May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the history, heritage and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month started in May 1979 as a week celebration, and in 1992, Congress passed a law that annually designates May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
To honor and recognize this heritage month and its employees with this heritage, the TIAA Asian-American professionals’ Employee Resource Group (ERG), called Engage ERG, hosted events in multiple TIAA offices for employees to enjoy and learn more about the Asian culture. One of the national events the Engage ERG hosted was a speaker event on May 10 with Amy Chua, best-selling author of multiple books and law professor at Yale University. Amy Chua is well-known for her New York Times bestseller books, including “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and “The Triple Package,” which is particularly relevant to the workplace and ERGs.
The TIAA Engage ERG’s motto, “loud & proud”, was a theme in Chua’s internal speaker event to TIAA employees. She shared her journey growing up with immigrant parents in the US, and how she felt like an outsider at school and work. She later used this feeling as a strength and it motivated her to be proud of her heritage; using her unique skills as a competitive advantage to connect with global issues.
As a part of this month’s activities, TIAA employees were encouraged to stand “loud and proud” and be their authentic selves and deterring individuals from “being” what society expects them to be, and to let the workforce embrace all types of cultures, skills, strengths and backgrounds for the company’s advantage.
Amy Chua’s story and experience resonated with many of the over 380 TIAA employees who attended the event in conference rooms and on the phones nationwide. She encouraged employees to embrace their culture, and to not let their individuality hold them back simply because it is different.
“Although Amy talked a lot about the challenges and struggles of Asian Americans, I think these are struggles that everyone can relate to. Regardless of your race, gender, beliefs, or sexuality, we are all trying to fit in, trying to overcome stereotypes, trying to make our voices heard,” said Wen-Fu Wu, National Co-Chair of the Engage ERG and Managing Director of Asset Allocation at TIAA. “Conversations like these really help us realize that we’re all more alike than we are different, and ultimately bring the organization closer together.”
Carolynne Singerman, the National Communications Chair of the Engage ERG and a Financial Services Consultant at TIAA, said what resonated with her the most was to realize that positive things can come out of terrible and misfortunate events. . “To me that means instead of looking at it as “why me” look at it as a way to learn and grow.” Singerman added, “I believe it is important to have cultural discussions in the workplace so that we, as employees, can embrace and respect our differences and that we all are human. This acceptance also projects through our business practices.”
The TIAA Engage ERG started in 2015 and currently has 501 members. Its mission is to elevate the success of the firm by providing recognition, development, and networking opportunities, especially for Asian-American employees. The ERG hosted additional events this month, including another guest speaker, a kite festival in Denver, and a Dragon Boat festival in Charlotte.