Asian American Career Ceilings: Family Stories and Lessons

Peter Young
Alice Young

On March 31st, Committee of 100 presented the eighteenth Asian American Career Ceilings Initiative webcast that featured a fireside chat on the topic of “Family Stories and Lessons.” Speaker panelists included panelists Amy Chua, Author and Yale Law School Professor; Rekha Kumar, Wife and Mother and former engineer; Sunil Kumar, Managing Partner, Wembly Enterprises; and Alice Young, Founder of Alice Young Advisory LLC, retired Law Partner and Committee of 100 Member.

The focus of the discussion was on the challenges facing immigrant parents raising their children in a new country and on the children of immigrants who have dealt with cultural and generational differences as they have sought success in their careers. One of the core areas around the Career Ceiling issue is the impact that family philosophies, immigration and assimilation challenges, and generational changes have had on the success of Asian Americans in this country. This fireside chat interview of four Asian Americans focused on their personal family stories and experiences related to the Asian American Career Ceiling problem. Clearly, immigrant families face major cultural changes when they arrive in the U.S. and face decisions about how to adapt themselves and raise the next generation. The common tendency to direct children to “study hard and you will succeed” or “be a doctor or an engineer” has contributed towards success in certain arenas, but has inhibited success requiring a different set of skills. Children of immigrants face the potential tension between the beliefs of their parents and adapting to and succeeding in the American culture.

Peter Young, Chair of the Initiative and a Committee of 100 Member, was the moderator of this event.

Asian American Career Ceilings 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.


Amy Chua
Best Selling Author and Yale Law School Professor
Amy Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. The daughter of Chinese immigrants from the Fujian province, Amy was born in Champaign, Illinois and raised in the Midwest and Northern California. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was the first Asian American Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review. After practicing on Wall Street for a few years, she joined the Yale Law School faculty in 2001 and is a noted expert in the areas of foreign policy, globalization, and ethnic conflict.

Amy is the bestselling author of numerous books, including World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2002), which was selected by both The Economist and the U.K.’s Guardian as a Best Book of 2003. Her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was a runaway international bestseller that has been translated into 30 languages. Her latest book is Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. In 2011, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, one of the Atlantic Monthly’s Brave Thinkers, and one of Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers. She is also a multiple-time recipient of Yale Law School’s “Best Teaching” award.

Rekha Kumar
Wife, Mother and Retired Engineer
Rekha was born in Roorkee, India and did her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Roorkee in 1974. Sunil and Rekha married that year and she moved to Magnolia, Arkansas – her first home in America. Shortly after that they moved to Akron Ohio and she started her career designing Eveready Batteries at Union Carbide. When they moved to Indianapolis, Rekha worked at General Motors for a while but then quit when their three children were born. She used this hiatus to get a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Purdue University. After that she worked for the United States Navy in their Naval Avionics Center which designs and tests crucial components of US Navy aircraft. While doing all this she was very busy being a mother of three active children but also took time to learn investing in capital markets. In subsequent years Rekha lived in Chicago, Nashville, and then in northern NJ for the last 23 years. She has actively participated in charities like American Red Cross, Share and Care Foundation, and has volunteered as a tutor in Math and Science to people of all ages – including many adults. She currently manages financial investments for Wembly Enterprises, and is proud grandmother of 7 happy grandchildren.

Sunil Kumar
Chairman of Wembly Enterprises
Sunil was born in New Delhi, India and got his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras in 1971. He then got an MBA from University of Louisiana and started his career at Firestone which later merged with Bridgestone Corporation of Japan. He worked there for 23 years and was EVP and Board Member responsible for North American Tire business. He left in 1995 to join GAF Building Materials Company where he was President and CEO until 1999 when he became President and CEO of International Specialty Products Company (ISP). He retired from ISP in 2011 when it was sold to Ashland for $3.2 Billion.

Sunil is currently Chairman of Wembly Enterprises which owns and operates niche manufacturing plants in specialty chemicals, engineered plastics, adhesives/coatings and coated fabrics businesses. Sunil was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus award by IIT in 2006 and was chosen by the Society of Chemical Industry for The Industry Medal in 2012. His proudest and happiest moments are with his seven grandchildren ages 1 through 8.

Alice Young
Founder, Alice Young Advisory LLC and former Partner of Arnold & Porter
Kay Scholer LLP and Committee of 100 Member
Alice Young, Founder of Alice Young Advisory LLC, advises clients on Asia business strategies and potential business partners and resources. She retired as Partner and Chair of the Asia Pacific Practice of the law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP after over 40 years of international law practice there and at other preeminent law firms. She served for 30 years as Independent Director of Mizuho Trust and Banking Co. (USA ) and its predecessor bank, and also as Independent Director and on the Audit, Risk Management and Corporate Governance Committees of Axis International Capital Holdings, Ltd., a NYSE company.

Ms. Young was based in Hong Kong in the pioneering early 1970s, did her first China deal in 1979, and in 1981 was the first woman, minority and youngest partner to found and head a New York branch law office.

She is a Lifetime Trustee of Aspen Institute and Asia Foundation, a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Committee of 100, and a Fellow of Yale University. She has been a speaker and commentator on US-Asia business and policy issues at global conferences and in major media, and has been featured in several books and publications. She received numerous awards for corporate, mentoring and civic achievements from organizations such as Asian Americans in Business, AALDEF, ASCEND and DirectWomen Institute.

Ms. Young was in the first class of women at Yale College, a recipient of the 2020 Yale Medal, and was one of the first Asian American women to graduate from Harvard Law School. She is the proud mother of two adult children and two granddaughters.

Peter Young
CEO and President, Young & Partners and 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.

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