Asian Pacific Heritage Month


Growing Representation And Leadership Through Collaboration

-- By Ingrid Johnson

For 2022, the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the premier organization representing Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) employees in the Federal and District of Columbia governments, has selected “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration" as their theme for Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This is a continuation of the theme from 2021. The 2022 focus is on FAPAC’s efforts to advance leaders at the Federal level and within the DC government.

This focus is vital to the AANHPI community, as they are one of the least represented demographics at the Federal level. This is true both in politics and general governance. Politico notes that AANHPI community members are the least likely to hold elected office at the federal level. In federal governance, which includes agencies, bureaus, and departments, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) notes that only some six percent of federal employees are of Asian descent. Of that six percent, just 3.4 serve in the Senior Executive Service, the nation’s top level of governmental leadership.

However, when one looks further down from the federal level, AANHPI representation in local governments has been rapidly growing over the last few years. According to reports from the Reflective Democracy Campaign, in the last two years AANHPI have made major strides in elections at the city level. This includes gaining positions in city governments outside of regions traditionally thought of as “Asian strongholds” along the West Coast. Some notable wins have included Michelle Wu becoming Mayor of Boston, and Aftab Pureval becoming Mayor of Cincinnati.

Many of these newcomers have been motivated by the rise in violence and discrimination against AANHPI community members during the pandemic years. Realizing that without participating in politics or governance agencies their voices would not be heard, these individuals have been stepping forward to try and make a difference in how AANHPI members are viewed and treated.

Many of these newcomers have been motivated by the rise in violence and discrimination against AANHPI community members during the pandemic years. Realizing that without participating in politics or governance agencies their voices would not be heard, these individuals have been stepping forward to try and make a difference in how AANHPI members are viewed and treated.

It is in this space that FAPAC’s efforts at building channels of collaboration become incredibly valuable. Many AANHPI candidates are younger and more likely to be first-time participants in elections or governmental agency hiring processes. As a result, without a partner or advocate, it can feel like pushing a boulder uphill to navigate the process and successfully compete on equal footing.

One of the methods FAPAC uses to create these bonds and give practical training to interested community members is through its National Leadership Training Program (NLTP). 2022 marks the 37th year of the NLTP, a four-day live training event that aligns with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requirements as an appropriate training for the Federal workforce in accordance with 5 U.S.C. Chapter 41 and 5 CFR 410.404. As a result of attending, participants can gain insights into professional development opportunities and participate in career fairs and network building sessions.

The event is also a time when FAPAC recognizes key leaders in the AANHPI community already in governance. This allows participants to see who is already breaking down barriers and creates the opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. Each new link is a chance to expand opportunities and move past gatekeepers at every level.

Of course, not everyone will be able to attend the live event. Thus, as a part of Heritage Month and beyond, FAPAC makes a variety of training materials available virtually and also hosts dedicated career and networking events. Through these efforts and others, FAPAC hopes to continue to support the entire AANHPI community as it expands its presence in America’s highest levels of office and in critical governmental agencies. By collaborating from the city level on up through the highest positions, a strong talent pool can be created to ensure more quality representation of the community in government moving forward.