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Breaking Barriers by Celebrating, Empowering, and Accelerating Progress for AAPI Women

Published by HRCap, Inc. on April 3, 2024

In light of Women’s History Month, HRCap partnered with AAPI New Jersey to host a career development series focused on breaking barriers and empowering women.

I. Celebrate Progress, Focus on Action

For the first event of HRCap and AAPI New Jersey’s career development series, we held a roundtable webinar titled “Celebrate Progress, Focus on Action” on Friday, March 8, 2024. With about 20 people in attendance, the event highlighted the advancement of women and Asian American communities and provided insightful discussions about the need to advocate for AAPI women in the workplace.

Stella Kim presenting on the increase in women representation in leadership positions

At the beginning of the webinar, Stella H. Kim, SVP, Head of Americas and Chief Marketing Officer at HRCap, illuminated the remarkable progress of women in leadership positions. She cited a staggering statistic indicating that 68% of hiring client institutions now proudly have women representation in their C-suite, underscoring the strides made toward women’s inclusion in corporate leadership.

Afterward, Amber Reed, President and Co-Executive Director at AAPI New Jersey, shared the progress and action that AAPI New Jersey took to promote cultural awareness across the state of New Jersey by spearheading various campaigns, community events, and educational initiatives to prevent bias and promote cultural awareness. Though women inclusion in leadership has progressed, she highlighted how the model minority stereotype limits support for AAPI professionals to ascend to leadership positions. 

Against the odds of women advancing into leadership, Pallavi Sebastian, Senior Vice President of Global Distribution Strategy at Salesforce, shared her journey at Salesforce and how she has actively participated in Employee Resource Groups to drive meaningful change. Through her involvement, Pallavi plays a pivotal role in fostering a supportive workplace culture and advocating for underrepresented voices. The webinar then concluded with a brief Q&A session.

II. Empowering AAPI Women Through Mentorship

The second event was an online roundtable webinar titled “Empowering AAPI Women Through Mentorship” that took place on Friday, March 15, 2024. With about 20 people in attendance, we had the privilege of learning about the importance of mentorship and sponsorship

Stella Kim introducing concept of Broken Rungs

CMO Stella once again opened the webinar by introducing statistics and discussing Broken Rungs, an obstacle that prevents women from climbing the corporate ladder and becoming successful. Consequently, as a result of the Broken Rungs, a McKinsey 2023 research finds that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 87 women are promoted, while even fewer women of color are promoted (73 women). This discrepancy in promotions is largely influenced by mentorships and sponsorships, or lack thereof. In fact, 52% of AAPI employees reported having sponsors, which is 10% lower than white employees.

Stella Kim sharing statistics on mentorship benefits on employee development and performance

Pallavi Sebastian and her mentee, Marissa Waddell (Americas Lead of Employee Experience Customer Success at Microsoft), then spoke on their mentor-mentee experience. Pallavi pointed out how she felt Marissa did an excellent job as a mentee by always having an agenda to be intentional and purposeful in their meetings. When asked what value Marissa has gotten out of their mentor-mentee relationship, she warmly commented that Pallavi has helped her to feel supported and to step into the best version of herself. 

After the mentor-mentee discussion, there was a brief time of Q&A. In the end, Marissa encouraged the audience to be intentional about finding a mentor and nurturing that relationship by saying, “You’ve got to give back as well. It’s a two-way relationship and takes time to nurture.”

III. Breaking Barriers: Accelerating Progress for AAPI Women

The third and last event of the series was an in-person networking event on “Breaking Barriers: Accelerating Progress for AAPI Women” on Thursday, March 28, 2024. The event was held at Vanguard Theater in Montclair, NJ, with close to 40 attendees.

After a light dinner and networking, we had the privilege of hearing the following speakers share their stories on their diverse career experiences as experts and pioneers in their respective industries, and how they faced challenges as Asian American professionals in the workforce:

  • Shila Wattamwar (CEO & Founder, Radiant Global Advisory)

  • Beein Gim (Emmy Award-winning Producer and Director)

  • Pallavi Sebastian (Senior VP, Salesforce)

  • Arun Yang (Client Partner, Salesforce)

Panelists: Shila Wattamwar, Beein Gim, Arun Yang, and Pallavi Sebastian (from left to right)

Speakers spoke about facing microaggressions as Asian American professionals and shared very personal experiences struggling with imposter syndrome. However, in the midst of their individual challenges, each speaker shared how they discovered their voice, found allies and mentors, and advocated for themselves. They shared the importance of not just looking for an ally but also being a co-conspirator for others. After the panel discussion, there was a time for Q&A with questions from the audience.

In-person event at Vanguard Theater in Montclair, NJ

Our CMO, Stella Kim, also shed light on the value of placing meaning in work and how our perspective shift in approaching work as a job, career, and vocational calling can impact and inspire the way we show up in our respective organizations, fields, and communities. She then asked how each speaker has experienced the transformational shift in their respective journeys pioneering Asian American women leaders.

In response to Stella's question, Pallavi shared her experience of when her job shifted to becoming her career, and now a vocational calling:

"I remember having this goal that I wanted to be a people leader before the age of 30. I was 29 when I got my first manager role, and for me at the time, it was just a job and a goal. However, it was quite an awakening when I actually started the job, as I realized my success depended on their success, and that's where it started to shift to be a career. Now I also am beginning to realize that I must spend the time and the energy to do the coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship for others to help them achieve their potential, and this is where I see the shift to a vocational calling."


As the career development series comes to a close, we are thankful to our ongoing partner AAPI New Jersey, our special guest speakers, our Digital Transformation team who prepared the necessary research and seminar content, and those who came to participate.

We hope that those who attended were empowered to advance in their careers, find a mentor, and mentor others. We also look forward to hosting more events with AAPI New Jersey to strengthen AAPI working professionals to discover and showcase their voices and shine as leaders.

Sources: HRCap, AAPI New Jersey


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