In May, Assurant celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month, honoring the history and contributions of our AAPI colleagues over the years to this country and the world. May is the month the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. and when the transcontinental railroad, built with the labor of 20,000 Chinese Americans, began. The fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the country, AAPI citizens continue to shape the fabric of the United States and the world through contributions in culture, science, arts, law, technology and public service.
As we celebrate, we’re also aware of the challenges facing the AAPI community. Between March 2020 and March 2021, there were roughly 6,600 acts of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. That’s why May’s installment of our Courageous Conversations focusing on AAPI colleagues was more than a celebration. It was also a forum to discuss the serious concerns of this community.
Thousands of Assurant employees worldwide tuned in to the session, hosted by Keith Meier, EVP, President, International and facilitated by Assurant’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager Emily Liu. Meier and Liu made introductory remarks. These were followed by an honest conversation with Assurant employees. The following individuals shared their perspectives and experiences related to their heritage, anti-Asian discrimination, and tips for serving as allies to the AAPI community as Assurant continues to focus on inclusion:
- Phan Dang, Area Manager, Global Lifestyle
- Melissa Tam, AVP Customer Experience, Global Auto
- Hina Hussain, Creative Manager, Creative Design
- Lin Shen, Sr Accountant, Global Finance
A major theme that developed as the conversation progresses was the multifaceted, yet unified, nature of the AAPI community. “AAPI encompasses so much more than just East Asians. There are Southeast Asians, South Asians and Pacific Islanders with totally different cultures,” said Melissa Tam. Lin Shen noted that along with that diversity comes commonality in the form of “similar backgrounds, stories and even the struggles in the U.S., both personally and professionally.”
Struggles of the AAPI community, including hate-based attacks, naturally arose during the talk. In discussion of how to improve that situation, Hina Hussain got back to the basics, saying “treat others the way you want to be treated; be considerate, be caring, treat each other with respect and care.” Toward the conversation’s end, Melissa Tam pointed out how Assurant is part of the solution, treating all of its people well and constantly working to improve: “I love that we value our people and we want to move our organization forward,” she said. “We're continually evolving the way that we do business and taking care of our people in that same way.”
Assurant Employee ReflectionsTo gain further insight, we asked some AAPI colleagues to share their thoughts on the meaning of AAPI Month this year, and what it means to celebrate their heritage.
Listening to One Another
As a global organization, we’ll continue to talk about race, social justice and other diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics on a regular basis. We’ll do this in Courageous Conversations and among ourselves to promote greater understanding of our differences. As we listen and learn from one another, we’ll remain rooted in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
No Place for Hate
In a recent statement from Alan Colberg on Linkedin, he affirmed, “I stand in solidarity with our Asian and Asian American colleagues and communities, continuing to denounce these and any acts of violence motivated by hate. As one action, we are and will continue our charitable giving to help those community partners that fight against racism, hatred and violence.” He concluded by stating that “respect, compassion and understanding are always the right choice.”
The Assurant Foundation Acts for Justice
The Assurant foundation provides charitable grants to support the AAPI community. Boosting volunteerism is also part of the foundation’s activities. These concrete steps align with a key focus area of the Assurant Foundation:
"Inspiring: We encourage and prepare diverse talent and innovative leaders for the future."
Some of the foundation’s measures include:
Grants. Awarding $30,000 in grants in May to support organizations operating in the interests of the AAPI community:
- Asian American's Advancing Justice: AAAJ’s mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: AALDEF aims to protect and promote the civil rights of Asian Americans and seeks to address racial and economic inequality through litigation, advocacy, education and organizing.
Partnerships. Forging new DEI strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations in 2021. These address the fact that “white-collar AAPIs are the least likely demographic to be promoted into leadership,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Partners include:
- Ascend, the largest nonprofit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America
- Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), a national nonprofit organization with a mission to achieve full participation and equality for Asian and Pacific Islanders through leadership, empowerment and policy
Assurant Leverages Resources to Support AAPI Colleagues and Suppliers
Assurant is acting at a corporate level to support the AAPI community:
- Supplier diversity. Supporting AAPI enterprises through our global Supplier DE&I program. The program improves representation of certified diverse-owned companies. Assurant spends about 23% of its diverse purchasing with AAPI-owned businesses.
- Matching gifts. Providing $20,000 for special 2:1 Assurant Foundation matching gift opportunities for employees. These gifts are to charitable organizations working to promote social justice and help end racism. These include organizations dedicated to Asian communities.
- Employee support. Providing support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for Assurant colleagues. EAP help includes employees affected by acts of hate against the AAPI community.
The Strategic Value of DEI
At Assurant, we believe in the strategic value of diversity, equity and inclusion. We must reflect the diversity of the customers we serve. Practicing these principles:
- Drives innovation
- Improves performance
- Creates growth opportunities
- Enhances employee engagement
And, when you get right down to it, we believe it’s the right thing to do.
Read more about our commitment to DEI in our 2021 Social Responsibility report and more about our actions on behalf of the AAPI community in “Common Decency in Action: Supporting our AAPI Communities and Denouncing Violence.”