Asia Society's 8th annual Diversity Leadership Forum began Thursday with the Best Asian Pacific American (APA) Employer Awards Ceremony, which honors corporations that have best nurtured and leveraged APA talent.
“Asian Pacific Americans have contributed immensely to the success of U.S. businesses," said David Whitelaw Reid, executive director for Global Talent Initiatives at Asia Society. "Recognizing and developing these employees is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a prerequisite for attracting and retaining top talent.”
The awards are based on Asia Society's Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey — the only survey that polls APAs at top corporations to gauge their inclusiveness, workplace satisfaction, and advancement opportunities. Asia Society President Josette Sheeran began the ceremonies by invoking Asia Society founder John D. Rockefeller 3rd's emphasis on the concept of "understanding" — how it "strikes deeper than mere tolerance, reaches further than mere acquaintance" and how all designs and partnerships can "crumble into nothing" without it.
Looking at the annual survey, Sheeran cited one executive who said that it's critical to understand career success factors like initiative, and how culturally it may not represent itself the same way with people from different backgrounds. "These are very subtle concepts," Sheeran said. "But really important to really recognizing the talent that we have in the world and how it expresses itself."
Echoing that sentiment, MasterCard Senior Vice President of Community Relations Ravi Aurora noted that seeking to fully understand, appreciate, and empower employees of diverse backgrounds is just smart business. "I think all of us here would agree that a culture of inclusion which allows us to harness the collective uniqueness of our employees — to use the diversity of thought, experience, and background — is imperative to drive innovative thinking and critical to shareholder value," he said.
This year, a new category was added to the awards: Best Employer for Promoting Asian Pacific American Women. The first ever recipient was AT&T. “We're a company with almost 280,000 people,” said AT&T Senior Vice President of Distribution and Channel Marketing Abhi Ingle when accepting the award on behalf of his company. “So for us, diversity is a way of life … We have a number of senior programs geared specifically at making sure that people coming from underprivileged minorities have a way to get to these senior leadership [positions], and I think that makes all the difference.”
But the year's the top prize — “Overall Best Employer for Asian Pacific Americans” — went to technology giant IBM. Accepting the award just two days shy of the company's 105th birthday, IBM Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jon Iwata looked back at the year of the organization's founding. “Maybe they didn’t use words like diversity and inclusion in 1911,” he said. “But the company has always believed that good people from every part of the world and every part of society coming together and applying science and reason can change the world."
"This belief today helps guide us through a changing society that sometimes has controversy," Iwata added. "But that makes our decisions easy and continues to attract people from all over the world and society.”