Continuing a legacy of greatness during Asian Heritage month
By: Krista Henry (she/her)
Like her counterparts in a galaxy far away, JEDI (Justice, Equity, Decolonization and Inclusion) coach Rosie Yeung (she/her) battles for a better tomorrow.
Yeung (MACC'2000) is a speaker, coach, educator and podcaster specializing in intersectional diversity and Asian-Canadian identity. She is a Chinese Canadian, immigrant, cis-straight female with invisible disabilities. “I want to use whatever capabilities that I have to make a difference in this world,” says Yeung.
A former accountant, Yeung started her own company, Changing Lenses, to help people on the front lines facing discrimination, racism and exclusion.
“The catalyst to me starting this work was losing my job in 2020. As a professional, I never thought it would happen to me,” she says. “There was a company restructuring which happened right before COVID-19 and I felt like this was a sign that what I was doing wasn’t what I was meant to be doing all along.”
According to Yeung her life up to that point as a chartered professional accountant (CPA), was part of the settler-immigrant Chinese Canadian story to find stability and financial security. “It wasn’t satisfying to me, the financial stability and security. I appreciate it for what it is, my co-workers and opportunities in my career, but it was never my passion,” she adds.
Yeung now holds certifications in inclusion, consulting, Indigenous history and human rights, among others. Through the lens of her diverse lived experiences and professional development, she coaches Asian and racialized women to succeed in business as their true selves.
Equity takes empathy
A former co-op student, Yeung understands the stress students experience trying to find a co-op job. This, she says is often amplified for Asian or Asian heritage students. Empathy is important when doing JEDI work and something both students and employers need today.
- Rosie Yeung (she/her), President & Founder of Changing Lenses
Yeung says even today she still struggles with the pressure to achieve. She encourages students to be proud of themselves and their differences no matter their grades or accomplishments.
“Schools are frankly a colonial system set up by white men, run primarily by white men; discrimination is very ingrained. There are lots of ways our educational system, economy and careers do not appreciate different ways of learning, thinking and doing things. I hope students and new grads can, if other people don’t appreciate them, appreciate themselves. Their language and different experiences do not make them stand out in a bad way,” she says.
For organizations to create change and appreciate differences, getting the right numbers or having training sessions alone is not enough. According to Yeung, employers and employees need a change in perspectives in the workplace by moving forward with empathy.
“A lot of employers think they are diverse because they have diverse people. Having the numbers is not true inclusion,” she says. “It’s how quickly people who are different rise in the ranks and how high they can go. It’s beyond that. There are still ways people are physically at work but are not fully there.”
The way in which inclusive cultures can grow according to Yeung is by respecting cultures, being flexible and adaptable. “As a person of East Asian descent, I would rather have one or two days off for Lunar New Year than a whole month (Asian Heritage Month) dedicated to something I don’t personally need,” she gives as an example.
She advises building relationships with diverse people to gain insights to create real change in the workplace.