In April, I reiterated the firm’s commitment to inclusion and diversity and support for members of the Asian Pacific-Islander (API) community against acts of racism and hate. As a firm, we came together for a My Experience session with members of our Asian Pacific-Islander Network (APIN). My Experience sessions have served as a meaningful way for our firm to learn from other groups and deepen connectivity. Over the course of the last year, we have heard from our African American Network, Professional Parents Network, Latin American Network and our Veterans Network, and like all prior sessions, our people left the APIN My Experience session enlightened and empowered.
Now, one month later, we celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Rather than share my thoughts on ways to continue to stand in solidarity with the community, I wanted to amplify our own team members’ voices and perspectives. I am pleased to have Dr. Mandeep Singh, Manager in our Risk Advisory practice and Chair of the APIN, join me this month to share ways to be an advocate and ally for the API community.
Matt: In April, you joined fellow members of our Asian Pacific-Islander Network for a My Experience session. Could you share what was your biggest takeaway?
Mandeep: After the session, I was happy and content because it was clear that our leadership was sincere in making an effort to stand together with the community. We all rolled up our sleeves to quickly develop the My Experience session to create a meaningful and intentional way of learning for team members across the firm. From speaking with fellow participants, I know they all felt empowered and heard, which was really the mission to make sure the API community knew they were supported by DHG.
Matt: You raised something on the call that really resonated with me, and I have since shared it with others. You made an analogy using your hand: if one finger is injured, the whole hand does not function to its full potential. As we think about our broader society, what are some things we could do to care for all the fingers of the hand?
Mandeep: When I used to teach, I would try to think of analogies for my students to relate to, so it just came to me during the My Experience session. While we are trying to care for a specific finger, we must realize that one solution does not fit all - you must customize for each finger. If you bought a glove and all the glove fingers were the same size, it would not fit and protect each finger correctly. This concept is applicable with any relationship, whether personal or professional; it is important to identify the differences and be respectful of those. It is a two-way street so while trying to fix a problem with one finger, you cannot demonize the others. This all goes back to being cognizant and always educating ourselves on other communities.
At DHG, we are taking care of our fingers through Common Interest Groups, and I see an opportunity to continue to develop meaningful mentorship programs to pair leaders with individuals who need that guidance and support. This is a small step we can take to continue to provide customized care for each finger.
Matt: We strive to create a culture of belonging, but this takes work on everyone’s part. This is where our Allyship Program comes into place. How can we work with our Allyship Program and APIN to take action and advocate for the API community?
Mandeep: Allyship is a focus of the APIN to create a sense of belonging, which is very important. It is a two-way street. We cannot rely on leaders to create change or push people to make change. We must create an environment for employee-driven change rather than only driven by leaders – leaders will of course always play an important role but it should not have to be only driven by them. Our goal is to create more allies who will come alongside us to support our goals and objectives through change.
An important component of allyship and belonging is generating trust. How do we create an environment of open communication and trust among all individuals? We are a diverse firm with many specialties in different geographic areas, so our group is starting by recognizing the different dynamics to understand what works in each setting.
Matt: This month is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is a great time for all of us to educate ourselves and widen our perspectives. What is one thing you wish everyone knew about the API community?
Mandeep: Any member of the API community would want you to know that we are not just one homogeneous set of people. Even within India, where I am originally from, there are 22 official languages that are recognized in the constitution of India and each language has sub-dialects and some do not even have a common script.
Since we are not a homogenous group of people, this also means we have different interests and skill areas. For example, people frequently assume that since I am from India, I work in technology.
At the end of the day, if we really look at it, we are all the same flesh and blood – we are all human beings that want the same things, such as love, respect, dignity and belonging, while having our own unique interests and skills. I spend more time with my DHG teammates and clients than I do at home, so I hold myself responsible for treating my colleagues like my family. Once you start thinking like this, it can really create change.
Matt: The APIN has played a pivotal role in the response to the recent acts of racism and hatred. What are the group’s goals for the next year?
Mandeep: Our main objective this year is to create materials and collaborate with other Common Interest Groups to promote education and awareness for the API community. I am hoping that we can come up with an FAQ document (dos and don’ts) to help people guide conversations and help our people expand their views and perspectives. I also see this being helpful not only for our people, but also for our clients. We serve many different types of clients from many different backgrounds so this will also continue to make sure we are providing exceptional client experience.