Throughout my years with InterVarsity, I've always had a clearly defined leadership role. As a student I was on my chapter's leadership team for two years and during my senior year I led a Bible study. During my three years on campus staff, I discipled three women and led small group leaders' training every week. I taught and trained students at conferences and events that I also was involved in planning. I gave Bible expositions at large group meetings.
|a banner I designed for APIWLC|
Calling myself a leader in my current role feels like a bit of a stretch.
I've learned that my identity as an Asian American, as a woman, and an Asian American woman play a significant role in how I interact with and encounter my work context. I am currently the only Asian American woman on my team, and in our office of about 100, there are only 4 or 5 of us. My team (as well as the office) is dominated by white, married, older men. As far as I know, in its 35+ years of history, twentyonehundred has always been led by a white man.
Some people may think race or gender no longer matter, that we're in a "post-race" world. But it's something I am always aware of - especially now that I do not have a local Asian American community in my life. Whether or not it's felt by others, I am always conscious when I am the only Asian American in the room. I sense that I take up less space, physically, yes, because I am 5'2" and less than 100 lbs. But I also take up less space in the conversation, in the way culture is formed, in decisions that get made.
My ethnic and gender identity are all wrapped up with my perfectionist tendencies, my hesitancy to speak up early in a conversation, my desire to go with the flow and maintain harmony. This raises many challenges in how I represent my voice, my point of view, my experiences to the people I work with.
One of the things we talked about at the conference was how Asian American women often sell themselves short. We will rarely take credit for our accomplishments; we do not like to tell people that we're good at something or that we have something to contribute. It goes against everything we were told about how to be a "good Asian girl." I've realized that this is very much how I operate. I'm self-deprecating and hesitant to feel proud of my achievements. When I do receive praise, I feel sheepish, even guilty. I tend to use humor to offset my discomfort in talking about my abilities and qualities.
|In case you didn't know, I love Disney. and L is the Roman numeral for 50. I posted this image all over the office when I came back from the conference. It's been an ongoing joke for a few days now.|
Hearing that was so deeply healing and encouraging to me. I came into the conference feeling emotionally drained, with low self-confidence and not much excitement about being there. While those things were still on my mind, I did sense a deep reassurance that God was present with me at the conference, and that he wanted me to be there. He reminded me, "I am writing your story, Laura. Trust me."
|during a brief journaling/art time, I drew out a few phrases I heard God telling me.|
I know that the journey continues, now that I've returned to my context, in all its imperfections and challenges. I want to believe that like Esther, God has called me to where I am "for such a time as this." But I also am aware that there are obstacles: deep set cultural norms, working against the majority, my own inhibitions and bad habits, the desire to go the easy route.
I wish I could conclude these reflections with a certainty that now I feel totally empowered to change the world. But I'm not so naive to believe it'll be easy. I'm still learning, processing, and growing into the Asian American woman, and the leader, that the Lord has made me to be. Only He knows how the story will go.