Perspectives

Celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

 

As we continue working to ensure our people practices at Jazz promote equity and inclusion and minimize bias, we are taking steps to learn about and better understand the experiences of our colleagues. To this end, Jazz employees came together last week for a virtual, global celebration in honor of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, led by our All Dimensions of Diversity Employee Resource Team and our Pan-Asian affinity forum.

The event opened with guest speaker, Dr. Vu H Pham, Chair of Elevate – a program that boosts organizational performance and strategic effectiveness through interactive training and data-driven research. Dr. Pham presented data on the unique challenges and systemic biases that Asian communities face disproportionately when compared to other groups. He shared practical perspectives and tools that we all can use to combat these biases, beginning with a focus on raising awareness and education.

“Asian American Panethnicity is a tool Asian Americans can use to think about their identities in a flexible way and view identity as doing rather than being,” Dr. Pham shared. “Our identities are never static. Even if you look at ancient Buddhism, we are never just being we are always becoming.”

Following Dr. Pham’s presentation was an authentic and thought-provoking discussion among a panel of diverse Jazz leaders, moderated by Shan Yeh, Sr. Director, Market Access Operations and Analytics. Panelists included Aarti Bijlani, VP, Marketing Lead, Sleep Business Unit; Abizer Gaslightwala, Hematology and Oncology Business Unit Head; Yanan Hu, VP, Strategy; and Kelvin Tan, Head of Global Medical Affairs.

The session focused on the key themes of celebrating Pan-Asian diversity; spreading understanding and compassion; finding your identity; and being a leader within your community. It provided employees with a window into the unique heritage of each of these Jazz leaders and the experiences that have shaped how they see and interact with the world.
Opening with a sobering reflection on current events, panelists first shared how they would like to see API colleagues and allies demonstrate support for one another in the face of the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.

“Take the time to learn about these various Asian communities and cultures,” Aarti encouraged. “There’s so much to learn and there are threads of consistency throughout each even though it’s such a diverse population – it’s fascinating. Take the time to educate yourself or ask your Asian friends, they’d be happy to share with you.”

Shan asked panelists to share how their Asian heritage has shaped them and particularly, how it may have influenced their management style or leadership brand and values.

“When I grew up, my parents would socialize with a group of Indians who were similar in language and customs, and I quickly learned that this was just one of many groups,” Abizer said. “I realized I had a lot to learn not only as an Indian, but as a South Asian and even more broadly as an Asian person about these other diverse, but similar cultures. I think this curiosity journey is critical to continue as a leader to learn about your teams and the members you don’t know as well and think about how you work together and find similarities and shared values.”

In a candid response to the same question, Kelvin shared, “I think the simple answer is: it hasn’t. In fact, if I was truly honest with you, I’d probably say I’ve minimized my heritage in terms of developing my brand.” He elaborated, “In talking to other colleagues at Jazz, I learned that this is actually not unusual. We all struggle somewhat with our identities – we try to keep our heads down, fit in with the Western norms of what leaders should do and how they should behave. Many of us experience this culture clash where we question who we are and where we fit in.”

After some further discussion about shared experiences and similar hurdles related to identity, the panel closed with thoughts on how we can all engage our communities at work and at home to come together to support one another.

“One thing we can all do is to invite people to speak up in meetings. If they don’t feel comfortable, follow up with them one-on-one,” Yanan suggested. “And when you listen, please listen with great interest – don’t just check it off the list. Take notes and really understand other people’s points of view. Do everything you can to encourage everyone at Jazz, especially those with less experience – they need your support to build their confidence.”

This event created an opportunity for an open dialogue about recent events while promoting understanding and inclusion. Evidenced by the outpouring of support and encouragement shared within the live chat from start to finish, Jazz employees are committed to creating a safe space to listen to, learn from and most importantly, care for one another in times of need.

This Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, think about how you can support diversity, inclusion and belonging both in your personal and professional circles. As Kelvin encouraged at the close of the event, “Let’s take this head-on. Let’s take control. Let’s not be victims. Let’s celebrate diversity and champion inclusion.”