How an IT Leader is Helping to Challenge Stereotypes

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In 2020 Yen Tang, Business Integration and Transformation Services Director, helped launch one of GDIT’s newest Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), AIM. An abbreviation for Asians in Motion, the ERG helps Asians throughout the organization advance in their career, by having a seat at the table to express their voices.

“I feel very passionate about the advancement of Asians in the workplace. With AIM we focus on being aware of unconscious bias and avoiding stigmas that tend to be stereotypical and hold us back in our career. But it’s not just about career advancement, it’s also about community building, networking, and social connections,” shares Yen.

After attending only the second meeting, Yen knew she could make a real impact within the organization.

“During my second AIM meeting, when the community was just forming, there were only a few people involved. I didn't realize that I had so much to say and so much to contribute until the end of the meeting. I knew that I needed to share all that I’ve gone through with my career. An attribute that I bring as a co-lead is the ability to push the agenda and the importance of being seen and heard, not be invisible and crushing the model minority myth.”

Addressing stereotypes head on

A major goal of Yen’s, and AIM, is to challenge stereotypes by tackling them head on. “Asians tend to be very quiet. We tend to fly under the radar by being soft spoken and not disruptive,” she says. “We were taught by our parents to always be respectful, professional, polite and go with the flow. However, this can underserve us because it gives off the impression that we don’t have an opinion or a different viewpoint. We need to feel compelled and empowered to express diverse opinions that oftentimes may not be a popular perspective, but it’s a perspective that people need to hear.”

To continue advancing the agenda, AIM plans events and shares information within GDIT to bring greater awareness to the challenges Asians face in the workplace and in society.

“A lot of people think that aggression, violence, and racism against Asians is new because of the pandemic and the attention that's been raised now,” she says. “But this is not new. There's been systemic racism against Asian Americans throughout history.” The awareness of these issues is not only helping to educate employees across GDIT, but to also serve and support the Asian-American community. “We want our community to know they have a support network, an avenue where they can express their concerns and share their stories.”

Reaching across the table through allyship

GDIT’s ERGs provide an open and supportive community for all. In addition to co-leading AIM, Yen also participates as an ally of the Black Employee Network (BEN), HOLA, PRIDE, and other ERGs. While the terminology may be in the mainstream more recently, the concept of being an ally isn’t new for her.

“Allyship means that you actually support one another. It’s beyond just saying that you’re supporting another ERG, it’s also about taking action,” Yen shares. “When I participate in BEN virtual chats, HOLA speaker series or a PRIDE event, I am learning for myself to gain an understanding of others' challenges and a perspective that I didn’t have before. Having empathy makes me a better colleague and partner in the workplace.”

The social unrest of 2020 led to more co-hosted ERG events and opportunities for allyship throughout the company. The spoken and unspoken understanding is that these discussions are in a safe space for employees.

“You are welcome to express your opinion and people may disagree with you, respectfully. This is important because I can challenge others and be challenged and know that it is safe to do that. I know that my perspective and my voice is valued and respected.”

Receiving support from the GDIT community

Amidst the violence and racism targeting the Asian-American community this year, other ERGs have also reached out to AIM to lean in, talk about allyship, and offer their support. “It has really been a comforting, supportive message that’s very consistent across all the ERGs. That message is ‘We stand with you, we see you, we understand the issue and we stand with AIM because we’re all in this fight against racism together.’”

Throughout this challenging year, Yen knows that she has the support of her colleagues, which makes all the difference. “I feel supported by GDIT and that means a lot because I may or may not get that support outside this community,” she says. “To know that your employer and your colleagues support you and to not have to worry about what others might be thinking of you based on your ethnicity and how you might be regarded, makes a huge difference in how you bring your whole self to work.”