ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT | A JOINT RESPONSE TO THE CALL FOR EVIDENCE ON ETHNIC DISPARITIES AND INEQUALITY IN THE UK

A joint response from academics, politicians, professionals, and organisations representing the East and South East Asian (ESEA) communities in the UK.

This response aims to bring attention to the institutional and systemic inequalities facing ESEA people in the UK and is published with the consent of the individuals and organisations credited within. If the information contained within is used in any other publications or for any other purpose, full credit must be given. Download the report here.

The report highlights the disparities, inequalities and racism experienced by the ESEA population in the UK, which is one of the fastest growing minority groups, with the highest percentage of international students (ONS, 2011).

The report also makes several recommendations for government action to improve ESEA representation and tackle the sources of inequality and discrimination, as well as proposing the introduction of an ESEA History and Heritage month to celebrate and raise awareness of ESEA communities in the UK.

It provides evidence on inequalities and discrimination in the following areas:

  • Racial abuse and racial profiling
  • Data collection
  • Representation in the private sector
  • Representation in the public sector, including education, government and police force
  • Pay gaps
  • Educational performance and school bullying
  • Youth opportunities
  • Access to medical care

Asian Leadership Collective supports and stands with the East and South East Asian communities and their right to fair, equitable representation, and access to resources.

We stand with the individuals and organisations who are represented in this joint response: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University College London (UCL), City University of London, Simetrica-Jacobs, End the Virus of Racism, besea.n, ESA Scotland, Kanlungan, Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC).

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON HARMFUL NARRATIVES AND UNCONSCIOUS BIAS: DOMINO’S PIZZA – CONCRETE CLAIRE

Domino’s have been accused of perpetuating harmful narratives against the East and South East Asian community with using the line “Anything but Chinese” in their advert. The Advertising Standards Authority council’s decision “in the context of the ad it was unlikely to cause serious or wide spread offence”.

Domino’s pizza “the number one pizza company in the world and in every neighbourhood” in partnership with their agency VCCP released “Concrete Claire” as part of their “We got this” campaign in November 2020. Since then there has been discussion around the use of the line “Anything but Chinese” on social media and online news outlets.

The East and South East Asian (ESEA) community voiced their concerns over the damaging narrative and triggering nature of the standalone phrase.

“This line was completely unnecessary. East Asians & their businesses have been unfairly impacted bc of growing Covid-related racism; this only perpetuates the false narrative that chinese food is inherently dirty or discusting”
– @jiawongwrites

“To perpetuate and imply that we should avoid Chinese (and thereby ESEA businesses) given the current climate […] affected by Covid fuelled racism is IRRESPONSIBLE AND RACIST”
– @itsvivyau

Some have suggested that if other communities had been targeted, the public reaction would been different.

“Imagine if these actors had said “anything BUT Indian”. There’d be an uproar like no other.”
– @jinganyoung

Many wrote to The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising to file a complaint. The council noted “that the phrase “Anything but Chinese” was used in a response to a question about what food the group wanted to order. […] while some viewers may find the phrase distasteful, in the context of the ad it was unlikely to cause serious or wide spread offence”.

Since the online discussions, Domino’s have issued an apology via news outlet Resonate.

The advert Concrete Claire is only the latest example of companies and organisations who have used harmful language and negative perceptions of the ESEA community. Read our statement on The Mahjong Line here. These incidents comes at a time where the ESEA community have been dealing with increased sinophobia and hate crime due to the pandemic.

Asian Leadership Collective are disappointed with the decision of the ASA council, the response lacks empathy or knowledge of the wider implications of the advert towards the ESEA community as mentioned in this statement. Whilst the jury is interested in “representing the perspectives of a wide cross section of society, including young people, families, charities and consumer groups.”, perhaps the ASA could consult with organisations who work within the communities who are being directly impacted.

This is inline with the initiative “UK Advertising Needs you Hub”, which addresses diversity and inclusion issues within the advertising industry, created by the Advertising Association, ISBA, and the IPA.

Whether intentionally or otherwise the advertising industry, like many others, has not naturally shaped itself to be highly diverse and inclusive. […] together with external organisations can begin to show a template for the changes you might want to make. […] Looking critically at our ways of working, processes, culture and actions to understand the points at which diversity is squeezed out of the system.”

-Jerry Daykin. Senior Media Director at GSK, Advertising Association’s Inclusion Action Group member and WFA Diversity Task Force board member

Asian Leadership Collective support and stand with the East and South East Asian communities across the globe on matters of harmful narratives and unconscious bias towards this community. We stand with End the Virus of Racism and BEATS in their statements.

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


ASIAN LEADERSHIP COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ON CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: THE MAHJONG LINE

The Majong Line accused of East and South East Asian cultural appropriation as their product line aims to “refresh” a traditional East Asian game. Online uproar saw the company disable all interaction on their Instagram page and removing content from their social media and website.

The Mahjong Line company launched in November 2020 with their product line of Mahjong sets. Since the new year, there has been a flurry of activity and discussion surrounding the Mahjong Line’s marketing, branding, and strategic approach to their “shared love for the game of American Mahjong, which carries a rich history here in the United States.”

Across social media, the East and South East Asian (ESEA) communities across the globe have voiced their concerns over cultural appropriation and erasure by the company stated by 3 women whom are not of ESEA heritage or ethnicity.

“Straight up disrespectful and profiting of a culture they are not even pretending to pay any homage to”
– @studioatao

“It is incredibly offensive, selfish, entitled and appalling that the traditional tiles weren’t enough for these women, so they took it upon themselves to decide that it needed to be changed to appeal to people like themselves”
– @alyssahowritings

Some of the ESEA community have offered to provide their consultation and guidance on how to navigate the situation

“It’s 2021 ladies. Keep up with the times […] If you’d like advice on how to respond publicly, reply to inquire about my consulting rates and availability. With growing pushback on social media, I implore you all respond publicly sooner rather than later”
– @beyonkz

Since the online activity from the ESEA community, The Mahjong Line have disabled all comments and tagging on their Instagram page of 3000+ follows. The company and companies associated to The Mahjong Line have issued their own statements. It is not clear what the next actions or steps are of the company at this point.

This incident comes at a time where the ESEA community have been dealing with increased sinophobia and hate crime due to the pandemic.

Asian Leadership Collective support and stand with the East and South East Asian communities across the globe on matters of damaging unconscious bias narratives and cultural appropriation.

Asian Leadership Collective strives to increase and amplify leadership representation of East and South East Asian communities within companies and organisations across professional sectors in the UK. This includes those of mixed East and South East Asian (ESEA) heritage. We support and encourage allies in their journey for inclusivity and equality; providing a safe space for learning and engaging with the ESEA community. Asian Leadership Collective is a registered Community Interest Company and member of Social Enterprise UK, our focus is to provide resources and give back to community in the UK. Visit our website and social media for more information.

Press contact: Anna Chan

Email Address: annachan@asianleadership.co.uk


Representation in Leadership – Why what you see matters.

One of the most talked about points you’ll often hear about today is the power of representation. Whether that be from what you read in the news, watch on TV, or stumble upon scrolling on your Instagram feed – it defines the approach in government and policies, the businesses we are able to buy from, to the companies we work in. It’s arguably one of the most important notions that defines our society, having a hand in how we view and treat each other – both positively and negatively. 

And this matters even more for those who are in senior or executive leadership positions.

So what does representation really mean? And why is it important for businesses and leadership?


Representation Matters

“If businesses are already lacking in racially diverse leader and diverse role models (which most are) it can be even more difficult for [underrepresented etheric minority] employees to progress in their careers”

CIPD, 2017. Report: Addressing the barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top

The above quote reinforces the idea that representation is essential to enable our communities to have a fair reflection of the society that we all exist in and contribute towards. Having the opinions, voices, and, physical appearance of the communities which embody the values we believe is paramount to personal and societal development. This is the idea of having a mix of opinions, experiences, and voices that exist in one space can both help to define and celebrate different identities but also adding to acceptance and progress as a whole. 

Representation shapes perceptions and is a powerful tool which can have positive and negative outcomes. This is why it is crucial to have diversity and a wide range of perspectives; ensuring that all stories are told from those who have experienced them.

East and South East Asian Leadership: we have a representation problem

Fair and representative East and South East Asian (ESEA) leadership representation in large UK businesses is virtually none existent. The lack of focused data and research on ESEA communities, the lumping together of minority groups into BAME categories all contributes in creating a skewed snapshot of how our society and businesses are made up. A most recent example is that Black and BAME Ethnic Groups are part of the diversity and inclusion initiatives for Standard Chartered Bank: with 12.7% BAME current senior leadership compared to the 1.3% of Black senior leadership, with 2025 targets of 20% and 5% respectively. The BAME category has a danger of misrepresenting and consolidating the diversity of the East and South East Asian community, and it’s need to be represented as a standalone group.

The true and definitive figures are difficult to obtain for the ESEA community, however industry reports can act as guidance and highlight where we can do better.

Although the FTSE 100 seems to fairing better on ethnic representation at Board level, the FSTE 250 and 350 have some work to do.

“150 [out of] 256 companies out of companies (59%) did not meet the target of having at least one director of colour on their Boards, with less ethnic diversity observed on the Boards of FTSE 250 companies.”

“FTSE 100 31 of 83 companies (37%) did not meet the target”
“FTSE 250 119 of 173 companies (69%) did not meet the target”

The Parker Review, 2020. Report: Ethnic Diversity Enriching Business Leadership. An update report from The Parker Review

So what do you do when you don’t “see” the representation you want to be? 

Representing yourself

You can step into that leadership role; at work, on social media, voting with your voice and opinion. You don’t need to already be in a leadership role to begin your journey in leading. Allies of the ESEA community and those who champion diversity and inclusion, you can engage with and encourage those in your circles to be part of the conversation. 

There is never a “right time” or “right moment” and you may be asking yourself “Am I ready for this?”. But it’s simple. Leadership is about taking action, with an open mindset. It’s about upholding the values you stand for and going on a journey with the ability to keep learning and adapting.


Asian Leadership Collective (ALC) is here to empower that leadership journey and increase the visibility of the next generation of ESEA leaders in the UK. No matter your industry, craft, or background, ALC champions authentic leadership and provides a space for collaboration, learning, and celebration of our communities achievements. 

Be part of the UK ESEA leadership movement.

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