The Importance of Agency Culture to AAPI Visibility and Growth
From Member Deb Fong, Global Health Leadership, Strategic Health Initiatives at Omnicom
We would love to learn more about your background and origin story. How has your experience as an Asian in this industry impacted your career journey?
I am fortunate to work in a sector that has generally welcomed me since the beginning of my career, regardless of my background. Being Asian-American has certainly always informed my perspectives within healthcare, and I try to bring relevant insights into discussions to ensure representation.
Working abroad as Asia-Pacific Regional Lead while based in Hong Kong presented both immense opportunities and unique challenges. As an Asian-American, I sensed both acceptance and skepticism and everything along the spectrum, depending on the market and individuals with whom I worked. It was an incredibly challenging, enriching, irreplaceable experience and occasionally surprising reality check which broadened my own cultural horizons and continues to inform how I work with our global internal teams and clients.
Asian Americans face many barriers to leadership positions. What is your advice to the industry to narrow the gap and create more leadership opportunities for Asians?
Widening our apertures is something we all need to do. I believe that creating more leadership opportunities means expanding our reach and thinking more creatively and broadly, in multiple ways – how potential candidates are identified, current employees are supported and their voices heard, career paths are nurtured at all stages, and visibility of employees and their achievements is made clear – all with greater understanding of both the cultural nuances that may better inform these approaches, as well as specific employee needs along their journeys.
As with so many things, this fundamentally starts with engaging in critical conversations that too often do not happen. As leadership, we need to better understand what our key talent wants to achieve, be more adept at recognizing potential, and provide practical guidance and meaningful mentorship that encourages employees to step outside their comfort zones and succeed while doing so. And of course, leaders must make it clear to all employees that racism in any form is never tolerated.
Organizations should lean in more to modeling now what we want the future to be – authentically, not just in appearance. For young talent, seeing their Asian and Asian-American colleagues succeed in positions of leadership is impactful and inspirational – and signals that they too can aspire to such positions. This works wonders for employee morale and improves talent retention and productivity.
Share an example where progress is being made to support Asians in the workforce?
At Omnicom, prominent Asian and Asian-American leaders have created the Omnicom Asian Leaders Circle for global community members at work to connect, share experiences and resources, and unify their talents and creativity to address real challenges in tangible ways. Even after just 3 months since its inception, the Circle has had enormous impact on members of our community and has been a necessary and deeply appreciated source of support and inspiration. I believe the Circle will have powerful ripple effects, influencing how our agencies view, support, and represent our community – both within and beyond Omnicom.