career, tech

Working With Stereotypes

There are many stereotypes against Asians. So many, in fact, that I don’t think I know them all.

Some are not intentionally harmful. For example, there’s the notion that all Asians are good at math and science. There’s nothing wrong with being good at math or science! And kudos to anyone who truly enjoys looking at numbers and graphs all day. I, personally, don’t understand that appeal but then again…I am a journalist.

The problem I have with this specific stereotype is when people were disappointed when I didn’t fit their idea of an Asian. My classmates’ parents, teachers and random strangers always seemed surprised when I told them that I was born in good ‘ole Colorado Springs. They were also equally surprised when I said that my favorite subjects in school were English and art.

So as a young child, I made the subconscious decision to repress anything that made me “too Asian”. I dressed like your average American tomboy, demanded my mom to pack American food for lunch and stayed away from anime, K-pop and other Asian pop culture.

I wanted to be seen the same way as my white American peers. No one questioned where they were born and they were free to like any subject in school without any repercussions. It wasn’t fair.

But then again, there are those who truly enjoy studying math and science and actively participate in their home country’s pop culture. Should they have to sacrifice their hobbies and interests just so that people like me could live a slightly easier lifestyle?

In an interview with Nina Balinga, the co-founder and CEO of Hire Diversity, for my podcast we talked about the fear of reinforcing stereotypes. She created a platform where companies and diverse employees in the tech industry could connect with one another. It’s a much needed platform and one should be available for every field.

When I brought up this issue, she nodded her head and sighed. She acknowledged its societal impact. As a young Asian- American woman, I was desperate to hear what she had to say. And her response shocked me…but in a good way.

She is involved in the tech industry and there is a strong stereotype that Asians will succeed in this field because of their proclivity towards math. Knowing this, Asians are still a minority in this field.

According to Google’s 2018 diversity report, 51.3% of their U.S. tech hires were Asian, 2.8% were Black, 5.3% are Latinx, .8% were Native American and 43% were White.

Microsoft reported that 39.2% of their U.S tech hires were Asian, 2.8% were Black, 4.5% were Latinx, .6% were Native American, 50.9% were White, .2% were Pacific Islanders and 1.8% were multi-racial.

And overall, there are more men working in the tech field than women.

Even though Asians were a minority, we are the majority of the minority.

According to Baliga, we need to use this privilege as a way to help other minorities within the same working environment. We are in a position to lift others up, not push them down.

I often resented people who were “too Asian” because it went against everything that I worked for. I wanted to be more American and I wanted to be treated like my white classmates. But no matter how hard I tried, the first thing that people saw was my ethnicity. They immediately saw me as an “other”.

We are a diverse group of people. Some live a life that closely resembles these stereotypes and others do not. But that shouldn’t matter.

What matters is that we should be treated equally by our supervisors and peers regardless of which career we choose to pursue. No one should be favored over another based on race or gender. And although there are laws against discrimination, it’s difficult to navigate the subtle nuances between implicit biases and not qualifying for the job.

Like Baliga, I was to be apologetically Asian. I am working towards being comfortable with who I am as an individual in and out of the office. And I want to be appreciated as an employee, not because I help the company meets its diversity quota, but because I bring value to the company .

To hear more about what Nina Baliga has to say, head on over to the Podcast section. Episode 3 – Diversity in the Tech Industry w/ Nina Baliga

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