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NEW Treasurer Foster shares message of inclusion

Monday, May 23, 2016  
Posted by: Rufino Cabang
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"Everyone can be an ally for diversity and inclusion," NEW Treasurer Erby Foster Jr., director of diversity and inclusion for The Clorox Company, told attendees at the Ascend Northern California 10th Anniversary Awards Gala, May 19, 2016 in San Francisco. "A great way to make a difference is to get out of the stands as a 'diversity spectator' and get onto the field as an 'inclusion player.'"

Foster was one of four business and civic leaders receiving a 2016 Ascend Marquee Award for achievements in promoting diversity. In his acceptance remarks, Foster made the business case for workplace diversity and inclusion.

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"Today's global marketplace is very different from the one many of us grew up in and requires new approaches: Diverse leadership teams with world views, experiences and thought processes," Foster said.

Foster shared his thoughts on fostering diversity and some of the biases and career barriers Asian-Pacific employees face. U.S. history, he noted, has not had an event uniting different groups of Asians. "Blacks had the Civil Rights movement, Latinos had [issues involving] farm workers, LGBT had same-sex marriage, women have ‘Lean In.’"

Most Asians identify with their country of origin, he noted, rather than as "Asian."

They are often called the "Model Minority." Fifty percent are college-educated, 25 percent have graduate school degrees. Asian household income is 32 percent higher than that of the average U.S. household. Representing 5 percent of the population, Asian-Americans’ spending power tops $750 billion. "As a result," Foster said, "Asian accomplishments often get stereotyped or marginalized. Especially with use of the term 'underrepresented minorities,' which excludes Asians."

Self-awareness is critical to making inclusive decisions, Foster advised. "We all have an unconscious bias shaped by our personal experiences," Foster said. "It's a mental shortcut that fills in gaps in our knowledge with similar data from past experiences and cultural norms. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but can lead to bad decisions."

Foster delivered a call to action for the greater good, urging all to get involved with other people and their issues. "We are all so busy checking off boxes on our to-do lists as 'human-doers,' we sometimes forget our roles as human beings or that we all belong to the same race — human."

The evening included a the panel discussion, "Fostering Diversity for a Better Tomorrow," featuring insights from Foster and fellow Ascend Marquee Award honorees Loretta Doon, chief executive officer for CalCPA; Fiona Ma, chairwoman of the California State Board of Equalization and Thuan Pham, chief technology officer for Uber Technology Inc. MSNBC anchor Richard Lui emceed the gala.

Ascend is the largest, non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America.

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