Category Archives: inclusion

Cultural Humility

This is a piece released by my colleague, Janet Bennett.  I’ve been so depressed since the election that I’ve needed to take some time to rejuvenate and pull myself out of this funk. My career is founded on creating space for people to bring their full selves, all of their differences and all of their life experiences to the workplace.  Cultural Humility is a critical component of creating an inclusive workplace so I thought I would share this.


Cultural humility refers to respecting the validity of other peoples’ culture


It involves:


  • Recognizing that different, even conflicting, cultural perspectives can be equally legitimate


  • Suspending judgment


  • Questioning the primacy of our own perspective


  • Assuming we may not know what is really going on


  • Clarifying what is expected


  • Allowing others to direct us in appropriate behavior


  • Accepting the creative tension of holding two or more different perspectives


  • Seeking the “third culture” common ground for effective interactions





Adapted from “Cultural Humility: A Way of Being in the World” by Alan Guskin, Antioch Notes, Vol. 59, #1, Fall 1991, Antioch Publications Office, Yellow Springs, OH.



Janet M. Bennett, Ph.D, © 2006

Getting Published; A Forward for “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change” #diversity #inclusion

My colleague and friend, Jennifer Brown, asked me to write the Forward for her new book, “Inclusion:  Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change.”  It has just been released and when I saw an advance copy of it in the bookstore at the 2016 Out & Equal Conference, it made me smile.  Hard copy books feel so official and important to me.  I love reading on my iPad or Kindle but the tactile feel of turning paper pages and even the scent of paper and printing ink add to my enjoyment when I read a hard copy book.  Seeing my name in print after something that I wrote was exciting.

I have to thank Noemie Iniguez, a young Black Belt from our brother dojo in South Carolina, for doing a quick edit to my draft before I sent it to the publisher. When I blog, I just write.  I don’t edit or even spellcheck.  But for this forward, I felt like I should send it over as close to final as I possibly could and a second pair of eyes reviewing a draft is always helpful.

So here is the Forward.  And if you’re interested in purchasing a book,

Get updates and download your free chapter here:

When Jennifer approached me with a request to contribute to the forward of
her book, I felt extremely honored. I consider Jennifer to be a trusted
thought leader and a dear friend. We easily move from holding deep,
strategic conversations about social justice and diversity to giggling over
silly events involving family and friends. But I felt pressure to write
comments on point with what is happening today in our country around
diversity and inclusion.  Honestly, my will to change has levelled up like
the obsessed Pokemon Go gamers wandering the streets across America. As our
country struggles with tension across groups, it feels like I have job
security because I get paid to create change. Our systems are broken, our
country is wounded and we must have the will to create change to heal.
By the time I received more details on Jennifer’s book, our country had
heard more reports of police officers shooting African Americans, woken up
to news of the Orlando nightclub attack, and just experienced the sniper’s
attack on police officers in Dallas. Putting this in context with the
concept of “Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change” made it easy
for me to craft my thoughts to this Forward. I am delighted and humbled to
be afforded this opportunity to put into writing my respect and admiration
for Jennifer and her work.
When I joined my company eighteen years ago to work in “Corporate
Diversity,” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My definition of
“diversity” was limited to race and gender. Like most people, my thoughts I
focused on protected classes; I saw this position as an opportunity to give
voice to the underdog. I joined Corporate America in the late 90’s and found
very few role models for me to emulate. Where would I find the Gen X,
Asian-Pacific American, LGBT Ally, single mother of a biracial child with
disabilities who were running companies and calling the shots? Diversity
became a concept I connected with immediately and revealed itself as one of
the only ways I felt that I could make an impact in my company and leave a
legacy, because of my will to create change.
The concept of “inclusion” hit me as very fresh and exciting, an opportunity
to bring straight white men over 40 into the work and really make the
culture change effort for everyone. After all, I quickly learned that
culture change is not about taking anything away from one group to give to
another, it isn’t a “fight the power” theory, it is about creating space for
all individuals to fully contribute and thrive. And corporate culture change
must be focused on the bottom line:  working towards keeping a competitive
advantage in these uncertain economic times, driven by a will to change.
Creating change is often a lonely place. Finding the will to change, and to
create real change requires passion and patience. One needs passion to
create change, passion for what is possible, and passion about seeing
results. If a person becomes involved with Diversity and Inclusion for
monetary rewards or recognition, it is doubtful that he or she will be
successful. This work is about service to the company and to others. The
ultimate goal is higher performance, which only comes about when people are
feeling valued, supported and respected for their individuality.
My mom once asked me to describe what I do for a living. I answered, “Well,
it feels like I bang my head against the wall of resistance to create
change. At times, the wall of resistance actually cracks, which gives me a
moment to rest and inspires me to continue.” The will to change requires a
lot of patience and a strong will to change. Patience is about realizing
that change happens when one convinces their constituents to slow down to
adjust behaviors so they can speed up the way they do business. Allow
yourself to see the signs of change, acknowledge the necessary work you put
in and celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

The will to change must come from deep inside the change agent. No one can
artificially manifest that sort of will.  Jennifer Brown has laid out real
time examples of how we must find our own voices to create change. Don’t be
your toughest critic and minimize your accomplishments, this work takes
time, this work takes dedication and this work takes patience. Keep that in
perspective when someone tells you that you haven’t been successful. It all
begins with understanding our own values and motivation to live life in
today’s turbulent and uncertain world.

Thumb-typed on my iPhone

Brain Drain and Pain – Why Inclusion Matters

When a human being is born, their brain weighs one pound. If you are reading this blog, your brain probably weighs about three pounds. Through normal human development and physical growth starting as a swaddled infant to toddling around as a toddler to tip-toeing through life as a tween/teen and eventually, achieving adult status, your brain gained two more pounds. Every life experience, jump rope jumped, schoolbook read and to a lesser extent, television show watched, has contributed to your brain’s development and weight gain. Every human being is unique because no one has had exactly the same life experiences. Even identical twins bring diversity to a conversation because genetic make-up aside, they are not exactly the same person.

That was the gist of the first two minutes of a presentation I heard this week by a woman who is a UCLA professor in the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management. Because my career has been focused on creating work environments where people can bring their full selves to work and contribute freely in a safe environment, I became intrigued with every word Dr. Iris Firstenberg spoke. Diversity is so much more than race and gender, that I understood and tried to communicate in all of my presentations and interactions at work. But to learn about how neuroscience creates diversity in each and every human being was truly a “mind blown’ moment. And I do not find myself shocked or surprised by much at this stage of my career. Pi’ilani’s mind went kaboom.

Here is what I learned about the brain.



Near the center of the brain exists the Limbic System. According to Wikipedia: “The limbic system was originally defined by Paul Broca as a series of cortical structures surrounding the limit between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem: the border, or limbus, of the brain. These structures were known together as the limbic lobe. Further studies began to associate these areas with emotional and motivational processes and linked them to subcortical components that were grouped into the limbic system. The existence of such a system as an isolated entity responsible for the neurological regulation of emotion has gone into disuse and currently it is considered as one of the many parts of the brain that regulate visceral, autonomic processes.”

So, what does that actually mean? The limbic system is responsible for both emotions and memory. Consider an experience from your life that was highly emotional, maybe you were PISSED at your best friend for borrowing your favorite sweater or perhaps your favorite pet passed away unexpectedly and you cried for days, aren’t those memories burned into your mind? In your brain (and every other human being’s brain), the emotional center is right next to the memory center. That means that highly emotional experiences are highly memorable experiences. Much to my delight, I also learned that food and alcohol directly impact the limbic system. That satisfaction and gratification can elicit an emotional reaction and create lasting memories. For an Asian Pacific Islander like me, every social gathering must revolve around food and drink. For example, holiday get-togethers in my family consist of multiple rounds of food starting with loads of appetizers, followed by a hearty meal with both ethnic and American dishes , ending with delightful desserts and all accompanied by fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails or fancy sodas for the kids and/or teetotalers.

Another thing to consider is that people need to constantly stimulate their brains. Because your brain is constantly sculpting itself and growing and changing through experiences such as traveling, reading, dancing or playing music. This sort of on-going learning stimulates growth in your brain and can help stave off Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic disposition for the disease. So encourage your elderly family and friends to read, do crosswords, play cards, exercise and stay social to keep that brain sculpting going.

But what about when people are experiencing stress? They are being driven by their emotional brain – fear, danger, nerves, anxiety. When there are lots of connections going up to that area and not enough connections coming down to placate that brain, the emotional brain is overwhelmed.  Emotion trumps logic every time. Human beings absolutely need to calm that brain down to think logically. Think about when you’re arguing with your partner or sibling or child and you’re both so sure that your point of view is the right answer. As you build your argument and elevate your voices and blood pressure, it becomes harder and harder to truly hear the other person’s point of view. If you are trying to end the argument or calm the situation down, remember this little tip. Louder is not better. The limbic system hears in a nonverbal manner. So take a breath and sit next to the person, not across from one another, to make it easier to calm them down. Feel free to give them a drink or some food. Because a sense of touch is calming, it may be appropriate for you to gently touch the other person, place a hand softly on their shoulder, or hold their hand in yours. This can all help calm down the limbic system and allow the disagreement to begin to dissipate.

So how does this relate to one’s work environment? You risk charges of sexual harassment if you place your hand on a work colleague. And it is rare that a disagreement would escalate to a yelling match at the office. But what happens when you don’t include people at work. Maybe you walk around and look at your shoes or your phone because you’re a bit of an introvert like me. Or perhaps you really are so busy that you forget to say Hello to someone in the hall or people who sit near your desk. Exclusion, even when it is not done with any intention of hurting someone, can directly impact morale and productivity. In fact, neuroscience has proven that being excluded or rejected can be as painful as being socked in the stomach, people elicit the exact same brainwave patterns in each case. Whether it is a person who never gets invited to lunch or a person who just got dumped by the love of their life, it all hurts the same in their brainwaves.

Consider a time when you felt social rejection as a tween or teenager. We all have stories of being rejected or excluded and we probably all remember how much it hurt, despite our well-intended parents telling us that “you’ll get over it” or “this too shall pass”. These rejections stay with us as adults and definitely impact our decision making and socialization.

I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where I could walk to my elementary school and all of our neighbors were very friendly. I was lucky to have kids across the street who were close to my age, who cares if they were mostly boys, I learned how to throw a tight spiral in 5th grade. Around the corner, my best friends lived and we roller skated and played together all the time. But one thing was missing, there were no other Filipino kids in my neighborhood. My besties were also children of Asian immigrant parents but none were Pinoy. At around 12 years of age, I wanted to learn more about Filipino culture and asked if my mom would take me someplace so I could learn Filipino folk dancing.

The national dance of the Philippines is called the Tinikling, which pays homage to the movements of a much-loved bird, and is a graceful and athletic challenge of dancing and jumping in between bamboo poles that are being struck together to keep rhythm. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. It looked like fun and I really wanted to connect with my culture so my mother took me to the Filipino Community Club across town so I could join their youth group.

I walked in wearing my Izod polo shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. The other kids from this neighborhood were in baggies, MaryJanes and Chucks. All of girls wore lipstick and used hairspray and looked so much more feminine than me. They were polite to me when the supervisor walked me around to let them know I was going to join their dance classes. However, as soon as we were left alone, one of the girls stage whispered to her friend, “What IS she wearing? Hippie shoes, ugh, gross.” At that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t come back and I never told my mom why. It became really hard for me to make friends with other Pinay girls after that because I thought they would all reject me in that way. Thankfully I had awesome cousins who were like my best friends so I did get large doses of my culture that way. But unfortunately, I never learned about Filipino folk dancing until college.

Inclusion is fundamental to all human interaction. When you include people and treat them with respect, they feel engaged and trusted. People need to be welcoming and honest to build friendships. Leaders have to be vulnerable for employees feel trusted. When someone feels excluded, the brain reacts to it in the same way as when the body is kicked in the stomach. Do your best to behave inclusively in all of your relationships. And keep in mind that logic cannot be achieved if emotions are running high.

Mentoring & Sponsorship @WMConferences

Last week, I spent time at Working Mother Media’s annual “Multicultural Women’s National Conference.” This event has provided me more personal development than any other conference that I have attended. I’ve even made a couple of new friends because of my participation and that is an extra special bonus. Imagine being in a room with 500 ambitious, driven, and successful women. The invitation to this conference is especially targeted towards women of color and Working Mother takes this opportunity to create a safe and honest dialogue about what is really going on with women in the workplace.

This year’s theme was powerful: “Vision and Impact: Charting What’s Next.” A brief website description read: “Together through collaborative conversation and vision planning we can launch real progress and ignite action in our careers and in our lives – thus positively impacting the future for the advancement of multicultural women in the workplace.

Our vision, values and goals shape the way we work, along with the expectations we have for our careers, and our lives. Knowing what we want – and being able to articulate that – is vital to live lives and build careers that have impact.”

Given the circumstances that my company has thrust upon the employees, it seems more than fitting. What is next in my career and my life? This conference presented me with time and space to evaluate my current professional career path. I set out very deliberate intentions to consider all the possibilities ahead of me, in the back of my mind. Externally, I agreed to play the role of a “Thought Leader” in the same race and cross race discussion groups.

Participants were asked to choose two topics related to a professional area that they needed to strengthen. My role became “facilitator” and I helped the guide a discussion to explore how the participants approach this area, how the power of their belief system shapes and influences that behavior, impacting career decisions and possibly impeding advancement.

We used a technique loosely based on Open Space Technology. No formal structured agenda existed in the beginning, each group had a topic area and began the conversation from there. The desired outcomes were simple: to raise issues that were most important to the participants in the group, engage everyone in the discussion, and share the findings in the cross-race discussions on the same topic. The six topics were based on six critical components for the career advancement of women:


What I want to share came out of my same race conversation circle on the topic of Mentoring and Sponsorship.

We were given a few questions to begin our discussion:
Do you have a personal board of directors? A mentor? If so, what is the value add? If not, what are the barriers to enablement? Do you believe someone in your organization is your sponsor—someone who is telling others about your value to the organization?

Do you have a broad range and influential level of mentors and sponsors?
In what ways are you – or are you not – sponsorable?

Goal 1: Ensure race is part of the conversation—how does this group uniquely experience the topic at hand?

Goal 2: Encourage timely and actionable focus—is this something they’re dealing with right now and can impact in the near-term?

Goal 3: Avoid redundancy—seek to build on others’ thoughts, in the same conversation and from the session prior.

Goal 4: Go beneath the surface—use probing questions to uncover the “why”, “who” and “how” of the experience.

As always, I elected to start our dialogue with brief introductions: name, company and why they selected this topic. I find that this helps the participants hear their own voice in the room and therefore, “warm them up” to participate more fully. As an Introvert, I know this tiny step helps me. If I had more time, I would have asked each participant to share one thing they are excited about this summer. Having people talk about something they are excited about helps to elevate their levels of engagement. Adults really enjoy talking about themselves. Little touches like using an adult’s first name when addressing a question to them or following up a comment they made does wonders for an individual’s enthusiasm. This isn’t an ego thing, it is a human thing. Also, I’ve found that the higher one moves up in the organization, the less “human” their interactions become. People seem to lose their minds when speaking to high ranking executives and don’t give them honest and candid feedback for fear of harming one’s career progression. Also, people don’t treat high ranking executives the same way they would treat a person who doesn’t sit in the corner office. This is a ridiculous way to function in corporate America. The world is shrinking and communication needs to be transparent. We do not have time for politicking anymore. Work needs to get done through authentic and meaningful dialogue. Everyone adds value to the workplace -regardless of title, age, race, level of education, sexual orientation, gender and any other aspect of being a human being that people use to divide us into groups. Just keep it real and cut out the bullshit, people. We will all get a lot more accomplished.

Back to my Thought Leader same race discussion group…

We, as a group, decided to define “mentoring” and “sponsorship” before we went any further, I offered two very brief definitions: Mentoring is talking TO someone about career development and that someone is NOT in your direct reporting chain of command. Anyone can find a mentor or a mentor. Sponsorship is when someone is talking ABOUT you when you are not in the room. This usually happens during talent review or when leaders work to identify participants for stretch assignments. Sponsorship is usually earned through showing consistently strong performance and building a reputation for delivering solid business results. Interestingly enough, participants in both of my small groups said that they had never had a problem with finding mentors. However, only a handful of them knew whether they had a sponsor or not. In my mind, that is data worth exploring further. Why don’t Asian women know if they have sponsors? Or do they not have sponsors? Is there a cultural component to this? Is it because across corporate America, most of the key decision makers are still straight, white men? These are things to consider in the future.

The same race groups who were discussing Mentoring and Sponsorship had five key points to share with the cross race groups. This is what the Asian women wanted the other groups to realize about us, as a collective group. I own these findings, as an Asian American woman.

1. We are usually the only woman, the only Asian, and the youngest looking person in the room. Because we look younger, we need to build credibility early in the meeting to establish that we are NOT the junior person on the team. Many of the women reported wearing glasses or very professional attire to look older. And everyone said it was critical to note their tenure with their company so we aren’t ignored or overlooked in the workplace.

2. Being Asian may get in the way of our own self-promotion. Bragging or at least talking about our achievements is very counter cultural to Asians. However, this skill is a critical one when finding a sponsor.

3. As we move up in our careers, it becomes more difficult to find mentors and sponsors who are key decision makers. In numbers, most organizations have less women and less women of color and even less Asian women at the top.

4. In order to be promoted, we must build cross-functional skills. It seems that we Asians are very skilled at being individual contributors and are not usually tapped on the shoulder for key assignments in the sexy departments like marketing and sales. Most of us received messages from our well-intended parents that hard work pays off and the nail that stands up gets hammered down. Well, in corporate America, one needs to learn how to stretch outside one’s comfort zone, take risks and stand out. We must be intentional in asking for coaching and career development.

5. Different Asian cultures have varying levels of comfort with speaking out. We enjoyed a lively discussion about how Indian women seem to have a lot less challenges in asking for coaching and feedback. Many of the participants were not U.S.-born and that adds a layer of complexity to the discussion. The long and the short of it was, not all Asians are alike. One size does not fit all.

The discussions did not bring any new revelations to my mind about being Asian in corporate America and trying to find a mentor or sponsor. The value I gleaned from this conversation was just in being surrounded by people like me. We all shared very openly and freely, things that came easy to us in the workplace and a few things that are barriers to our success. I feel like my course is still uncharted in terms of what’s next but I do feel like I own my responsibility to continue to help other women be successful.

“Just Because I’m Quiet” Can an Introvert Really Blog Once A Week?

One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis.  Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger.  (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.)

“Reality TV! Social Media! Big-and-bold leaders! Sometimes it seems life today is tailor-made for extroverts. But given that as many as half of Americans are introverts, how can quieter types succeed amidst so much noise?”  This concept of being big and loud in the US has plagued me for most of my life.  My parents are Asian immigrants who whispered covert coaching tips in my ears.  If I wanted success:  keeping quiet, staying humble and working hard would reap rewards and recognition.  Unfortunately, what I realized when I hit the workforce was that life is more “the squeaky wheels gets the grease” and a lot less “the nail that stands up gets hammered down.”  My parents and I didn’t define “rewards and recognition” in the same context.  They thought that lifelong employment and a pension were crucial to living the American Dream.  However, I longed for a work environment where I was constantly challenging the status quo and developing new ideas to create space for innovative thinking and creativity to thrive.  Compound my conflicted Asian upbringing with being an Introvert and my instinctive nature to want to make others great and that is a recipe for folding in the complex card game of corporate America.  Thankfully, my chosen career is based on the concept of creating a new culture that leverages diversity and builds an inclusive work environment.  After studying Generational Diversity as a concept to help me be successful in my company, Introvert/Extrovert personality styles is my new frontier to explore.

Many books have been written on this topic.  Susan Cain is one of the most recognized names in this field.  She recently announced “The Quiet Revolution” in her TED talk in the Spring of 2014.  Her book, “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” has garnered attention from critics, business leaders and parents alike.  Ms. Cain was a keynote speaker at a diversity conference that I attended in Atlanta this past May 2014.  For me, I was tickled to hear someone addressing this topic in a keynote address.  One other author who I have read is Laure A. Helgoe, who penned, “Introvert Power:  Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.”  Ms. Helgoe released a second edition where she works to deconstruct the cultural bias that links extraversion to happiness, which means that introverts must be less happy.   Both authors approach this topic differently but with a great deal of introspection and care.  One guess whether they are each introverts or extroverts.

One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis.  I’ve spent weeks mulling this concept and thinking about how to position this in a blog topic and once I worked it out in my head, I didn’t feel the need to post my thoughts.  I had Introverted the topic so thoroughly in my own mind to resolution and moved on without even typing a word.  Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger.  (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.)  Another aspect of this concept that interferes with my blogging is my extremely extroverted (with a capital EX) daughter.  She just walked in and said, “Hey mom, are you ready to go?”  I replied, “Just give me about 30 minutes to finish this blog draft and I will be ready to go, please go pack what you need for the day.  Daughter exits and returns in two minutes with her change of clothes and a big smile, as she deposits the pile of clothes on my bed and begins to chat me up incessantly.  “Here is my stuff, what’s your blog about?, my friend can’t come today..”  I have to cut her off and say quietly, “30 minutes of quiet.  Go or this is going to take even longer.”  She smiles and hops out of my room and calls out behind her,  “I love you, Mom!”  That is also an example of why it is so hard for me to find a moment of privacy to FaceTime with my boyfriend or to do pretty much anything else.  My offspring is an Extrovert and I love her with all my heart, there are just times when she sucks every ounce of my energy out of my every pore.  A single parent needs support and a break from time to time, I believe that a single Introverted parent whose child is an Extrovert with ADHD deserves a lifetime pass to a day spa or campsite or whatever moment of silence and solitude she or he craves.

All of this led to me to create a diversity workshop on Introverts and Extroverts for the annual women’s professional development conference at my corporation.  The corporation has US affiliates in manufacturing, sales and marketing and financial services.  Our parent company is from an industry that is traditionally male-dominated.  We live and work in a U.S. society that is clearly biased towards extroverts, I wanted to explore how that plays out at each of our workplaces and impacts career growth for women.  Admittedly, it had the potential to be more than a 90 minute workshop but I wanted to plant a seed on the topic to see what might germinate from it.

The description of the workshop:  Conference participants will observe an exercise to introduce “Introversion & Extroversion” and go through a guided discussion and to discuss this topic as it relates to working at our corporation.  This worshop competed against a discussion on Sheryl Sanberg’s “Lean In” amongst others yet we had standing room only crowds for each session.  That indicated a certain level of interest.  Executives and managers alike told me they appreciated the discussion and a new way to frame diversity in the workplace.

This all makes me think about how personality style impacts interpersonal relationships.  My colleague kicks off many of his workshops on diversity with this statement: “People make 90% of their judgments about you based on the 10% of what they see.”   With that said, strangers will make an assessment about who they think I am based on my clothing, hair style and color, height, weight, shape of my eyes, curve of my ass, and anything else they see. Because I am an Introvert, an INFJ to be exact, I may not seem as interested in meeting this stranger. If they come on too strong I will, at least subconsciously, recoil away from him or her.  However, the second part of that kick-off statement is that “90% of who we are cannot be seen.”  People are like icebergs, the surface doesn’t reveal what is beneath the surface and Introverts have an invisible forcefield that blocks people from getting to know that 90% of who they really are.



I’ve read a variety of different numbers when it comes to the percentage of the population who are INFJ, like me. Most of the data I have seen says we are less than 4% (and sometimes the data is reported as low as less than 1%) of the population, making my type the most rare of all.

Profile of an INFJ Personality, according to Typefinder.

“INFJ in a Nutshell

INFJs are creative nurturers with a strong sense of personal integrity and a drive to help others realize their potential. Creative and dedicated, they have a talent for helping others with original solutions to their personal challenges.

The Counselor has a unique ability to intuit others’ emotions and motivations, and will often know how someone else is feeling before that person knows it himself. They trust their insights about others and have strong faith in their ability to read people. Although they are sensitive, they are also reserved; the INFJ is a private sort, and is selective about sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.

What Makes the INFJ Tick

INFJs are guided by a deeply considered set of personal values. They are intensely idealistic, and can clearly imagine a happier and more perfect future. They can become discouraged by the harsh realities of the present, but they are typically motivated and persistent in taking positive action nonetheless. The INFJ feels an intrinsic drive to do what they can to make the world a better place.

INFJs want a meaningful life and deep connections with other people. They do not tend to share themselves freely but appreciate emotional intimacy with a select, committed few. Although their rich inner life can sometimes make them seem mysterious or private to others, they profoundly value authentic connections with people they trust.”

Luckily, I am a type of Introvert who really likes people and is blessed with a large social circle of friends and colleagues. Usually, I present as an Extrovert to the outside world. People who see me speak at conferences will swarm me and reach out to connect with questions and comments. What they don’t realize is that it takes all my energy to speak in front of a large conference room and I need time to recharge in solitude.

This is not the last time I will think about being an Introvert. Hopefully it isn’t the last time I blog about it.



Seven Things NOT to Say to Asian Americans

I am contributor to this article but I am removing the name of my company from it.

Written by Stacy Straczynski for DiversityInc

Confronting subconscious biases and stereotypes about race is a frequent occurrence for many professionals in the workplace—in particular, those from traditionally underrepresented groups. While many comments and questions are raised merely out of curiosity or ignorance, it doesn’t lessen the offense.

“Stereotypes make people feel like they don’t belong, like they’re an outsider looking in,” according to Linda Akutagawa, a Japanese-American and CEO and President of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP). “It’s not necessarily the phrases or comments said, but the insinuations and how things were said.”
What can your organization do to improve cultural competence?

According to Pi’ilani, a Filipino-American and National Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for some company, everyone has a choice of how he or she addresses negative comments. “In a case where there is a personal relationship and a certain degree of trust, I encourage people to have a private conversation to explain the negative impact,” she says.

Educating employees and exposing them to diversity is “critical to addressing comments born of ignorance,” says Dr. Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer of Sodexo, who is Indian-American. “These impact how Asians are represented in the workplace.”

7 Things NOT to Say to Asian-Americans
1. “You speak English well. Where did you learn it?”
Typically meant as a compliment, this is one comment that really “pushes my buttons,” says Anand. “Just because a person has an accent—and possible appearance—that’s different than the mainstream” results in the assumption that a person can’t communicate.

2. “You need to improve your communication skills.”
Akutagawa does note that with globalization, there are increasing numbers of professionals who speak English with accents. And this can become an issue during performance reviews: Many times, Asian employees are simply told they need to improve their communication skills but are not given any elaboration on what that means.

“No one wants to come straight out and address the accent,” Akutagawa says. “It’s a two-way street: The manager has to think about what they’re doing to listen fully and be present in conversations.”

3. “Asians are not discriminated against. All of my doctors are Asian, and the Asian kids in school are the ones getting top honors. It’s the white kids who are at a disadvantage.”
Even positive stereotypes are damaging: The myth that all Asians want a career in medicine, math and science is limiting. Additionally, you should never assume that an Asian employee is the IT person.

4. “Asians are good workers but seldom want to become leaders.”
There’s a strong stereotype that while Asians are good individual performers, they are not leadership material—and that’s OK with them, according to Akutagawa. As a result, she says, there is an unconscious bias that prevents Asians from being considered for more senior-level positions.

For example, Pi’ilani recalls an anecdote someone shared with her: “After voicing her opinion in a meeting, my colleague’s male manager said to her, ‘You’re not like my Asian wife. You speak up.’ It is hard to forget a story like that.”

Anand says the issue lies in a lack of cultural competence. Many Asian-Americans with strong non-Western cultural roots might have a quiet leadership style, more behind-the-scenes than what is considered mainstream. The solution? Draw attention to a variety of successful leaders and management styles.

5. “Can you recommend a good [Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, sushi, etc.] restaurant?” Or “Chinese food is cat meat.”
Don’t ask for dining recommendations out of context or assume an Asian has this information on hand.

6. “Where are you from?” “No, where are you really from?”

Aside from the fact that the question already implies that an Asian is an outsider, repeating it is even more offensive. Akutagawa says, “I get the question only every so often, but it’s frequent enough to remind me that stereotypes are there.”
“How often do you go home?” also should be avoided. Pi’ilani says her typical response is: “I am from the Monterey Bay Area. I can drive there in about five hours,” even though she knows this isn’t what the person meant.

7. “Asians are overrepresented at senior and C-suite levels.”
Despite a variety of data, including DiversityInc Top 50 data, that consistently prove otherwise, this is a comment Akutagawa heard a speaker say at a recent conference. “It was so blissfully thrown out. My thought was, ‘We have a few high-profile CEOs and all of a sudden we’re overrepresented?’ Maybe when people see the one, they feel like they’re being overrun.”

The actual numbers show that Asians, much like other underrepresented groups, are lacking representation in upper management: DiversityInc Top 50 CEOs are 8 percent Asian, and Fortune 500 CEOs are only 1.8 percent Asian.

5 Ways to Prevent Asian Stereotypes
Don’t perpetuate stereotypes—even positive ones.

Make opportunities available outside the stereotypical career track.

Assign cross-cultural mentors and offer stretch assignments.

Elevate the mission of resource groups beyond sharing cultural practices and celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Draw attention to successful Asian leaders and role models.

More Things Not to Say
Any derogatory term

“You don’t act very Asian.”

“What’s your name again?

“You all look alike.”

“What kind of Asian are you?”

“Are you a bad driver?”

“Can you speak your language?”

“Were you a fan of Jeremy Lin?”

“Why do you only hang out with Asians?”

Leadership – Do our values change over time?

In 2003, I found myself invited to apply for a Fellowship Program with an organization called Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI).  The mission of APAWLI was to develop Asian American and Pacific Islander women for leadership roles in the United States. Founded in 1996, APAWLI’s signature Fellowship Program selected a group of outstanding women to take the three-week leadership training course which culminated in each individual developing a leadership impact project that would positively change the lives of at least 25 people.

The interview process consisted of written essays, collecting multiple letters of recommendation, and face-to-face interviews with APAWLI board members.  The experience helped me examine my hopes for the future and my career goals.  It also forced me to ask for help, something that I find to be a challenge, but I needed letters of recommendation from people outside of my work team.  When I read the letters that these well-respected leaders in business and the community wrote, I kept looking around and wondering if they were actually talking about ME.  It is very true that we do not see ourselves the way others do and being Asian, humility gets in the way of honest self-assessments.

Unfortunately, the APAWLI ran into budgetary challenges in 2003 and had to place the Fellowship Program on hold for a few years.  I found my application and decided it might be fun to read through it.  Before I started, I asked myself if our core values change through the years.  What I am about to share in this DiversityNerd posting was written over ten years ago:  before I earned my promotions at work, before I almost died from a ruptured hemorrhagic ovarian cyst, and before I developed my voice in Diversity and Inclusion.  How much have I grown since then?

APAWLI is a part of The Center for Asian Pacific American Women (The Center) is a national, non-profit, non-advocacy organization dedicated to enhancing and enriching leadership skills for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island (AANHPI) leaders.

Taken from their website:

“Our mission is to address the challenges facing us and to nurture trusteeship within our communities by expanding leadership capacity, fostering awareness of AANHPI issues, creating a supportive network of AANHPI leaders, and strengthening community.” 

2003  Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute
DiversityNerd’s Fellowship Application

Current Job Responsibilities

The goals of the Inclusion Strategy group are to:

  • Create lasting corporate cultural change that impacts our company’s future business success by attracting, retaining and developing associates and customers.
  • Ensure that Human Resource systems, processes and policies are inclusive of every individual and leverage the diversity that each associate brings to the workplace.
  • Build strategic partnerships across the organization so accountability and ownership is internal to each business unit.

    Major accomplishments:

  1. Developed a three-part process for creating lasting change, considered the benchmark diversity and inclusion strategy for my company.
  2. Established Business Partnering Groups (affinity groups).  My proposal and policy was also implemented at our manufacturing affiliate in the Midwest.
  3. Education of Officers on Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Career Goals

In five years, I would like to be managing a larger staff at my company and completing a post-graduate program.  The APAWLI Fellowship would provide me development and growth to achieve both of those goals.  First, I would obtain invaluable skills in becoming a stronger leader.  I would like to find my voice in the greater society, especially to aid the Pilipino community.  I have always felt like there were no Pilipina American role models for me in the private sector, I would like to be there for the younger Asian American and Pacific Islander generation.  Secondly, building my personal network with a group of high performing, community focused, Asian American and Pacific Islander will provide a challenge to raise the bar on my personal and professional goals.  There are so few Asian American or Pacific Islander people in executive positions in my company that I often feel alone.  Finally, although my skills are strong enough for me to thrive in my current position, a graduate or post-graduate degree will afford me a sense of accomplishment and confidence in my professional abilities.  If I am not selected for the APAWLI Fellowship, I will pursue other professional development opportunities.

Talents based on the Gallup Organization’s Strenths Finder:


This talent affords me the ability to see the larger picture.  In  addition, I always work to anticipate potential roadblocks and design strategies to address them.

My greatest joy is in taking the best and making it better.  If I am working with an average performing individual or organization,
making them good is not as rewarding as taking a strong achiever to the highest level of performance possible.

This strength allows me to inspire others.  I have been likened to a “Pied Piper” in my organization.

I am always looking to the future and stay excited about the possibilities.  Change is an exciting opportunity to make the world or the organization a better place for everyone.

This strength allows me to adjust my responsibilities and workload to achieve my objectives.  In addition, I have a talent for finding 
alternative ways of approaching challenges.

Areas for My Own Improvement
I have yet to establish myself as a force in the Pilipino American community.  Although my parents were very involved in the local Pilipino Community Centers, it was never clear to me how the organization was reaching out beyond the center and into the larger community.  Now that I am an adult and a single parent, I see that I have the power and responsibility to make an impact on my community, leaving it up to others does not equal commitment and progress.  However, I have to build my network of Pilipino colleagues in order to find opportunities to impact my community.
Another area of improvement is in my self-confidence.  It has been a struggle to work as an internal change agent in my workplace.  I liken my job to banging my head against the wall to create change.  If I achieve a little success, wall cracks, I rest and start banging away again.  As an individual contributor with no direct reports, sitting in front of high-level executives and insisting that they listen to my ideas and recommendations has never been an easy road.  Many individuals make it a point to equate competence with a job title.  Despite my success at work, there are times when I allow my lack of executive status hold me back.  Perhaps with more experience and maturity, this will dissipate.

Aspirations for the future
In the future, I would like to be working in a community-focused non-profit organization or as independent consultant where I can impact many different individuals or companies.  The best way to break stereotypes is to be out in the world, living the life one has always dreamed about.  I have always wanted to accomplish what others say is impossible.  My motivation comes from a bit of a rebellious streak, the challenge of achieving an elusive goal.  My power is felt by extending my knowledge and skills to other individuals and allowing them to grow to become their full and complete self.  To me, there is more reward in seeing others thrive than in receiving a larger paycheck.

 I cannot honestly say that organizational development/diversity and inclusion was ever in my career path plan.  Being able to earn a living by helping individuals and organizations build more inclusive work environments by leveraging their diversity cannot be labeled a “job” for me.  I feel so blessed to have this kind of impact on the world at a young age.

I am successful in my current role and I receive so much gratification from this work.  I would like to continue to impact organizations on all three levels:  systemic, group and individual.  The ultimate goal is higher performance, which only comes about when people are feeling valued, supported and respected for their individuality.

My role models for leadership are all in my family.  First of all, my paternal grandmother exemplified pride and strength in everything she did.  During World War II, as a young mother of four children, my grandmother found herself widowed.  A transplant from Manila, she lived in a province with my paternal grandfather.  Her training and education as a nurse afforded her great respect and her home was a haven for people and soldiers victimized by the war.  Despite having no medical supplies, Filipina did her best to comfort those who were suffering and cared for her four young children as best she could.

After the war ended, Filipina made the decision to leave her four children in the care of her sister and brother in law.  For many years, my grandmother corresponded with her children via hand-written letters as she sought out the “American Dream” in California.  She married a Pilipino immigrant, my dear grandfather who was willing to raise her four children, sight unseen, as his own, along with his son from another relationship AND have three more children together.  They saved enough money to bring her four children to the United States and created the Pilipino Brady Bunch.  Their family was filled with love and it was a hybrid of first and second generation immigrants under one roof.  Brothers, sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters, it never mattered, they were all family.  This extended to their children as well.  My cousins are like my own siblings, I could never fathom when my friends would say that they hated their cousins.

This relationship was the foundation for my core values – work hard, service, integrity, honesty and most of all, family first.  My grandmother showed incredible bravery while my grandfather exemplified unconditional love.  These clear messages shaped my perspective on the world.  I strive to find the win-win outcome.  I do not believe that anyone has to be a loser, when you extend the flame of your candle to another, there is always more light in the end.  Your candle loses nothing by sharing.  The light is actually doubled, not diminished in any way.  That is how I want to lead.  I believe very strongly in team first, if my team is successful, I am successful.  To me, a great leader follows her heart as strongly as her head.

Most significant learning experience
I can think of no other experience that has impacted me as strongly as becoming a mother, specifically, a single mother.  The father of my child was not ready for marriage or fatherhood and I knew that it would be my sole responsibility to raise my daughter.  My lifestyle changed the minute I discovered I was pregnant.  During my pregnancy, I became aware of how trivial my “stress” seemed.   I immediately lost 175 pounds by kicking him out of my house after our daughter was born.  Then, I grew up.
Becoming a mother taught me how to prioritize my life.  My daughter, her safety and happiness were the only things that mattered.  I made a conscious decision to leave the demanding field of advertising and find work closer to my home.  Being alone never scared me, I developed a sense of power and control by being forced into single motherhood.  I became keenly aware of my independence and my strength.  This reminded me of my grandmother, leaving her home and family in order to seek out a better life for her children.  If she could travel across the world, surely I could become a leader in a corporate environment to support my family of two.

Leadership – What kind of leader am I?
At this point in my career, I lead purely by instinct and heart.  Thus far, both have served me well.  My direct reports have told me that I made them feel empowered and protected to take risks, learn and grow.  I do my best to challenge them to take on stretch assignments and to never settle for less than their best performance.

When I think about the kind of leader I want to become, I have opportunities to develop new skills.  While I do believe that I have the talent to set a vision, I am very clear that my business insight is not as sophisticated as many high-level leaders in corporate America.  Because of this, I seek out partnerships with leaders who are very different from me in terms of work experience and education.  Actually, I do not have to look very far to find either.  Many leaders who I admire seem to have all the answers.  I would like to have a network of colleagues who can give me the answers that I need.

The APAWLI Fellowship and the organization as a whole will grant me empowerment as a professional Asian American woman.  Having the opportunity to apply for this Fellowship has already given me more self-confidence in my abilities as a leader.  The application process alone has taught me to ask when I need support and to lead when others have no direction.  I truly believe that the best way to improve is to surround oneself with greatness.  This can only raise the bar on expectations of one’s individual performance and achievements.  As I reviewed the list of past alumni and considered the incredible impact projects that each one developed, I felt my heart swell with pride.  I was proud of my Asian American and Pacific Islander sisters reaching out, proving our strength and exerting power.  In the end, I realized that I own and hold that same power, it just needs to be unleashed.  I would be so very humbled and honored to be associated with APAWLI, in any capacity.

The most difficult leadership challenge I have faced is being young in a hierarchical company like the one where I work. Young in age, work experience and tenure means that it takes four times longer for me to build credibility in the eyes of key decision makers in the company.  However, despite this obstacle, I have achieved my goals to date at work.  In fact, I have also developed new skills, which I find to be extremely important as a leader:  patience and perseverance.  As long as one keeps her eye on the long-term strategy, one can stay focused on the big picture and the goal.  Patience and perseverance have been critical to my success.

Five key values
My five key values exemplify a common theme, service – making the world a better place.  Based on a self-assessment tool used during a leadership development course I attended, my five key values are:  Authenticity, Tradition, Vision, Advocacy and Consistency.  They are defined as:

  • Authenticity:  Being true to oneself
  • Tradition:  Honoring customs and practices of historical significance
  • Vision:  Creating compelling pictures of the future
  • Advocacy:  Passionately supporting an issue
  • Consistency:  Remaining faithful to the same principles and practices

As I consider how these values developed, two things are clear.  One, my family upbringing has built this foundation for me.  And secondly, my values compliment and support one another in both my personal and professional life.

First of all, I recall the sacrifice that my grandparents made to provide new opportunities for my parents.  I have already discussed my paternal grandmother’s journey as a young widow across the ocean on her quest for the American Dream.  Leaving her children in the Philippines as she embarked to an unknown country, exemplifies a strategic and futuristic mindset, which I model in my life.  In addition, my maternal grandfather survived the “Bataan Death March” as a Philippine Scout during World War II.  He persevered and became an officer the U.S. Army, a part of the military pull of talent out of the Philippines in the 1950s.  Knowing this recent yet rich history is a part of my family.  I appreciate and respect the sacrifice.  There is no way I can ignore that tradition and it drives me to excel in service.

 As I apply these values to my career, it is clear that I have a purpose in this world.  I own my values with pride.  In my mind, I have been given the opportunity to refine my five key values and apply them on a daily basis.  Building a more inclusive work environment within a successful company such as mine, challenges me to raise the bar on performance, both my own and the company’s.  Respecting tradition is an integral part of creating culture change, particularly in a Japanese owned enterprise.  I must understand the heritage that built this company in order to be most effective in impacting change. I am driven by hope for the future, advocacy for the under-represented voice and remain true to my integrity and authenticity.

For example, one manager to whom I have been providing education, leadership and support gave me a small gift from Hawai’i as a token of appreciation.  She was on vacation and found a bookmark with a quote:  “Po’okela (Excellence) Ahuwale ka po’okela i kau hana ia ha’i…It is through the way you serve others that your greatness will be felt.”  The fact that one of my customers/colleagues sees me in this light re-affirmed my values.  She said that she immediate thought of me when she saw the bookmark.  I keep it nearby every day at work.  The monetary rewards and material recognition pale in comparison to receiving this kind of feedback from a fellow change agent in my company.  I am motivated to create change for the greater good.  I always strive to find the win-win alternative, utilizing my values of service to others.



Looking back, I see the core of who I am has not changed.  I have definitely matured and experienced a lot of living over the last 10 or so years.  Almost dying and raising a teenager will do that to you.  (Those two things are not directly related.)  My self-confidence has grown and I have an extremely strong sense of who I am and what I stand for in this world.  Reading this application has inspired me to think about my plan for the next ten years of my life and in my career.  More to come…