Asian American Career Ceilings Initiative: What is being done?

Peter Young

Committee of 100 Asian American Career Ceilings Initiative June 17, 2020 Webcast ▦ Topic: “What is Being Done?” ▦ Speakers: Linda Akutagawa, President and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) Dr. Vivian T. Chen, Chair of the Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN) Anne Lim O’Brien, Vice Chair and Senior Partner at Heidrick & Struggles ▦ Moderator: Peter Young, C100 Member ▦ Time: 5 pm to 6 pm ET, June 17, 2020


This webinar is the fifth in a series of events convened by the Committee of 100 that examine the challenges facing Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans with regard to barriers to advancement in a wide variety of professions in the U.S. The goal of this initiative is to contribute to the already significant efforts of organizations and individuals who have been tackling this issue.

This fireside chat interview included three Asian Americans who are leading efforts to help solve the career ceiling problem. One is Chair of the organization that connects Asian American U.S. government executives and serves as their advocate. One is the CEO of a company that provides help to companies to train Asian Americans to have the skills to be successful. The third is a partner of a leading executive search firm that has numerous initiatives to make sure that Asian Americans are properly represented in the executive and board ranks. The interview was conducted by Peter Young, Committee of 100 member and Chair of the Committee of 100 Asian American Career Ceiling Initiative.

Asian Americans have been very underrepresented historically when it comes to leadership positions in the U.S. Although there has been an improvement over time, there is still a significant gap that has not been closed. The problem is even more severe when it comes to Asian American women in these and other professions. We were pleased to host a fireside chat panel featuring three leaders in this area who are focused on solving the problem from different perspectives. They taked about their view of the problem, the various actions that are being taken to help solve the problem across many organizations, what their specific organization is doing to mitigate the problem, and what they feel needs to be done that is not being done today.

The webinar was one hour long. The audience had opportunity to ask questions during the last ten minutes of the webinar.


Linda Akutagawa
President and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP)

Linda Akutagawa is President and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) where she is responsible for LEAP’s strategic direction, sustainability, relationships and collaborations. A passionate social entrepreneur for over 25 years and beneficiary of LEAP’s leadership programming, Ms. Akutagawa is an advocate for diversity and believer in the value and urgent need for diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership. She has dedicated herself to continuing the cycle of leadership development and inspiring Asian and Pacific Islanders to step up to leadership roles across sectors, industries, and communities. She is a nationally recognized speaker and facilitator on leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion, nonprofits, and board governance.

In her role as an advocate for diverse corporate boards, Ms. Akutagawa is the Chair of the Alliance for Board Diversity of which LEAP is a partner organization. She is an appointed member of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Diversity Task Force and a member of the Asian/Asian American Institute Advisory Board at California State University at Los Angeles. Linda is also active in the community as a Board member of Japanese American Community Services (JACS), a community grantmaking organization and a Board member of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON).

Linda received her B.S. in International Business with a minor in Economics from California State University at Los Angeles. She also has a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting through Boardsource. She is married and a fur-mom to her Queen-of-the-home cockapoo, and aunty to eleven nephews and nieces.

Dr. Vivian T. Chen
Chair of the Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN)

Dr. Vivian Chen is the Chair of the Asian American Government Executive Network (AAGEN) Chair and past Co-chair of Leadership Development of the Senior Executive Service Development Program.

As her work job, she is the National Director of the Emergency Medical Services program in the Forest Service responsible for implementing an interagency national program that will enhance the federal government emergency medical response. For the Forest Service, it will formalize and standardize its ability to address emergency medical services for its employees. In her previous assignment, Dr. Chen served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Public Health Science, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA 2010-18. From 2013-15, she was detailed to serve as the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary in Departmental Management, Office of the Secretary (DM OSEC) to oversee the Department’s White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Prior to joining the USDA, Dr. Chen served as the Health Operations Director/Deputy Health Commissioner at the City of Milwaukee Health Department. Prior to working in the local government, she served as a PHS Commissioned Corps officer where she led various offices in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and assisted in the establishment of the now, Institute on Diversity in NIH.

Dr. Chen has served as past president for both Pan Asian Women and the Women’s American Organization for Research and Training, and has worked closely with primary care networks, public health policy organizations, minority and women’s groups, and community health centers for over 25 years. Dr. Chen is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received her MSW from the University of Michigan (UM), a Masters Certificate in Gerontology from the UM Institute on Gerontology, and a Doctor of Science degree in Health Policy and Administration, Epidemiology and Mental Health, from the Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health (now known as the Bloomberg School of Public Health).

Anne Lim O’Brien
Vice Chair and Senior Partner at Heidrick & Struggles

Anne Lim O’Brien is Vice Chair and Senior Partner at Heidrick& Struggles, based in New York. She is a top contributor and leader in the Firm’s Global Consumer Markets Practice., with a proven reputation for client-service . Anne is also a key member of the Global CEO & Board practice, specializing in serving consumer clients, particularly at the CEO and Board levels, within Fortune 500 companies as well as those financially sponsored by leading private equity firms and for owner-founder led companies.

With more than 30 years of executive search and talent consulting experience, Anne has partnered with Boardroom clients globally to solve their Governance and CEO talent and C-Suite leadership needs. During this time, she has completed more than 250 such projects working at the top. She brings deep and relevant understanding of the challenges facing consumer organizations, especially within the consumer products and retail industries. Her areas of sector expertise include Food & Beverage, Personal Care including trend-driven businesses in Beauty, Fashion/Apparel and Luxury as well as Lifestyle brands. Anne continues to lead several of the Firm’s key strategic accounts in the Consumer Markets Practice.

Throughout her career, Anne has kept a special interest in Boardroom Effectiveness and Succession as well as CEO Succession and recruiting Next Generation leaders –especially diversity talent, women as well as internationally experienced executives.

In 2008, Anne was recognized by Businessweek Magazine as one of the world’s most influential headhunters. In 2019, she received the Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business award from the Asian American Business Development Center. Anne started her management consulting career in Singapore as an Associate Management Consultant with Price Waterhouse, focusing on Southeast Asia clients. Anne is an accounting graduate of New York University.

Moderator and Chair of the C100 Asian American Career Ceiling Initiative:

Peter Young
CEO of Young & Partners
Committee of 100 Member

Peter Young is CEO and President of Young & Partners, a boutique investment banking firm focused on the life science and chemical industries. He manages the firm and is actively involved in client transactions and financings. Under his leadership, Young & Partners has established and maintained its position as a highly regarded firm serving the corporate strategy, M&A, restructuring and financing needs of clients worldwide. He was previously head of industry groups at Salomon Brothers, Schroders and Lehman Brothers, a senior private equity executive with J.H. Whitney & Co. and a senior member of Bain & Co., the corporate strategy firm.

Mr. Young received a BA in Economics from Yale, an MS in Accounting from NYU, and MBA from Harvard Business School where he graduated as a Baker Scholar. He is a CPA and a Chartered Global Management Accountant. He serves on a number of boards of directors, both corporate and non-profit and is President and board member of Société de Chimie Industrielle, a leading life science and chemical industry non-profit organization.

This event was held on June 17, 2020 from 5 pm to 6 pm ET.

Check out our other Asian American Career Ceiling events here. 

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