Building Representation through Employee Networks
Yawei Engle remembers balancing two restaurant jobs while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in college. Since moving to the United States as an international student from China with only limited money in her pocket, she has always expressed gratitude for the strong work ethic her family instilled in her at an early age.
“My parents were poor farmers in China, and they always taught me to work hard and study hard,” said Engle, leave and disability consultant at Unum. “Because I grew up like that, I am very goal driven and that has contributed to my success today.”
Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community like Engle are proud of their heritage because they tell the story of where they come from and how they continue to carry out those cultural values into the future. AAPI Heritage Month honors their rich history, diverse traditions, and unique perspectives.
Create Safe Environments for Diverse Leadership
“People have different ideas and experiences based on how they grew up,” said Gemree Fe de Leon, collaborative technologies engineer at Unum. “It’s important to promote opportunities for AAPI people to step outside of their comfort zones and feel safe speaking their minds.”
Amee Sandhu, lead business specialist at Unum agrees and believes there is great value incorporating diverse perspectives in leadership.
“It’s important to be open to different leadership styles and points of view,” said Sandhu. “Creating an environment where AAPI people feel comfortable speaking up and participating encourages us to think outside of the box.”
Build Connections Through Employee Networks
Inclusion and diversity are imperative to create a culture of belonging where employees see themselves in every aspect of the business. Unum’s multicultural employee network, UNITEd, creates a safe space where employees can share who they are and where they come from.
“Employee networks do a great job of breaking down a lot of barriers,” said Sandhu. “Even for remote employees who are not walking in the hallways, there are a lot of opportunities to connect and gain exposure to another person’s culture.”
Engle says employee networks help her feel confident and understood when she walks into the office each day. “These groups help me feel like I am not alone,” said Engle. “I don’t feel that just because I look different, I need to be worried about what people think about me.”
Be Proud of Where You Come From
Fe de Leon says he is most proud of how dishes from his Filipino culture like lechon (roasted pork) and lumpia (spring rolls) bring people together.
“If a Filipino family is hosting a party, you know there is going to be a lot of food. There is always some staple Filipino dish that everyone enjoys.”
Sandu says she is proud of her Indian heritage because it has given her a strong sense of family and a deep respect for her elders.
“In Indian culture, when you see an elder or significant member of your family, you bow down and touch their feet and they give you their blessings. This shows reverence to your elders and acknowledges that you respect the path they walked to get you to where you are.”
By embracing their heritage and cultural lessons they have learned along the way, members of the AAPI community bring forth representation as they continue to step forward as the leaders of the future.