Voices of Asian Women in Leadership: Speaker Panel Reflection
I firmly believe that words, both spoken and written, have tremendous power to inspire others; they stay with us long after we say farewell to the speaker. These precious snippets of gold remain etched in our thoughts and inspire us indefinitely. On December 16, 2019, Project Lotus hosted its ever speaker-panel event. The event was a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together and also to learn from women leaders within the community. Having a panel as opposed to only one speaker allows for a wide spectrum of voices to be heard. Each speaker had her own precious insight and thoughtful advice for the audience to savor.
I invited 4 different speakers from a range of diverse backgrounds: from criminal justice to education to finance to tech. These four women inspired me tremendously as I learned about their stories and their accomplishments.
From reaching out to speakers, securing the venue, to marketing the event to an audience, planning the speaker event itself was a tremendously valuable learning experience. There were moments of doubt when things did not got as planned: for example, the event date coincided with the start of finals week at a local high school, meaning that many of the high schoolers who originally expressed interest in attending could not. An originally scheduled speaker planned a last-minute trip with family. The lists goes on; this was not an easy process. However, as the event came together, I realized the result of my hard work was a success far beyond what I had expected.
Renee Paquier is the advisor of and sits on the board of Project Lotus. As a second-generation Iranian American, she knew all too well the hardships of immigrant women in America. She grew up caught between two cultures: the traditional Iranian culture of her parents and the American culture she must adapt to to fit the mainstream. She embodies the idea that one can find success in many fields: from serving as the only minority female police officer in her county to being the dean at a college.
Cynthia Change is a leading figure within the Saratoga community and the first ever Asian American to sit on the city’s board of education. She is an advocate for education and Asian American women as she sits on the board of many local organizations. She crushes the stereotype that Asians are not active leaders in their community or politics; in fact, she embodies community involvement.
Diana Kwok is a leader in the finance sector, having worked at Morgen Stanley for more than a decade. She overcame the hardships of moving alone as a young woman to a new country; she succeeds and leads in a heavily male-dominated field. She brings to the table the inspiring experience of someone who adjusts amazingly to a new environment while still staying true to her roots.
Grace Ling, our youngest speaker, is an activist, entrepreneur, and game designer, all the while pursuing a graduate degree. She shares the experience of many Asian American girls in our generation: growing up admits the “model minority” pressure. As a designer and creative, she breaks the mold of stereotypical Asian American success.
Their stories inspire me so; as they shared the hardships they overcame, the success they have achieved, and their advice to those in the audience, I felt so much joy in bringing them together in front of the audience. After the event, I hosted a dinner with all of the speakers. As we bonded over dinner, I understood that this event has brought them together; the women exchanged contact and emails, promising to keep in touch. The four of them had never met beforehand; but through the event, they made an unbreakable bond of sharing diverse and similar experiences. Project Lotus brought women together a sisterhood of empowerment and solidarity.
After, many members of the audience reached out to me. One particular instance truly touched my heart: a mother told me that the event had an impact her daughters, both young Asian American girls growing up as first-generation immigrants. Through these powerful leading women, they saw women that looked like them succeed. They learned from Asian women in their own local community that led by example and inspired by action. They saw a perspective different than they were used to seeing in the mainstream.