Where are all the Asia Hands?

That is the title of a snippet in the latest print issue of BW, considered premium content online, so in the spirit of sharing knowledge 🙂 I’ve posted it here in it’s entirety.

Where Are All The Asia Hands?
Chinese companies circle U.S. targets, while Americans eye deals on the
mainland. So how well do U.S. boards understand the region? A study of
America’s 100 largest companies by partners of recruiting firm
SpencerStuart shows a minuscule 1.8% of their directors are of Asian
heritage. Only 2.3% have worked in Asia, run an Asian business, or
worked directly for an Asian company. Exxon Mobil , Pfizer , and Merrill Lynch are among those that fit the bill. "The rest risk making decisions in a vacuum," says Dennis Carey, the study’s lead author.

Reading these few lines has prompted a long suppressed rant on the use of the concept of Asia. Let’s start with the continent of Asia, as you can see from the image (taken from Wikipedia) Asia is NOT China. This continent, part of the larger Eurasian landmass spans a significant portion of the global landmass of the planet Earth. And the Asia Society‘s About page states,

building awareness of the more than thirty countries broadly defined as
the Asia-Pacific region – the area from Japan to Iran, and from Central
Asia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

250pxlocationasia_4We are talking about myriads of cultures, ethnicities, regions, histories and heritages. Then, why O why does the US media use the words China and Asia interchangeably and why is the word Asian conventionally used to refer to those whose features have an oriental cast. I’m as Asian as any other and this inaccurate usage really bothers me. Call it a pet peeve if you will but I realise that one lone voice cannot really change the convention set by thousands of journalists. More so, when you consider it now in the context of business. As someone who grew up in Malaysia, carries an Indian passport, has parents who run a business based in Singapore, and has travelled to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Nepal – all of whom, by the Asia Society’s definition fall culturally in the broader Asia Pacific region, I believe have some understanding of Asia. But until the day I visit Beijing, Shanghai or Guangdong, I guess I will not be considered to have any "Asia experience".

Some Google research results after my rant –

  • See this article on the US definition of Asian American – it has just informed me that while I have the full right to be peeved, I’m peeved for the wrong reasons *grin* because I’m apparently Caucasian and should be demanding full rights as such.
  • Answers.com on the other hand states that the term Asian "supplanted the previously used term oriental". Aha! This has a nice map showing the population densities of Asians in the United States. Yes, I moved to that little red patch on the left to feel "more at home" 🙂
  • A shameless plug.
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One Response to Where are all the Asia Hands?

  1. Perspective says:

    My 2 Rupees on design thinking

    Victor’s recent words inspired me to attempt an answer to his challenge,My challenge to the community is to reframe design thinking / business design in a way that will impact the boardroom. Here’s how I would start framing it… The

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