Since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 339% nationwide with New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles surpassing their record numbers. Additionally, according to the Stop AAPI Hate center that tracks reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans, they received over 6,600 firsthand complaints since March of 2021. As members of the Asian American community, Linh Phan and Alyssa Corso recognized this crisis and need for leadership and support within their community and more specifically, their Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) team members. These two women quickly raised their hands and founded Calendly’s first ever AAPI Belonging Group.
Last year, Linh Phan was working at Bumble Inc. during the height of the #StopAsianHate protests in 2021 and noticed a lot of her AAPI colleagues were anxious and withdrawn at the workplace when she’d actively check-in on them. Those were feelings she was all too familiar with as a first-generation Vietnamese-Chinese American. Phan was born and raised in Houston, Texas to parents who emigrated from Vietnam during a war that occured between 1955-1975. Growing up in Houston, she often found herself in many situations that told her that she and her culture were not good enough or welcome that came in the form of disapproving looks, disgusted faces at the smell of her favorite traditional meal, to witnessing one of her mother’s nail salons burndown. While at Bumble Inc. Phan founded their AAPI employee resource group that was created to provide a safe space for Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern & Desi American diaspora. As the founder, she served as the voice of their community and found the experience to be fulfilling and rewarding.
Alyssa Corso, is a Portland-based Chinese-American, raised in Chicago, Illinois. While she was blessed enough to be surrounded predominantly by people who accepted and embraced her culture, Corse never turned a blind eye to what some of her AAPI peers were going through and yearned to make a difference. While attending college, Corso spent time volunteering at a Vietnamese non-profit before diving fully into the hospitality industry for five years.
Once she started at Calendly in September of 2021, Corso knew she wanted to be part of creating a safe, inclusive space where AAPI members could be one hundred percent themselves, talk freely about potential issues they were facing personally or professionally, and feel seen and heard at all times. She approached Phan about the initiative and within a short period of time, the AAPI belonging group at Calendly was born!
“Part of AAPI group’s mission is to create a welcoming and inclusive support-system within Calendly that allows for all employees that identify or find shared values with Asian, Pacific Islander & Middle Eastern Americans cultures to receive the support and encouragement they need to show up to work without feeling like they have to leave their culture outside work hours.” - Alyssa Corso
Typically Calendly’s AAPI belonging group connects once a month. Each meeting features breakouts with icebreaker activities for the first ten minutes to connect with team members. After everyone is familiar with new faces, the entire group comes back together to discuss topics such as what’s in the news, the effects of the model minority myth, healing in a virtual-first world and pressure associated with breaking the bamboo ceiling. There’s also time set aside to strategize on how this group can move Calendly forward in it’s DEI journey and support the AAPI community and other underrepresented groups. For the founders, it was never about leadership but rather service in being vessels that brought healing. It was about Starting With Human. Topics for meeting discussions are based on team member feedback, bringing light to what team members want to discuss. All team members are welcome to share, listen and or learn how to be effective advocates.
“Our meetings are fun! We do a ton of ice breakers, we kick every meeting off by making it clear that all of our members should be chiming in by choice and should share only if they want to. The group is for whatever the individual seeks to get from it, from making new friends to sharing local cultural events to learning how one can be more of an ally to the group.” - Linh Phan
Phan and Corso have big plans for this group. Pending initiatives include workshops, virtual events and company-wide training sessions on promoting bystander intervention, confidence in self-advocacy at the workplace and unlearning implicit bias related to AAPI groups.
In the short term, Calendly is recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, where team members will celebrate and learn about Eastern culture and history by sharing cultural resources, providing historical insights and hosting virtual events.