Leaning In — Women in the Work Place

With Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In

I had the pleasure of joining with Janet Murguia and Patricia Worthy to host a multicultural women’s breakfast for Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO.  Her book, Lean–In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has been creating quite a stir.  Some women have been questioning her right to speak out on the issues of discrimination and other barriers women face today, since she is a successful white woman who can afford help.  I say “hurray” that a woman who has succeeded in corporate America is willing to go public with the truth that too many others pretend don’t exist once they have made it.

Her book lays out the data and makes the case for the continuing need for public policy and private sector changes that would help ensure that our country has the full benefit of the talent and experience of half of its population.  And she empowers women by noting the things we ourselves can do.  She isn’t “blaming the victim” as some other women have charged.  She is pointing out reality – women need to understand how the work place is rigged against them, how they have internalized the unconscious bias that exists and what they can do to help create change.  And she notes in her book what is in it for men to join women in ensuring that gender bias is countered.  She has said that until we change the system, it is in our interest to understand how to make it work.
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What is missing from the immigration debates

The Administrative Office of the US Courts has a wonderful new “Pathways to the Bench” video (LINK) featuring one of President Obama’s best judicial nominees, Denny Chin (2nd Cir., NY).  It’s 3 minutes long and I highly recommend it.  It seems particularly appropriate on a day like Christmas that we celebrate with our families.  Denny talks about his family’s immigration history, how is grandfather came and worked to become a citizen and then sponsored his parents who brought Denny and his siblings.  It is the story of family based immigration that has served America well and has been one of the cornerstones of Asian American immigration.  High tech companies are pushing for an increase in employment based visas but some politicians support this increase only if family categories like the one Denny’s parents used — adult children of U.S. citizens — get terminated.   Continue reading »

Mourning the Loss of Senator Daniel Inouye

There is an outpouring of accolades and statements of loss by the top leadership in Washington from the President, to many of his cabinet secretaries, to his colleagues in the Senate and the House, and national civil and human rights groups.  Few, I think, have summed him up better than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said,

 No matter what barrier was in his way, Danny shattered it.  He was the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in history and the first Japanese-American to serve in the House of Representatives and Senate.  He was a soldier, a Medal of Honor recipient and a hero.  But despite the accolades from a lifetime of service, he never lost his humility and compassion.

 Danny was an icon in his native state of Hawaii and a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, minorities and women throughout the country.  He spent his life working for a brighter future, and we are all better off for it. Continue reading »

Battle over Affirmative Action – Again.

This week I moderated a press briefing on the affirmative action admissions case the Supreme Court will be hearing on Wednesday.  The press briefing was on behalf of the Leadership Conference Education Fund and its sister organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  It featured the top civil rights advocates who had also filed fired of the court briefs – Tom Saenz from MALDEF, Debo Adegbile from the NAACP-LDF, Marcia Greenberger from the National Women’s Law Center and a University of California at San Diego undergraduate student, Michelle Lee, who is Chinese Americans.  Click here to download an MP3 recording of the call.

Yet again, this challenge involves a white female student.  Her name is Abigail Fisher.  She was denied admissions to University of Texas.  She instead attended and graduated from Louisiana State this year.  Ironically, for its first 70 years, the University of Texas was for whites only, until its law school was successfully sued by an African American.  Continue reading »

Asian Americans Running in November Election

I am very hopeful about the prospect of seeing an Asian American woman in the U.S. Senate for the first time – it is possible if Mazie Hirono wins her election in Hawaii.  If elected, she would likely be the only woman of color in the Senate.  She is running as a Democrat against a well funded Republican candidate though in a race targeted by conservative pac money.

I’m also excited to see new Asian American talent rising on the political scene as well.  I was in Houston and had the opportunity to meet two exciting young Asian American candidates for the Texas state legislature, Gene Wu, who won the Democratic primary for District 137 which covers part of Houston and Vy Nguyen, who won the Democratic primary for District 26 which covers part of Fort Bend/Sugarland, a suburb of Houston.  Both are attorneys. Continue reading »

Are we better off than four years ago? Part 6

Yes — President Obama has made real investments to improve access to quality education and support minority and other small business owners.

Many politicians talk about the importance of education but few actually make funding education a real priority.  The Obama Administration pushed Congress to dramatically increase investment in Head Start and K-12 funding while pushing schools to improve their performance.  He also doubled the amount of funding for Pell grants so more families could afford to send their kids to college and has been working to improve the student loan system.  Continue reading »

Are we better off than four years ago? Part 5

Yes — More Asian Americans have access to affordable health care and more attention is being paid to studying and addresses diseases that disproportionately affect our community.

Conservatives derisively refer to the Affordable Care Act as ObamaCare.  I think it is a compliment – President Obama does care.  He accomplished what every President since Nixon has failed to do – he successfully fought the insurance companies and made significant reforms to our health care system.

As a result, an estimated 2 million additional AAPIs will be able to obtain coverage through the private health insurance exchanges and an additional 1 in 20 Asian Americans will be covered through the expansion of Medicaid.  The new law also will expand the ability of community health centers to reach currently underserved communities. Continue reading »

Are we better off than four years ago? Part 4

 Yes – We have a President who is a Constitutional Scholar who believes in enforcing our civil rights laws.

The first piece of legislation that President Obama helped to push and sign into law was the Lily Ledbetter Act, helping women seeking equal pay for equal work.  It reversed a Supreme Court decision that made it almost impossible for women to challenge pay discrimination, a decision that also hurt minorities.

The second piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that President Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto.  The Asian American community had been pushing for this landmark legislation that makes it easier for federal law enforcement to prosecute hate crimes based on race, ethnicity and religion; added coverage for gender, disability and sexual orientation; and provided training and assistance to local law enforcement so they could do a better job protecting minorities as well.  Continue reading »

Are we better off than four years ago? Part 3

Yes – President Obama has made government more responsive to the needs of Asian Americans.

Near the end of his administration, President Clinton launched the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with the broad mission of improving the health and well-being of AAPIs.  President Bush let the Initiative lapse after first drastically narrowing its mission to a narrow set of small business owners.  Not only did President Obama revive the Initiative as he promised during his campaign, he expanded the size of the Commission to better reflect the diversity of the AAPI communities, hired an experienced and respected community leader to direct the Initiative and restored its mission to a broad agenda .

As a result, federal agencies are providing – many for the first time – translated materials, hotlines and language assistance in several Asian languages.  Federal agencies are also improving their collection and reporting of data – no longer are Asian Americans dumped in the “other” category.  The Department of Health and Human Services has expanded ethnic level data collection for Asian Americans and the Department of Education has begun the process of expanding its collection of data on the ethnic level.  This is not the kind of work that makes news but it is fundamental to ensuring that underserved groups within the Asian American community get long needed attention and support. Continue reading »

Are we better off than four years ago? Part 2

Yes, Asian Americans are being tapped for their talent and not just their wallets.

President Obama has had the most diverse Cabinet and White House staff of any President.  In fact less than half of his cabinet is white and male.  He appointed a record three Asian Americans to his cabinet.

In Presidential elections, there is a lot of focus on the candidate himself.  As important is who he hires to lead the many agencies that serve the American public.  This President is interested in the talent in our community and elevating them to positions where they can make a difference.  Continue reading »