As separate ethnic groups, the Asian, African American, Latino, and Native Americans communities are minorities in the United States. A multicultural gathering of all these ethnic groups, however, will constitute a groundbreaking new majority with formidable social and economic power.
With a mission to build a collective message and voice, inspire business opportunities, and promote social responsibility and strategic cross-cultural partnerships, The Asian American Business Roundtable (“AABR”) brought hundreds of minority professionals and executives together for an essential conversation on inclusion and diversity at the 2017 Asian American Business Roundtable Summit II. Held on 11-13 January at The Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, the Summit was an inspiring call for a new majority that will ignite the future through inclusion and partnerships.
The AABR’s roots can be traced back to the Asian American Business Development Center (“AABDC”), which was founded in 1994 to provide advocacy and equal opportunities to Asian American businesses in the New York area. Following its success and with the extensive power of its network, the AABDC launched the first AABR Summit in 2016, a forum that brought together outstanding senior Asian American business executives to generate ideas and provide counselling on business and leadership issues of broad social and economic interest.
Though only in its second year, the AABR Summit has expanded to include over 250 minority professionals and featured 57 distinguished speakers from across disciplines. In addition to five keynote speeches, there were 10 panel discussions, such as Reenergizing Supplier Diversity and Tech Incubators on a Mission of Diversity.
One of the keynote speeches was by Andrew Cherng, Founder, Chairman, and CO-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (“PRG”). From the very beginning of his business ventures, Andrew has dedicated himself to a focused mission: “To deliver exceptional Asian dining experiences by building an organization where people are inspired to better their lives.” His inside-out approach to all three of his businesses – Panda Express, Panda Inn, and Hibachi-San – has created an inclusive environment that puts people and guests before financials – a philosophy that has propelled PRG to the forefront in Asian dining experiences. “The idea of continuous learning is you are learning all the time. You have to show up,” he shared, “When you stop wanting to be better and lose the passion, that’s when it doesn’t work.”
Inclusion + Innovation
Following the keynote speeches was a session presentation on Inclusion + Innovation by Michelle Kan, Associate Director, Knowledge Organization at The Conference Board. She shared her report on “The Role of Inclusion in Fostering Innovation,” a result of conducting a global survey of more than 200 diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) leaders, interviews with subject matter experts, as well as in-depth case studies of four companies: AT&T, DBS, Kaiser Permanente, and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. She found that the most innovative companies are four times more likely than those with sporadic innovation to be inclusive, and that the number-one enabler of innovation is top leadership, according to both D&I and innovation leaders. “Diversity of thought,” she concluded, “is the spark that ignites innovation.”
New Majority Women in Executive Leadership
The second day of the summit was led to a great start by a panel of distinguished female executives, who shared the early career struggles they overcame to become the successful new majority leaders they are today. Abby Fiorella, General Auditor of MasterCard, pointed out, “When you’re a leader, you’re going to break glass and women sometimes get a bad rep for that.” She continued, “You need to show up. Life is in the moment. You never arrive; you continue that journey.” In discussing the many barriers women have to go through in what is still largely a male-dominated realm, Pamela Carlton, President of Springboard-Partners in Cross Cultural Leadership, said, “Successful women leaders find their differences as assets. They model being different and welcomes difference.”
Empowering and Influencing the Multicultural Millennial
At 25 years old, Nanxi Liu has already achieved more than what most 50 year old’s have. Named Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016, Liu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Enplug, a technology company that offers the leading operating system for custom digital displays for businesses. The software is used by both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses, including Porsche, Toyota, Equinox, and Madame Tussauds. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Enplug now has offices in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, and the UK. But that’s not all – she is also the Co-Founder of Nanoly Bioscience, a company that has developed NanoShield, a patented polymer that can keep vaccines stable and working without the need for refrigeration. With this technology, vaccines can be easily transported to anywhere in the world, improving access for people in hard-to-reach areas.
Another speaker with an equally impressive background, also a Forbes 30 Under 30, is Tim Hwang, a technology entrepreneur and Senior Advisor for Government Innovation. With extensive experience in building early-stage organizations and a knack for understanding complex policy issues, Hwang previously served as the President of the 750,000-member National Youth Association and founded the social enterprise Operation Fly, Inc., for which he was given the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Fiscal Note, a tech company that utilizes open data and artificial intelligence to create next-generation legal software.
Strategic Outreach and Marketing Programs to Support and Empower the New Majority
“Great leaders and CEOs focus on the future, have a plan, and hire for the future. Interview for passion and expertise,” shared Michael Chen, CEO of Chen & Associates, a firm he founded over 15 years ago that provides advisory services to the media, aviation, financial services, and the food industry. Now, Chen also serves as the Strategic Partner and Senior Advisor to the President of Grace Farms Foundation, which is creating a new innovative space in New Canaan. Apart from being an agricultural marvel, it is also a place to engage the world to help people lead better lives through five key initiatives: nature, arts, justice, community, and faith. On how we can empower the new majority, Chen said, “Find people with passion, who want to make an impact, who believe in the mission… Inspire people. If you have empathy for others, you can start to inspire them.” By hiring people who truly believe in diversity, and continuing to foster inclusion within the business, you can make a difference and contribute to the strength of the new majority.