Skip to content
Talent & Culture

9 actions for effective allyship to AAPI attorneys & accountants

As part of May being AAPI Heritage Month, we offer 9 actions you can take to improve allyship for AAPI colleagues and neighbors

It has been more than a month since six Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women were murdered in Atlanta, and the show of solidarity with “Stop AAPI hate” has wound down. At the same time, efforts to support AAPI professionals have never been more important.

Indeed, according to research that Thomson Reuters Institute conducted in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation and the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals that analyzed the impact of the pandemic and other seismic events of 2020 on the careers of underrepresented lawyers, two of the top concerns for the career progression of Asian American attorneys — particularly among Asian women — were anti-Asian bias and caregiving.

In honor of May being AAPI Heritage Month, here are ways to continue to advocate for AAPI colleagues and neighbors and other individuals of color in the workplace:

1. Acknowledge, confront, and denounce the current state of anti-Asian biasStop AAPI Hate reported that there were 3,800 incidents involving anti-Asian hate from March 2020 to February 2021. It also reported that there was a 150% increase in incidents against AAPI individuals from 2019 to 2020.

AAPI persons have been in the U.S. for more than 170 years with the arrival of immigrants from China in the 1850s. Discrimination and violence were almost instantaneous and set the stage for “political and social treatments” of other immigrants from Asia Pacific, according to Chris Kwok, a board member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.

2. Realize that AAPI history is American history — Indeed, AAPI struggles “hold up a mirror to the American dream,” says Helen Respass, Senior Editor at Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law. True change calls for allyship all year round — acknowledge your privilege, lean in, listen, and learn. “Empower, amplify, and uplift minority voices in the workplace,” Respass adds. “Call out racism when it occurs, and take action to dismantle it.”

3. Report and encourage notification of anti-Asian violence — With 30% of this violence occurring on either a public street or in a public park, according to Stop AAPI Hate, anyone who observes these incidents has the opportunity to report or encourage those targeted to report these incidents to authorities.

4. Know how to intervene during incidents of hate through bystander trainingAsian Americans Advancing Justice is an advocacy group that teaches individuals how to safely and effectively intervene when witnessing anti-Asian harassment and violence.

5. Understand how anti-Asian rhetoric outside of work impacts AAPI colleagues at work — Some AAPI colleagues may be trying to separate the emotional turmoil of what is happening outside of work from their performance at work through sheer willpower. However, “Compartmentalization and dissociation can only take us so far before the emotional weight crushes,” says Michelle Kim, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) thought leader and CEO of Awaken.

6. Consider how fighting anti-Asian racism is part of combating structural racism — Consult resources, such as the Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit, which analyzes the interconnectedness of issues and constituencies by offering “experiences and lessons learned in working to dismantle structural racism” in an effort make racial justice a reality.

7. Check in on AAPI colleagues and offer support — People deal with the stress of such occurrences differently. Several ways to support them include: i) offering to take a task off of their plate temporarily; ii) ensuring there is a space for AAPI employees to deal with their stress; and iii) confirming that AAPI colleagues are practicing proper self-care.

8. Advocate for equal access to opportunities and examine promotion inequities — AAPI individuals are the least likely racial group to be promoted to management. In the legal industry, AAPI lawyers have the highest attrition rates and lowest ratio of partners-to-associates, yet more than 10% of graduates at American’s top 30 law schools are AAPI, according to a report by Yale Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Within the accounting industry, almost 16% of accountants are of Asian ethnicity, but less than 1% are partners, according to the most recent data from 2015. Amplifying AAPI professionals’ leadership activities, nominating AAPI colleagues for cross -functional work committees, and highlighting their expertise in group settings with corporate leaders are all excellent ways to advocate for AAPI peers.

9. Democratize all voices in group settings by acting in these 5 small ways to make a big difference — In a Thomson Reuters survey, respondents from underrepresented groups outlined the following behaviors as ideal examples of how allies could make a difference:

        • Display curiosity and seek to understand the “lived experience” of AAPI colleagues.
        • Listen and allow the person to finish speaking before talking.
        • Speak up in group settings when another colleague is interrupted and invite the person who was shut down to complete their thought.
        • Intervene politely when one person is dominating the conversation in a group and request that quiet attendees join the dialogue.
        • Attend workplace community gatherings hosted by affinity groups, employee business resource groups, and underrepresented groups.

If more people stand up for their AAPI colleagues and neighbors — and other racially and ethnically underrepresented communities — it will create more harmony in general. In the words of philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs: “This is what true revolutions are about. They are about redefining our relationships with one another…about creating a new society in the places and spaces left vacant by the disintegration of the old; about hope, not despair, about saying yes to life… and finding the courage to love and care for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families.”


You can download a copy of the white paper, Pandemic Nation, here.