ABB builds understanding through celebration during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Encompass Asians employee resource group leads the way.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a chance to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ contributions in American culture and society. Its origins date back to the late 1970s when New York representative Frank Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 540, which proposed to have the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In the 1990s, this was extended to a full month.

AAPI is a term that refers to people representing dozens of nationalities, ethnicities, and languages across the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, according to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, from 1966 to 2013, AAPI professionals showed the greatest increase in the workforce (a remarkable 662% uptick). However, they remain simultaneously underrepresented at the highest levels of corporate life.

Over the past few years, ABB in the US has formed several employee resource groups (ERGs) aligned under the “Encompass” banner: Encompass Women, Encompass Pride, Encompass Black Professionals, Encompass Hispanic-Latinx, Encompass Military & Allies, Encompass Abilities, Encompass Young Professionals, Encompass Seniors, and Encompass Asians.

Up until 2021, there was no forum for AAPI employees.

“While there was a collective desire to create an ERG for several years, this was catalyzed into action in 2021 with the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes,” says Audrey Wang Gosselin, President of Encompass Asians. FBI data from 2020 shows anti-Asian crime rose 77% over the previous year, more than double the average for hate crimes based on race (32%) overall. “We knew that we had to commit to starting the group and providing a space for AAPI employees to connect and support each other.”

Cut to today and Encompass Asians has since grown to over 200 members and has secured a full board of directors, an executive sponsor, and financial support from the business. Their mission is to enhance professional development and amplify cultural awareness within ABB, within our local communities, and with our customers.

So, what do Encompass members get out of it? For Encompass Asians Communications Co-Chairs Maggie Shao and Maria Azuelo, it was fairly straightforward.

“My main goal was to network and connect with others of similar backgrounds,” Maggie says, and adds that “I volunteered as the Communications co-chair to help make this community more visible so that others can easily connect as well.”

“Joining Encompass Asians gave me the opportunity to network with colleagues in other business divisions or locations,” says Maria. “Participating in the activities also gives me a sense of community, improves my self-confidence and communication skills.”

Encompass Asians membership is not limited to people who identify as AAPI either—anyone can join any Encompass group and be an active ally.

Showing interest, getting involved—it’s an invitation to greater understanding about the people we work with every day. At ABB, Encompass Asians has created the opportunity for employees to get involved with their AAPI Heritage Month event series taking place throughout the month of May. Activities include a keynote address by California State Assemblymember Evan Low, a panel session on being AAPI at ABB, and a “tea time” discussion on the duality of being both American and Asian/Pacific Islander.

“Tea time is a no-judgement zone,” explains Maria. “It’s a safe space where anyone, whether they’re Asian or not, can ask questions and speak openly. It’s refreshing to hear thoughts from those others’ perspectives.”

That’s really what Encompass groups and celebrations like AAPI Heritage Month are all about. Inclusion means a workplace where everyone is welcomed and has the opportunity to develop their skills and rise in the organization.

“Diversity is a state of being,” explains Jonni Peterson, Head of Transport and Trade for ABB’s Electrification business in the US and the executive sponsor of Encompass Asians. “Inclusion is a state of action. It’s important to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion, and for each of us to mentor, support and sponsor our diverse colleagues. I’m very passionate about creating an inclusive environment for all to learn and grow because together we will all rise.”

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About the author

Michael Gray

Michael joined ABB in December 2008 and is the ABB Country Holding Officer for the United States. He has also served as the US Chief Financial Officer and managed US ABB’s overall financial model, including corporate, ARIC and GBS functions. Building on his expertise in global taxation, mergers and acquisitions, global financing arrangements and project management, he has also acted as Senior Vice President of Taxes for North America and as Global Finance Integration Leader for ABB’s GEIS acquisition.
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