Maher is a biracial Korean American who grew up with her sister in a single-parent home in a diverse area of central California. Their family traditions came from her mother’s Korean culture, including eating dduk guk (rice cake soup) on Korean New Year for good luck, celebrating Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and wearing hanboks (traditional Korean dresses) to church on special occasions. Maher continues these traditions with her two young children, who she wants to be proud of their Korean heritage.
Despite that deep sense of pride Maher points out that the cultural norms she was raised with don’t always align with expected behaviors in corporate America. A natural introvert “raised to never be boastful or even talk about my accomplishments,” she had to “break out of my shell to expand my network and find ways to self-advocate.”
That’s why the “Be you. Belong" theme of this year’s AAPI Heritage Month resonates with Maher. “It took me a long time to feel comfortable bringing my authentic self to work,” she says. “Now that I do, I try to help those around me understand the value of doing the same.”
She recognizes the need for more sponsorship of diverse talent and acknowledges, in her own search for AAPI role models, the “bamboo ceiling” encountered by Asian Americans.
Nevertheless, she sees signs of progress, such as the firm’s new Diverse Leaders Forum (DLF), which brings together Black, Latino and Asian-American colleagues to “build networks and share experiences.” Sue now has “a tribe” of colleagues from all different backgrounds whom she met through the DLF.
Another sign of progress: Last year alone, AEN membership increased nearly 30 percent. Says Maher, “More people across the organization, whether of Asian descent or an ally, want to be engaged and involved.”
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