Diversity & Inclusion

On Being Asian and Asian American in Tech

Overview Hear from leaders in our CES® and Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® family as they share their perspectives on what it means to them to be Asian and Asian American in the technology industry and how they celebrate their backgrounds.

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout 2020, incidents of anti-Asian bias have spiked; throughout the year, anti-Asian crimes in the U.S. surged 149% while overall hate crime rates dropped 7%.

At CTA, we feel strongly that a diverse and inclusive industry allows innovation to meet its fullest potential. Recent events against Asians and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have shone light on another significant portion of this consequential movement against racial injustice and discrimination in the U.S.

“As an association dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusion within the tech sector, CTA condemns group-based violence, hate, discrimination, racism and harassment,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, in a statement. “Our nation is stronger when we respect each other’s dignity and honor.”

We’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the viewpoints of some of our CES and CTA Asian community, who shared with us what it means to them to be Asian and Asian American in the tech sector.

Riya Anandwala, Director of Industry Communications, CTA

"The promise of tech is endless — from helping people in dire health conditions to providing entertainment, convenience and connections. Tech is truly innovative when diverse professionals have a seat at the table. I’m truly fortunate to be at the forefront of telling encouraging stories of how tech is changing the world every day. I realize I have a unique perspective as an Asian American in the tech communications world — it’s not very common to see many Americans of Indian descent in this space — and I take my role as a communicator very seriously.

"As the world of tech evolves, I personally hope to see more underrepresented voices given an opportunity, and we all share that responsibility. We are stronger as a community when we respect and value diversity of everyone."

 

Janice Chen, Co-Founder and CTO, Mammoth Biosciences

"As a first-generation Chinese American, I grew up often feeling too American to be Chinese, and too Chinese to be American. As an Asian American, there is a societal expectation to conform to the model minority stereotype, and as a female Asian American, that stereotype is compounded with the expectation to be submissive and obedient.

"Although I didn’t have the same network or resources as some of my other colleagues, I inherited hard work, integrity, and the desire to follow new opportunities from my parents who immigrated to the U.S. three decades ago. I also learned from professors who inspired me to pursue science, work collaboratively, and take risks. These guiding principles enabled me to take the leap of faith and start a CRISPR company to develop next-gen diagnostics and therapeutics.

"My vision for the future is one where Asian Americans and people of all backgrounds no longer struggle through these contradictions around identity and expectations, but instead have role models, support and acceptance to follow journeys that will maximize their potential."

 

Christine Evans, Chief Marketing Officer, Ginger

"So many perspectives are needed to ensure that the technologies we create — especially in health care — meet people where they are. Being of Chinese descent and a first-generation American, I’m proud to represent those points-of-view in my work in the health technology industry.

"I also recognize that mine is only one of a multitude of perspectives needed to design truly accessible, equitable, and relevant experiences that can improve the health and well-being of people — regardless of who they are."

 

Brian Moon, Vice President, Sales and Business Development, CTA

"As an Asian-American, I am proud to be part of an industry that is inclusive of all backgrounds. At CTA, we often say, 'Every company is a tech company.' For people in our industry: 'Anybody can be part of the tech industry.' And it is inspiring to see American multinational companies such as Adobe, AMD, Google, and Microsoft being led by chief executives with similar backgrounds.

"In addition, it is encouraging to see the growing number of international companies participating in CES — and recognizing that many of the tech and innovations featured in CES year after year originate from companies based in Asia. Tech sees no color. And it is important to recognize and celebrate the contributions by all in the industry."

 

Carol Reed, EVP Head of Data & Product Marketing, WPP

“Identity recognition and resolution is an undeniably hot topic in today’s data and technology world. As marketers, we strive to understand our consumers so that we can build stronger relationships and add value to their lives.

"As the saying goes, the best way to understand others is to first know ourselves. As a first-generation Asian-American, identity is something that we struggle with as kids, study in college in search for understanding, and eventually come to accept in adulthood. Reconciling our cultural heritage with our American birthright, all the while respecting the dreams and sacrifices of our parents so that we can have a better life is a life-long lesson in obligation, duty, self-identity and ultimately self-love.

"In my personal experience, transitioning to and succeeding in the workplace has been an on-going exercise in seeing beyond yourself and focusing on how best to translate your unique individual perspective to maximize your potential and contribution in a team environment. 

"In data and technology, that means keeping an open mind to a rapidly evolving world and building connections and bridges whenever possible. America is a melting pot. And despite the struggles we’ve all been through recently, from the global pandemic to recent political and racial divisiveness, I still subscribe to the American Dream. From the workplace to our broader communities, there are daily acts of inclusion, kindness and a collective compassion. If we can focus on the positivity and build upon it, I’m confident that we can succeed in our quest to better understand each other through mutual love and respect.”
 

Jordan Sun, Chief Innovation Officer, City of San Jose

"Prior to tech, I was in the U.S. military, diplomacy, and NYC trading floor during the recession. Having been in multiple careers that had low representation of Asian Americans, I found solidarity and support amongst mentors and colleagues from other communities of color, especially when overcoming events of discrimination and racism. During my 13.5 years of service, I recall being told, 'I don’t think Asians belong in certain career fields' to 'There’s more of us (another race) than you, so deal with it' to being asked whether I was American to having multiple debates with colleagues who strongly felt that American citizens with Chinese, Slavic, Arab and Persian last names should be screened twice than other ethnicities for security clearances.

"Fast forward to today, Americans have consistently faced unprecedented challenges. We need to remove the politicization of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce. In my efforts to bridge solidarity across underrepresented communities, it is my obligation as an Asian American tech and city executive to champion greater diversity in tech and to pay it forward in honor of those communities who stood by me during challenging events in my life. D.E.I. makes us stronger and smarter as a nation; I hope we can lean into our competitive strengths as one people."

 

Brian Tong, CES Anchor and YouTube Content Creator

"I've been involved in media since the 2000s and there were very few Asians in the media then. Surprisingly, there still aren't too many Asian/Asian American Youtubers in the tech space when you look at the entire landscape today. I feel fortunate enough to be one of them, and I just represent one slice of the Asian experience. But I'm happy that it can inspire others or I can connect with people who might not live in areas with a diverse community around them.

"Tech connects all of us. It's connected me to people I would have never known if it didn't exist.

"I've never believed in the idea that we are all the same. Yes, we are all humans. But it's our differences that make all of us unique and great. It's our responsibility to be curious, ask questions and learn about others and their cultures which in turn enriches our lives as well."

 

Jen Wong, COO, Reddit

"All at once, being Asian American, I have experienced being thought of as a foreigner (though born in New York) to being almost de facto quieted by being unseen. I’ve also just enjoyed watching Asian American culture grow its presence within American culture — in entertainment, in media, in business and in tech. That’s really fun and heartening to see — when I was younger there was zero representation, and now there is some, though room for even more. 
 
“Tech is so influential and I’m so glad to see Asians represented in the tech force writ large. However, I would like to see more Asians in executive and leadership roles — there are so many great leaders for companies to bring in. 
 
“One of the reasons I love working at Reddit is its mission to bring “community and belonging to everyone in the world,” which is reflected in how we build the business and platform every day. These values and this commitment are really meaningful and guide me every day.
 

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