Profiles in Leadership: AAPI Heritage Month 2021
During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Benton + Bradford Consulting celebrates the accomplishments and influence of leaders within the AAPI community. Their work in a wide variety of areas – including activism, healthcare, technology and art – has benefited us all.
Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama works mostly in sculpture and installation (the High Museum of Art hosted her Infinity Mirrors exhibition in 2018-19, and I was blown away by the immersive experience.) But her creative contributions span painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. Recognized as one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, her fearless works are infused with autobiographical and psychological content. Open about her mental health issues, she has noted that her art is a form of therapy. Her undeniable vision, talent and candor about her life experiences define her unparalleled leadership role in the world of art.
Dr. Woosup Michael Park
Dr. Woosup Michael Park, MD, is the Department Chair of Vascular Surgery in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Over a longstanding career, including serving as Staff Surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, he has saved thousands of lives through both his surgical skills and the development of several medical devices. He led the development of the Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS) clinic for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, bringing focused resources to support diagnosis and treatment of this rare disorder. As a high school classmate in a mostly white prep school, I admired his intellect, humor and ability to connect with others in a setting that was challenging for those of different cultural heritage.
Lo Li, a dynamic and multi-lingual business leader, boasts a career spanning decades of leadership roles with world-renowned multi-billion-dollar hospitality and retail brands. Her international business acumen and ability to translate corporate vision into scalable solutions have earned her numerous industry awards and a global reputation that continues to grow in her current role, Chief Technology Officer of Global Consumer Solutions at Equifax. In 2021, Li was named one of the Top 100 Diverse Leaders in Tech for her exceptional leadership and accomplishments beyond the parameters of her role. In our interactions, I discovered someone who leads by example, with a clear desire to help those around her become their best.
Patsy Takemoto Mink
Accomplishing a number of “firsts,” Hawaiian Patsy Takemoto Mink made history several times over. She was the first Japanese American to practice law in Hawaii, the first woman of color and first Asian American woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, and in 1972 she became the first Asian American to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
She was a vocal advocate for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and bilingual education. Among her legislative wins, she co-authored and helped to pass Title IX, which expanded educational and sports-related opportunities for women and was instrumental in the passing of the Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA) for gender equality. During her six terms in the House of Representatives, she formed the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Following her death in 2002, the Title IX law was renamed in her honor as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. A legislative trailblazer, she dedicated her life’s work to creating policy designed to help women and minorities find equal opportunities.
Philip Vera Cruz
A Filipino American who advocated for labor rights and led social justice initiatives for agricultural workers, Philip Vera Cruz spent many years as a farmworker. He made significant change in the industry, which relied heavily on migrant workers toiling in intense heat and rough conditions for little pay. Through the Agricultural Worker Organizing Committee (AWOC) he rallied support for pay increases and improved working conditions. His efforts, along with fellow activist Larry Itliong, created a strong network of immigrant workers who fought alongside each other for better pay and treatment. Later in his life, Veryz Cruz founded the Farm Workers Credit Union and a retirement community for older farmworkers. Not only an activist within the agricultural community, Vera Cruz also advocated for Asian American rights during his lifetime. A California middle school bears his name, along with Itliong’s, as a testament to their efforts in merging civil rights and labor rights.
Soon Mee Kim
As Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Officer for Omnicom’s global public relations group, Soon Mee Kim develops policies, practices and programs that advance (DE&I) internally amongst all agencies, along with client initiatives and community efforts. Previously, she was Porter Novelli Public Relations executive vice president and Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader for 14 years, earning the firm top honors from PRWeek and PR Council for Best PR Firm Diversity Initiative for substantive progress in representation. She leverages more than 25 years of communications experiences to create a more inclusive workforce filled with demographically and behaviorally diverse talent in the marketing disciplines. When I think of executives who can draw pictures with words and motivate a team of any size to achieve results collaboratively, I think of Soon Mee. She is a vibrant leader with visionary leadership and keen business acumen.
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