On March 17th L.E.K. Consulting welcomed Jerry Won, former consultant and current CEO and founder of Just Like Media, an Asian-American storytelling company, to facilitate a conversation in response to the broad uptick in violence against Asian Americans. While this event was organized in advance, it became extremely timely as it took place the day after the violent attack in Atlanta, Georgia that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
“I planned this event because I wanted Mosaic@L.E.K. [affinity group for racial and ethnic minorities] to create a safe space for L.E.K.ers affected by the violence. I wanted Mosaic to take the lead in initiating this difficult but important conversation,” says Victoria Li, the national co-chair for Mosaic. More than 100 L.E.K.ers joined the webinar to take part in the conversation.
“The event with Jerry came at a much-needed time for the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) community at L.E.K. and its allies. For a lot of people, myself included, fear was the immediate reaction in the aftermath of the news stories. Having the event on that afternoon with Jerry forced some of the emotion to come to the surface and started the longer, but necessary, process of internalizing its implications,” reflected Jen Wu, a principal in the Chicago office.
Jerry began the session by creating a space for attendees to openly express themselves and their frustration around the murders that took place the day prior. In particular, he recognized AAPI colleagues for their courage for showing up to work after such violence had taken place. Attendees voiced agreement of wanting a space that recognized the violence that had just occurred, which L.E.K. has acknowledged through public and internal messaging. Jerry brought up that one of the challenges of being AAPI in the workplace is not being able to be yourself. Particularly on such a challenging day, AAPI L.E.K.ers might want to take space to grieve, but may not feel free to do so at work. Jerry said, “That’s why it’s so important to have authentic conversations, to have spaces where you can be yourself”. One way to make space for authenticity in the workplace is to elevate the voices and honor the experiences of diverse colleagues. Because the virtual event was held as a Zoom meeting where attendees and Jerry could see each other, attendees were able to chime in with questions to spur honest discussions.
While this conversation was a difficult one in light of the increased violence towards communities that L.E.K.ers identify with, it was necessary to provide the safe space for colleagues. “This event also reminded me of the importance of having these types of open dialogues about challenging issues. I can’t thank Victoria enough for organizing the event, and also sincerely appreciate the firm’s leadership and our Mosaic team for continuing to invest in diversity and inclusion events like this,” says Jen Wu.