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Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling of Senior Leadership

To celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the SWE Asian Connections Affinity Group has made their WE21 session “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling of Senior Leadership” available to the general public!
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In spite of the fact that Asian Americans make up a significant portion of the engineering workforce, there is a lack of representation of Asian Americans in leadership, from the entry level through the executive level. Stereotypically, AAPI individuals are praised for their work ethic, discipline, and commitment to education; however, these same stereotypes can limit them to individual contributor roles because they are not viewed as “leadership material”. This barrier to entry is compounded by additional stereotypes that AAPI individuals are quiet, submissive, and lacking in qualities of western executives. This issue has been referred to as the “bamboo ceiling”. 

For AAPI women, the bamboo ceiling creates a double barrier in addition to the glass ceiling. In fact, research conducted by Ascend, a non-profit supporting Pan-Asian leaders, demonstrates these findings: their research on the Executive Parity Index showed that AAPI women are the least likely group to be promoted to executive positions. 

With that context in mind, this WE21 panel features AAPI women who have in many ways broken through the bamboo ceiling and made significant strides in their careers as managers, technical leads, and thought leaders. We will examine the cultural influences and driving factors that have shaped their experience and helped them achieve success in their journey. We will conclude with advice and next steps on overcoming the double barriers of the glass and bamboo ceilings.

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Speaker Bios:

Dianne Eldridge

Dianne Eldridge currently works at AWS as Worldwide Business Development Executive in Applied AI/ML. Previously, she spent her 21-year-career in global engineering & manufacturing with Emerson as Managing Director. She had the global responsibilities of a multi-hundred-million-dollar manufacturing portfolio in the US, China, and Italy. A mother of 2 children, Dianne was born and raised in Beijing, obtained 3 degrees from China, Canada, and USA.

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Dianne Eldridge

Vandana Khanna

Vandana Khanna is a Director of Transformation – Digital/Automation practices at Unilever. Have expertise in Emerging Technologies like RPA/Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence. Also worked for Verizon, ToysRus, PepsiCo and J&J in the past. Holds an MBA in Finance from University of Pittsburgh and a Chemical Engineering degree from IIT, India.

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Sarah Koenig

Sarah Koenig is a Deputy Production Chief at Pratt and Whitney. She is responsible for the industrialization of key configuration changes on the Next Generation Product Family (NGPF) engine. She is a SWE Life Member. Sarah was adopted from South Korea as an infant and grew up in the USA.

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Kalyani Mallela 

Kalyani Mallela is an Executive with extensive experience working on Class I, Class II and Class III medical devices within R&D and Q&R. She is a people centric leader known for building high-performing teams through developing an inclusive culture and prioritizing talent development. She is a STEM Advocate and DEI Champion, both in her workplace and communities. She is currently Director of R&D at J&J and is also serving on the SWE Board of Directors.

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Jennifer Chen Morikawa 

Jennifer Morikawa is a senior manufacturing project engineer at General Motors. She has served in numerous SWE leadership roles including section president, Awards & Recognition Chair, region governor, and WE Local Advisory Board member. She is a 2nd generation Taiwanese American whose family is a melting pot of multi-Asian cultures. Currently, she is an advisor for the SWE Asian Connections Affinity Group and Co-Chair of Fund Development for the Detroit Section.

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