Diversity Leadership Forum 2009

Philip Berry, Subha Berry, Harold McGraw III, Vishakha Desai, Lord Michael Hastings at the 2009 Diversity Leadership Forum

Asia Society 2009 Diversity Forum Shows How Empowering Asian Employees Builds Bridges To New Business Opportunities

Promoting diversity and the value-added benefits of Asian Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), the Asia Society 2009 Diversity Leadership Forum brought together corporate leaders to discuss the best practices that enable these groups to become partners in a company’s growth and incubators for leadership development.

The all-day event was held June 1 at the Marriot Marquis in New York with wide attendance from Asian ERG members, leaders and their executive advisors; chief diversity officers; line managers of Fortune 100 companies, and corporate representatives involved in diversity issues and polices for their companies.

Inaugural sponsors included: The Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, Corning, General Electric, KPMG, The McGraw-Hill Companies, National Grid, New York Life, and Novartis Pharma.

In her welcome address, Asia Society President Vishakha N. Desai discussed the importance of “bridge building” between Asians and Americans. With the present economic slump, organizations should pause, re-evaluate and address issues such as leadership and diversity from the junior to manager levels, taking into account and recognizing Asia’s growing presence in the world, she said.

In a panel moderated by Subha V. Barry, Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, panelists Michael E. Chen, President of Media, Communications and Entertainment at GE Capital; Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity at KPMG International; and Jane Hyun, Founder and President of Hyun & Associates, shared insights into how organizations can maximize their potential by harnessing the resources that Asian employees can bring to the table.

Asians “are confident, not oppressed, not distressed, and not down and troubled,” said Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick. “Asians in business are confident, with their eyes wide open and their minds ticking fast and [they think] innovatively and challengingly.”

He called on the news media to keep a look out for the gradual yet substantial shift of power from the West to Asia. “Keep a directional, intelligent understanding of the traffic in the world because that tells you about how power is shifting,” he said.

In the keynote address, Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, shared his thoughts on diversity as a business imperative and pointed out that a company’s employees are the most powerful drivers of creativity, innovation and growth. Top experts also facilitated workshops that focused on strategies and best practices to help ensure success for Asian employees moving up the corporate ladder.

The event, called “Empowered Asian Employees: Global Business Growth Through Leadership Development,” included interactive workshops on using Asian ERGs as a bridge to Asian markets in the U.S. and Asia, making ERGs a known resource for a company, measuring ERGs’ contributions to a company, leveraging internal and external partnering, and mentoring and coaching. Participants said of the Forum:

The “experience and insights shared provided very insightful guidance for the decisions that we have to make for ourselves or our companies as a whole”;
“ I like the variety of topics and opportunity to network and meet employees involved in Employee Resource Groups from different companies”;
“The facilitators provided very targeted examples to explore.”

The Asia Society's Corporate Diversity Council – made up of officers from Global 500 companies – has made a commitment to provide a platform to discuss the challenges, opportunities and best practices employed by ERGs within the United States, as well as develop the leadership needed to successfully utilize these groups as vital business partners within a company.

Asia Society's 2nd Annual Diversity Leadership Forum is scheduled for Monday, May 17, 2010.

For more information, visit the 2009 Diversity Leadership Forum website.