The Value of Diverse Talent To Global Businesses

Key takeaways from Asia Society's 8th Annual Diversity Leadership Forum

Attendees for the 2016 Diversity Leadership Forum listen to insights on the importance and power of a diverse workforce. (Ed Haas/Asia Society)

Before Sophia Chang found success as the executive vice president of worldwide digital distribution and home entertainment for HBO, she was told by a perspective employer that she did not “command presence.” Years later, she contributes to a larger conversation on how employers can help Asian Pacific American (APA) talent navigate biases that prevent them from reaching the same level that she has.

At Asia Society’s 8th annual Diversity Leadership Forum on Friday, led by the mistress of ceremonies, Royanne Doi, chief corporate ethics officer at Prudential, corporate leaders like Chang convened to discuss how employers can empower and use APA talent to the benefit of the company.

“One has to make a conscious decision — an effort to be accepting and respectful and considerate of others,” Geraldine Roman, the representative-elect of the 1st District of Bataan for the Philippine House of Representatives, said during her keynote remarks. “But there is no choice — if we are to make a company successful, we have to accept diversity and welcome people with individual peculiarities and distinct circumstances to our organizations.”

During the forum, panel discussions highlighted the importance of diversity — in gender and ethnicity — as a critical asset to companies, not just a means of meeting minimum requirements.

"It’s not just about headcount, it’s not just about majority-minority population in the United States," Jeff Yang, author and senior vice president and head of media, entertainment and technology at The Futures Company, said during his keynote address. "It’s about this notion that different is valuable. That there is something powerful about the fact that we represent a tapestry of different perspectives, points of view, and different sources of creativity.”

Dr. Dong Wu, Vice President at the Research & Development Center for Medtronic Greater China spoke about the importance of female representation in a male-dominated medical technology industry. “Women tend to be more collaborative and inclusive,” she said during a panel that focused on the market influence of an Asian workforce. “We have a different approach than a man, but can still arrive at conclusions similarly. It’s important to be comfortable being a woman in a room full of men.”

"One of our secret weapons is our employees. Our employees are very diverse, we have a very diverse base — many are bilingual." Roy Kuga, the vice president of energy and supply at PG&E said. "It begins with these differences; whether it's cultural or the though processes, the diversity is really critical. We really have to foster that and encourage people to share their ideas and understand each other. Really leverage it for communication."

Speakers also talked about the importance of employer and high-level involvement in order to get the most out of a diverse talent pool. 

“There is also a conversation and an opportunity for our senior leaders that are in this room to create that opportunity of dialogue upwards, to their C-suite,” Betty Lo, vice president of community alliances and consumer engagement for Nielsen, said. “If you are in the C-suite, it’s a matter of how do you champion the dialogue within your organization. Championing that dialogue is critical.”

Lo proposed a challenge to the greater community:

“Somehow we as a community need to come together to build upon what the narrative is that we want to create, so that marketers can start investing in our community,” Lo said. “That begins with a dialogue that is within this room and forums such as these.”

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