Why Asian lawmakers are defending DEI and urging corporate America to keep its commitments

The executive board of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is calling on the nation’s top companies to reaffirm their commitment to hiring and promoting Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders amid growing attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion by key conservatives and billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Ackman.

why asian lawmakers are defending dei and urging corporate america to keep its commitments

Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

In a letter to 100 of the nation’s largest companies obtained by USA TODAY, caucus members asked CEOs to report back on Asian representation in corporate leadership and efforts to remedy racial imbalances.

Contrary to the perception that highly credentialed Asian workers face few obstacles as they scale the corporate ladder, remarkably few break into the senior-most executive ranks. A USA TODAY analysis of top executives found that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are sharply underrepresented at the highest levels.

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After a surge in anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, corporations stepped up efforts to include Asian employees in DEI efforts, but more progress is needed, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Committee said.

The top ranks of America’s largest corporations are still predominantly white and male, while women and people of color are concentrated at the lowest levels with less pay, fewer perks and rare opportunities for advancement, a USA TODAY analysis found.

“With this letter to Fortune 100 companies, we will determine whether the largest businesses in America have followed through on their promises and encourage them to continue this crucial work – even in the face of assaults on diversity, equity, and inclusion from Republican officeholders,” Judy Chu, D-Calif., and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement.

The letter is similar to one sent by the Congressional Black Caucus sent in December to Fortune 500 companies about their DEI commitments.

National Urban League President Marc Morial and other leaders of advocacy organizations have begun banding together to counter the conservative push to dismantle DEI efforts. This week, they sent a letter urging business leaders to stand by their commitments.

“We believe it is imperative that CEOs and other company leaders are able to make strategic decisions for their companies without threats of frivolous lawsuits and political pressure, and we will be here with support, every step of the way,” they wrote.

A Supreme Court ruling last summer striking down race-conscious admissions policies in higher education has emboldened attacks on DEI as tensions escalate over how corporate America should address lingering workplace inequality.

The sharp rise in anti-DEI rhetoric and legal challenges comes in response to corporate initiatives to increase racial diversity after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.

Some companies have cooled talk about DEI initiatives, while others are making changes to diversity programs. A growing number of companies have clawed back DEI programs and staffing.

Zoom Video Communications, one of the companies that launched a DEI program after Floyd’s killing, fired a team of workers focused on DEI as part of a round of layoffs announced last month.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Asian lawmakers are defending DEI and urging corporate America to keep its commitments

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