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On AAPI month and Deborah Liu's book
Some of my candid thoughts and admissions, as well as discussion materials for a book club session on Deborah Liu's Take Back Your Power
We are almost a week and a half into AAPI month! Things at work have been pretty busy lately and I haven’t had time to plan or lead any AAPI month initiatives. It’s been on my mind a lot because I feel like I’m failing when I don’t lead initiatives that I care about, though I’m also always wary of doing something hasty that doesn’t quite land right.
At the moment, my plan is to put together a collection of resources mid-month to share with the full team at work for visibility and awareness, and then to offer a discussion with the AAPI folks on the team if there’s interest. Startup life can be hectic and it’s always about tradeoffs. This feels like the right balance for me at the moment that meets the bar for something I care deeply about while ensuring I’m creating and sharing meaningful, useful content / knowledge / experiences with the team.
With this said: if you have any resources that you’ve found particularly valuable and meaningful, please do send them my way!
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We have team onsite this week and one of the things I’m doing is leading a women’s discussion. The discussion is going to be centred around Take Back Your Power by Deborah Liu. This book came recommended to me by a fellow Asian-American and after reading it, I decided it would make a great foundation for our women’s discussion at work. Since of our onsite schedules tend to be quite packed, I didn’t want to give everyone too much assigned reading in advance. Instead, I prepared some reference materials for context along with discussion questions.
Below are the materials that I put together for that discussion. Next week, I will share back insights along with any adjustments I’d make to the questions after our discussion this week.
Deborah Liu is currently the CEO of ancestry.com
Previously, she worked with Sheryl Sandberg and others at Facebook/Meta
She recently wrote a book about how women can empower themselves entitled Take Back Your Power: 10 New Rules for Women at Work
I wanted to share the excerpts that resonated the most with this group for us to discuss together
I included excerpts along these themes:
Navigating the tech world
Finding your own voice
There’s a ton of other content and themes in the book, among which I particularly enjoyed reading about Deborah’s take on forgiveness and finding good sponsors (Note: I didn’t include any excerpts from those sections as I wanted to keep our scope more focused)
Which of these quotes resonated?
What ask can you make of this group to support you when it comes to navigating TestBox and finding your own voice?
What is one thing you can commit to doing this quarter?
Is there anything else that stood out that you’d like to discuss with the group?
Excerpts on navigating the tech world
“Women are also more likely than me to face microaggressions, such as being interrupted or having our judgment questioned. For women with traditionally marginalized identities, including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities, these experiences are often more frequent and much worse.”
“I write this book to help women see the invisible bias built into the system around them and teach them to thrive within it even as they fight it. The truth is that we have to live within this system for years to come because it is not changing anytime soon. We can rage against what is, but if we don’t understand it and evolve to succeed in it, we will not be able to change it.”
“We must learn how to win, even on an uneven playing field. Is it fair? No. Is it the reality we live with? Yes. We can choose to ignore it, or we can adapt and learn. We must first fight on an individual basis not only to stop giving away our power but also to become comfortable seeking and living with power. That’s what this book is for.”
“As an Asian American woman in the tech field, I had the feeling I didn’t belong. I can’t hide, and I can’t be anything but what I am. I’ve walked into every room with my differences written on my face. But the weight of expectation is also there, whispering in the background: Speak up, but don’t be aggressive. Be nice but also assertive. Don’t make others uncomfortable, but don’t back down.
In rooms where I felt out of place or different, I sought to hide, to be less visible. I weighed every word, wondering if I could accidentally say the wrong thing. What I didn’t realize at the time was that, by choosing to stay on the periphery rather than risk rocking the boat, I was giving away my power.”
Excerpts on finding your own voice
“I will let you in on a secret: in that room where you are different, where you are nothing like anyone else, you have a superpower. What you think is a liability is really a strength. Being different feels fraught, but it allows you to see what many other people can’t see. That is a gift. But if you let your voice be silenced because of your discomfort, you risk your difference becoming your kryptonite, the thing that holds you back.”
“If your instinct is to say no when everyone else is saying yes, trust that perspective and explain your reasoning. [...] Rather than framing your input as intrusive and contrary, treat it as Ellen did: as additional information that needs to be heard.”
“Asking means taking a risk that you will hear the answer “no.” Putting yourself out there means that sometimes you will fail to get what you want when you want it. But if you aren’t hearing no on a regular basis, you aren’t asking enough.”
“As you grow into your own voice, please know that the sentiment you leave is more important than the mere words you say. If you are open, even when it’s difficult, others will be open with you too. Your voice is a way to create a connection that didn’t exist before.”
“The hard part about putting yourself out there is that sometimes it won’t work. People will call you out or say you are too vocal, that you are being too forward or saying too much. There is a price to pay for every expectation you break and every stereotype you defy. But there is a greater price for not questioning the rules and breaking free of preconceptions.”