Capital One will be celebrating May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month Capital One will be focusing on diversity at work with professional development programs within its Origins API business resource team.
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David Kang is a senior vice president at Capital One and head of data insight. He is also one of the group’s top leaders. Kang is a first-generation American, his parents being Chinese. He believes that creating initiatives is important to him. Kang’s parents came to America in the 1970s to study at graduate schools.
Kang stated that they had little in their pockets, and were the poster children of America’s dream. “My brother, and I accepted that.”
Kang and his brother were also taught to be as American as possible. This equated with being as white as possible.
Kang noticed a shift in his mindset after he worked for a Fortune 100 bank, “which really embraces diversity and encourages inclusion” which enabled him to acknowledge his heritage as an integral part of himself.
Safe spaces for celebrating diversity
Kang stated that he feels the need to be an example for Asians because of his position as a senior leader at Capital One. Capital One offers several business resource groups that allow people with similar identities and their friends to come together and share their experiences in a safe environment. Kang explained that they are given resources that help them to grow and develop in a way that is specific to their affinity.
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Kang, for example, is the executive sponsor of Origin’s pillar on development. He has the responsibility to help create curricula, and bring programs that address the challenges and opportunities facing the Asian population in America.
Kang stated, “To put it another way, diversity and inclusion in an Asian context make up adisproportionate percentage of employees at a Fortune 100 company” and at elite universities.
Kang also stated that there is a “bamboo ceiling”, which means Asians are not represented in the top ranks of Fortune 100 companies. Kang says that there is a nuanced definition of “opportunity” when it comes to creating an inclusive and diverse environment for the Asian population.
Kang stated that Asian employees should not only focus on their job performance and productivity, but also need to be able to “influence others who aren’t on your team in leading, communicating, representing and advocating.” These are areas that I didn’t feel natural in my own life, and they don’t come naturally to me when I interact with Asian associates.”
Origins offers programming that focuses on these subjects, particularly for its Asian middle managers population. Kang pointed out that this is the limit to upward mobility for Asian American workers.
Kang explained that there is a coaching program which supports high-potential associates. It focuses on leadership skills through coaching and training. A small number of executive sponsors also mentor staff in communication skills.
Strategies to create a diverse, inclusive workplace
Kang stated that fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is a two-way road. These measures are necessary to address the shortage of talent, particularly in data scientists, engineers, and developers. Capital One has begun to look at global talent recruitment because there is too much potential in tech.
Empathy is also a requirement for company leaders. Kang, who was born in the U.S., took English as his first language. However, his parents’ backgrounds meant that he tried to understand the language barriers of others.
Kang stated that many of our associates are immigrant and have to deal with visa issues. This is something Kang didn’t think about. Kang said that corporate leaders must be able to “understand their stories, their hopes and dreams beyond work and live life in their shoes to build a sense belonging.” It’s one of those subtle things that keeps people motivated and loyal to their work.
Kang stated that he coaches Capital One associates and Asian tech associates not to feel “handicapped” by not being able to speak English or being Asian. You’ll be more comfortable and authentic if you accept who you are, rather than trying to be someone you think you should be.
He said that people will be more inclined to take care of them, which will encourage loyalty and company loyalty.
Capital One’s workforce has the potential to be more visible, Kang stated. Origins works to raise awareness and consciousness about this opportunity.
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Origins, which is currently in its 20th anniversary at Capital One, now has 8,600 members worldwide. To ensure that the group receives relevant programming, surveys are done.