is “a lot of Confucian, not enough Tiger,” as moderator Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, CNBC anchor, put it.
Retail “superstar” Jenny Ming, President and CEO of Charlotte Russe, and former president of Old Navy, said there was some truth to the perception of Asians as passive and humble. “We create some of that.” She told how her boss at Gap said, “It’s about time!” when she finally stepped forward to take on the presidency of Old Navy, although she had been asked to consider the position a year before. “I never felt that I was good enough, or that I shouldn’t make waves.” But, Ming said, that was back in the 1990s and “today, I never would stand for it.” She learned how important it was to “take risks, get out of your comfort zone.”
Sybase CEO John Chen (and a member of several prestigious corporate boards, including Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo) took the view that in fact there is not a crisis. “I see the nextgeneration of Asian Americans being more assertive and very results-oriented.” He did advise Asians “to focus beyond just your family,” and “add value to the big picture, not just yourself.”
Sybase CEO, John Chen
Robert Leary, CEO of ING Insurance, said that he had noticed great changes in his company in terms of diversity, but acknowledged that employers tend to promote people like themselves. To overcome the stereotyping of Asians, he said that “the more you make yourself part of the overall social and civic fabric, the better off you are because it’s easier for people to get beyond the stereotypes and biases and look just at the skill and the merit.”
CEO of ING Insurance, Robert Leary
Should there be affirmative action for Asians? Chen said there should be no affirmative action for anyone and personally found it “degrading.” “I would like to know that I was put into a position because I was the best person for it.” But affirmative action can provide a push— Shelly Lazarus, Chairman of Ogilvy Worldwide, gave an example of Norway, which has required corporate boards to have female representation of 40%, and “the most amazing group of women were found who are now available not just for boards but for senior executive positions.” Chen agreed with the approach of a corporate strategy that seeks Asians for board positions because it fits in their business plan.
Chairman of Ogilvy Worldwide, Shelly Lazarus
The conclusion was that because all global companies want to drive growth in Asia, the talent pool is wide open: “We’re at a moment that it’s yours for the taking,” said Caruso-Cabrera.
Watch the full roundtable in six segments on YouTube, which begins here.