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Lean in to learn

Don Wen Private Company Services, Finance Leader, PwC US May 03, 2021

A time to heal our country

As a parent of biracial children and in light of broader societal inequities that have been exposed this past year, I have an ever-present worry that my kids will be targeted either because they are Chinese and Black or because they are Chinese and white. How do I comfort them when they hear others wrongfully stigmatize COVID-19 as the “China virus?” How can I help them embrace their identities while navigating ongoing violence and xenophobia in our country? I wish I didn’t have to ask these questions. 

The ongoing violence against Asian individuals is heartbreaking, and unfortunately it is not new. From the Chinese Massacre in Los Angeles in 1871 and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to modern-day hate crimes, this country has a history that includes societal racism and discrimination against the Asian community. I often equate the last year to a steaming pot: The collective anger and frustration the pandemic has wrought has boiled over, culminating in misplaced blame and violence. In the last year, Stop AAPI Hate recorded more than 3,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans in the United States, including physical assault and murder, barring Asian individuals from establishments and verbal harassment.

It is clear that our country is in need of healing.

Walk a mile in their shoes

I immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when I was eight years old. While I have spent most of my life here, sometimes I still feel like an outsider — when you’re part of a marginalized group, the omnipresent feeling that you are outside of the majority may never really leave you. Perhaps, for that reason, my approach to allyship in the workplace is to actively take part in networking groups with people who do not have the same background or experiences as me. I see allyship in the workplace as an opportunity to live my American values.

I joined PwC’s Shine Inclusion Network for LGBTQ+ professionals, and it was a valuable way to learn about the lived experiences of that community and how I could support my LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace. I joined PwC’s Black Inclusion Network and helped found the Sacramento chapter of The National Association of Black Accountants. I also helped establish the San Francisco chapter for ASCEND, the largest non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America. This affords me the opportunity to listen to and support diverse colleagues, and also mentor diverse talent and students in the professional services industry. There is joint power in people coming together to support each other’s success, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of it first-hand at the firm and in my community.

How to support colleagues and friends

We can all help on an individual level too — our co-workers and friends should have our support. Here are three ways we can be an ally to them right now:

  • Offer to listen. Don’t be afraid to share your differences, and encourage your company to give inclusive leadership training if they do not do so already.
  • Make support options clear to employees. If you’re a manager, tune in to the resources provided by your company, such as candid conversations hosted by leadership, and send them to your team or kick-off a meeting sharing those details.
  • Join a networking group with people from a different background. Sit in on a meeting to educate yourself on the concerns and joys of a community besides your own. We can all work towards a more equitable way of being if we show a willingness to connect with people with different lived experiences.

I have worked at PwC for nearly 30 years. I say that to attest to the firm’s dynamic leadership in diversity and inclusion for more than 20 years. PwC’s leaders have spent several years listening to our people, acknowledging how our firm can do more and continuing to be bold, intentional, transparent and unwavering in their commitment to D&I. There were very few Asian individuals in the Sacramento and San Francisco offices when I started at Coopers & Lybrand, and our firm has made great strides with talent attraction over the years to recruit and support Asian talent. PwC and The PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. have also recently contributed $1M towards organizations taking action to fight for the civil and human rights of the Asian community.  Furthermore, PwC specifically provides space for the Asian community and allies to process, connect, and support one another at the firm.

Diversity and inclusion efforts are a marathon, not a sprint. They take time, energy, and dedication. While it may not always be easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, I firmly believe that it’s always worth taking that step for the present and future generations.

“Connect with people who are not from your world. Allyship is finding common ground, figuring out how we can help one another be successful and feel supported.”

- Don Wen, PCS US Operations Leader