Today there are roughly 1.6 million Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than $500 billion in sales and employing more than 2.8 million people. In addition, half of AAPIs hold college degrees, providing a steady stream of educated workers into our country’s growing workforce. Yet despite these important achievements, AAPIs face unique challenges, such as being less likely to seek government services or advance to the highest levels of government or in corporate America.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) strives to advance access to the federal government for all AAPIs in the country. This includes promoting business development opportunities in the AAPI community by fostering more collaborative public-private partnerships that will create new, sustainable jobs; build leadership in government and in the private sector; find solutions for workforce challenges; and expand opportunities that advance arts and culture as means to demonstrate the value we as a community bring to business.
On November 14, 2014, WHIAAPI partnered with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (ACE) to hold a National Employee and Business Resource Group (ERG/BRG) Summit for AAPI business leaders at the White House. Seventy-five business leaders and members of ERG/BRGs from various industries, including banking and finance, retail, utilities, telecommunications, technology, manufacturing, health care, insurance, and food, convened to discuss collaborative opportunities, best practices, and resources to advance the AAPI business community.
Ari Matusiak, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Private Sector Engagement at the White House; Michelle Lee, Deputy Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce; Sach Takayasu, President and CEO of ACE; and Jason Tengco, Senior Advisor of WHIAAPI opened the event and welcomed guests to the White House. Aditi Hardikar, who was recently appointed as the AAPI liaison at the White House Office of Public Engagement, also joined guests and provided welcoming remarks.
Breakout sessions led by experienced moderators from federal agencies, nonprofits, and corporations covered topics such as business development, education and continuing education, mentorships and sponsorships, and arts and culture. Attendees discussed critical issues facing AAPI communities, looked at best practices shared by their colleagues, and generated recommendations and action plans for how the business community can further engage on the issues.
During a networking lunch, participants discussed key practices that could advance their ERG/BRG programs as well as challenges and barriers to reaching their goals. The participants then divided into working group sessions during which they carried constructive and animated discussions about available resources from companies and government and the role of ERGs/BRGs in advancing business development and business interests. Furthermore, they brainstormed how WHIAAPI can continue to build partnerships with the business community. To end the day, Teresa Chaurand, Special Assistant to the President in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, shared how business leaders can get more involved with the Administration.
This effort to include corporate ERG/BRGs in WHIAAPI’s network and to nurture collaborations between the private sector and the Administration has tremendous potential. We look forward to building upon this collaborative effort to furthering the AAPI community.
Bill Imada is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.