Goldman Sachs Takes Prize for Top Employer of Asian Pacific Americans

Asia Society's 7th annual Diversity Leadership Forum kicked off by recognizing the best corporate employers of Asian Americans

Asia Society kicked off its 7th annual Diversity Leadership Forum on Monday by recognizing the best corporate employers of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs). Taking the top prize for the third year in a row for “Overall Best Employer for Asian Pacific Americans” was the investment-banking firm Goldman Sachs.

The companies receiving awards were selected based on the quality of their APA programs, as well as the results from employee surveys conducted for Asia Society’s 2015 Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey — the only poll that exclusively measures the leadership success of APAs at Fortune 500 companies. Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran explained the survey and the forum, saying that the world's leading companies know the vital role that Asian Pacific leaders will play. "Yet, there is a critical gap in the knowledge about the growth, development, and advancement of this group," she said. 

Asia Society Director of Global Talent Initiatives David Reid recalled at the ceremony when the idea of recognizing companies successful in developing Asian American leaders was first discussed at a forum in 2006. “There was a ten year period where the percentage of the Asian Americans in senior leadership hadn’t moved at all,” he said. “We wanted to look at what we could do to make a difference.”

One area that set apart companies who received top awards this year was in professional growth. In the APA corporate survey, only 73 percent of Asian American employees said that they felt their company provided a wide range of development programs and skill building opportunities.

In a panel discussion on best practices for developing APA talent, CISCO Vice President of Strategic Planning Kimberly Marcelis described how her company had noticed good APA representation up through senior management, but then there was a sharp drop off at the executive level. So the company instituted a leadership development program just for the APA community aimed at addressing their unique challenges. “It’s a lot of soft skills, networking, how to speak out, how to be seen as a disruptive leader even if your voice is soft,” Marcelis said. “Give them a place where they can talk about cultural barriers and how to overcome them.”

Bernie Hoecker of IBM, after accepting the award for “Best Employer for Sponsorship of APAs,” explained how getting Asian Americans in leadership positions makes good business sense. “IBM is a company that’s been around for a little over a hundred years, and diversity has really been a key part of our foundation,” he said. “It’s provided the fodder and the fuel for diversity of thought, which is really driving innovation and success in the industry.”

While accepting the top prize on behalf of Goldman Sachs, Managing Director Chris Kojima recalled an event a few days earlier when he had hosted a discussion at his company with legendary Japanese-American actor George Takei, who had spent several years in World War II internment camps as a child. “While having this long conversation with him, after several minutes I looked up and saw that there were over a thousand people in our auditorium captivated by George’s story,” Kojima said. “What struck us is that this is an unlikely journey that he’s taken. And what we are reminded of constantly at Goldman Sachs is that we’re surrounded by unlikely journeys.”

“It’s a great honor for us at Goldman Sachs to receive this award,” Kojima added. “At the same time we know that our work is unfinished, and we’re grateful to learn from other leaders.”

See the full list of award winners, honorable mentions, and best practice citations

Event recap: Forum Highlights the Importance of Fostering Diverse Corporate Talent