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Microaggressions and safety concerns: the devastation of anti-Asian prejudice in the workplace

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian violence had a significant impact on the work lives of Asian and Pacific Islander professionals, ranging from racist incidents and microaggressions to safety concerns.

According to a new report titled “Strangers at Home: The Asian and Asian American Professional Experience,” nearly two-thirds of Asian and Asian American professionals say ongoing violence against their communities has negatively impacted their mental health and nearly half say it has negatively impacted their physical health.

Half of professionals polled by think tank Coqual say racial hatred has made it difficult to focus at work, and 62% say they feel unsafe while commuting, despite the fact that few employers offer remote work options.

More than one-third of Asian professionals have faced workplace racism.

Brutal images of Asians and Asian Americans being beaten, spit on, or called slurs have compelled corporate executives to speak out about what they face on a daily basis at work.

According to the Coqual study, more than one-third of Asian and Asian American professionals have experienced racial prejudice at their current or previous employers. Members of the East (37%), South (38%), and Southeast Asian (32%), groups have similar rates.

In addition to conducting focus groups and interviews, Coqual polled 2,634 college-educated professionals.

According to Irvin, Asian professionals face microaggressions on a regular basis, such as colleagues assuming they were not born in the United States and asking “where are you really from?” or commenting “your English is really good.”

The model minority myth, which holds that Asian Americans are so hardworking and successful that they don’t face racism at work, is also pervasive, according to Irvin.

There are far too few Asians in corporate leadership positions, particularly women.

What is the source of the problem? According to Irvin, there are too few Asians in corporate leadership.

According to studies, Asians are underrepresented in management and executive positions regardless of their education or experience.

According to data gathered by USA TODAY from S&P 100 companies on workforce diversity, Asian representation drops by nearly half from the professional to executive ranks.

Pacific Islander employees are virtually unnoticed at work.

“This cohort is surrounded by colleagues and leaders who are unsure how to support them,” Irvin explained.

While Asian Americans are the nation’s best-educated and highest-earning major racial or ethnic group as a whole, they are not a monolith. They come from various countries and cultures, as well as different socioeconomic backgrounds and immigration paths. Pacific Islanders have been reduced to invisibility, erasure, and exclusion in the corporate world, according to Irvin. Irvin, who advises corporate leaders on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, believes that companies should diversify their leadership ranks.

Asian employees are lacking in role models and sponsors.

Asian and Asian American professionals are the least likely of any racial group surveyed by Coqual (29%) to say they have role models at work, the least likely (17%) to say they have strong networks, and the least likely (21%).

According to Irvin, having advocates in powerful positions is critical for advancing the next generation of diverse corporate leaders.

“Include them in the conversation and consider how you can better deliver on the promise of advancement and development,” Irvin advised.

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