Ascend launches the 10×25 Initiative to increase AAPI representation in boardrooms

Ascend is the largest, non-profit Pan-Asian membership organization for business professionals in North America with the mission to transform and elevate AAPI leaders of today and tomorrow to achieve new professional heights and become catalysts for change. The Ascend Pinnacle corporate board of directors network will lead the 10x25 Initiative and provides programs for experienced directors and senior corporate executives, education for aspiring directors and thought leadership on board issues.

Ascend, the largest non–profit career lifecycle organization for Pan–Asian business professionals and executives in North America, announced today its 10×25 Initiative to promote diverse boardrooms by having at least 10 percent of directors serving on Fortune 1000 boards be Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) by 2025.

Asian American and Pacific Islanders are and have historically been severely under–represented at the highest levels of corporate America, including on boards. The number of AAPIs in the U.S. professional workforce is approximately 12 percent. Out of approximately 7,500 directors serving on the boards of Fortune 1000 companies, only 330 or about 4 percent identify as Asian American/Pacific Islander. Ascend’s 10×25 Initiative aims to more than double the number as it works to combat the bias and misconception that AAPIs often face.

“The relationship between a diverse leadership team and board and a company’s performance is well established. With Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders making up to 30 percent of a company’s workforce in some sectors, such as technology, and with AAPIs being one of the fastest growing demographics for consumer spending, it is obvious that there should be more AAPI representation on boards,” said Tim Buckley, Chairman and CEO of The Vanguard Group. “This is not only a savvy business decision but also the right thing to be doing from a diversity and inclusion standpoint.”

The 10×25 Initiative grew out of recent work by Ascend and a coalition of AAPI organizations on the California AB 979 bill, which was signed into law in September 2020, mandating that California–based public companies diversify their boards.”I was proud to help author AB 979, which will open the door to diversify corporate boards. We are so happy to see the 10×25 Initiative and similar efforts, so that Asian American/Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups that have been so underrepresented will finally be able to have a seat at the table in corporate boardrooms,” said California Assembly man David Chiu. Similar bills are being considered by at least a dozen states in the United States.

Institutional investors such as Vanguard and others have been advocating for diverse boards in their portfolio companies for many years. More recently, in December 2020, NASDAQ announced a proposal to advance board diversity through new listing requirements. Nasdaq–listed companies would be required to publicly disclose board–level diversity statistics and would be expected to have two diverse directors within five years of the SEC’s approval.

With key stakeholders such as governments, stock exchanges and investors pushing for increased diversity of boards, Ascend and the 10×25 Initiative will help companies increase the diversity and talents on their boards and raise the profile of Asian American/Pacific Islanders as leaders in the boardroom. Ascend will work with both private and public companies to continually identify talented and experienced individuals that are ready to assume board positions and  immediately add value. Ascend will also expand its existing Aspiring Director development programs to maintain and expand the skill sets and experience of these directors and director candidates so that they continue to be relevant and on the leading edge of issues and concerns facing businesses.

“The world has seen over the past year that the AAPI community has increasingly become the target of hate actions and crime, which in part can be attributed to the invisibility of AAPIs in American society and the perpetuation of the Model Minority Myth,” said Anna W. Mok, President and Executive Board Chairman of Ascend. “Having AAPIs in positions of leadership will help give voice and visibility to the AAPI community, which is particularly needed now more than ever. AAPIs are invaluable contributors to the workforce and economy. We have to make sure things change and that the AAPI community is recognized for their talents and are provided an opportunity to lead at the highest levels of businesses.”