Was this page helpful?

Priorities and Initiatives

On May 13, 2019, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13872 to help advance the economic empowerment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This EO established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation, as well as the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (“the Commission”). The Commission is charged with advising the President, through the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation, “on how to broaden access by AAPI employers and communities to economic resources and opportunities”. In response to address the nine areas listed in the EO, the Commission established four subcommittees to help advance its mission: Passing the Torch, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, AAPI Women in Leadership, Bridging the Income Gap.

COVID-19 justifiably dominated the world’s attention in 2020 and created new economic challenges for the United States and the rest of the world. Against this unprecedented backdrop, the Commission made it a priority to focus on the immediate economic recovery needs of the AAPI business community as well as the health and mental health impacts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Commissioners formed an ad hoc subcommittee focused solely on the Impact of COVID-19 on the AAPI Business Community and co-hosted several Town Hall and Roundtable events to share information about accessing federal disaster relief funds and other resources available to small businesses as well as to provide the public with the opportunity to share their concerns with the Commission. The Commission and WHIAAPI have commended the community’s ability to leverage business and personal connections around the world to help source personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources for U.S. hospitals, frontline workers, and vulnerable communities.

Despite pivoting to focus on the immediate concerns and needs of the AAPI community as it relates to the extraordinary challenges of 2020, the Commission simultaneously continued its broader, pre-pandemic focus on advancing AAPI economic empowerment and addressing how the federal government can better support the AAPI community.

Passing the Torch: This subcommittee sought to encourage members in the AAPI community, who have succeeded themselves, to mentor the next generation. Mentorship is such an important part of upward mobility in this country; it opens doors and access to opportunities in mainstream America. This subcommittee has also looked at ways to develop, foster, and encourage growth in professional and entrepreneurial skills and knowledge for the ever-changing global economy; transfer experience and expertise to the next generation of leaders; and prepare AAPI youth for the workforce.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: This subcommittee focused on ensuring increased AAPI representation in leadership and management roles, in both private and public sectors. Studies have shown that although AAPIs may be well represented in the workplace in several sectors, including the government, they continue to lack representation in leadership roles and senior executive positions. More AAPI future leaders need to be mentored and promoted for these leadership opportunities.

Bridging the Income Gap: Access to the right resources, information, and education remains critical to economic success. This subcommittee affirmed the basic principle that access to higher education must respect merit, and not diminish those who have sacrificed and invested in themselves and achieved academic excellence. Federal resources and opportunities, such as mentorship programs, loan assistance, and disaster relief funds, should be identifiable and accessible to the AAPI community to ensure that they have the skills and resources to compete. Prior to COVID-19, AAPIs as a whole experienced lower unemployment rates and higher household income levels than other minority groups. But when data are disaggregated by ethnic groups and education attainment, the disparities are significant.

AAPI Women in Leadership: Simply put, we need more AAPI women in leadership. AAPI women fare even worse than AAPI men when it comes to representation in leadership roles across different sectors. This subcommittee focused on developing the careers of AAPI women; supporting AAPI women in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); increasing the proportion of minority- and women-owned patent-holders; empowering AAPI women entrepreneurs; and promoting mentorship and recruitment of more AAPI women in leadership roles across all sectors.