Busting myths and creating more inclusivity for Asian Americans

Oct 7, 2021
Employees prepare for the Dragon Boat Race, another event organized by PEARL. (Image taken in 2019)

October 7, 2021

When Mia Mae Bischoff first learned about the Pacific East Asian Resources in Leadership employee resource group (PEARL ERG) at Boston Scientific, she saw it as an opportunity to belong. “I'm an Asian-American, and even though I was born in the U.S., I still felt like I was different from others," Mia says. "With PEARL, I loved that I was surrounded by people with similar backgrounds and experiences. That's where it started for me.”  

Twelve years later, Mia now serves as the global co-lead for PEARL and enjoys broadening awareness to the uniquely rich cultures that make up East Asia.

“It's showing that we're not in a monolith. That Asians are of diverse origins and that we're not just one,” says Mia.

Programming is central to PEARL’s efforts, and the group hosts dozens of events and initiatives each year – all of which align with the group's mission of promoting cultural awareness, developing employee potential, and supporting business objectives.

The events range from celebrations – such as the Lunar New Year, Asian Heritage Month, Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Travel to Asia series, which occurs monthly and showcases the customs and culture of a specific country – to career panels and programming that raise awareness to the challenges faced by the East Asian community. Due to COVID-19, the events are now virtual, and hundreds of employees participate.

For Joanne Cryer, global lead for PEARL alongside Mia, the group’s ability to offer cross-cultural experiences played an especially important role in addressing the rise of aggression and racism against the Asian community that transpired during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the support and help of Boston Scientific leadership, PEARL reached out to our Asian and non-Asian employees to listen to them," says Joanne. "We wanted to create a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. By opening the door for all employees to join, we helped broaden the perspectives of others. Through continued dialogue, we can provide support and dispel other harmful stereotypes that our Asian colleagues face.”

Stereotypes like the model minority myth, which characterizes Asian Americans as the “good minority” and implies that all Asian Americans are law-abiding citizens who keep their heads down, never complain and are eager to assimilate. But this false narrative is “unfair and untrue,” says Joanne, and is used as a racial wedge between Asians and other groups. 

To shed light on this “silent stereotype,” Mia and Joanne have added a powerful series of events to the PEARL’s robust programming line-up. “We’re starting with awareness, for both allies and Asian employees, because if we continue to ignore how it impacts our colleagues’ development and self-perception, we are only perpetuating the myth,” says Mia. 

Dr. Ian Meredith, global chief medical officer at Boston Scientific, serves as the executive sponsor for PEARL. “Working with PEARL gives me extraordinary insight into others’ experiences,” says Dr. Meredith. “I’ve learned that some feel they may not be good enough, or they may not be ready for a promotion, when they’re no doubt ready, but still, they don’t apply. It’s been a very useful insight and it’s helped shape my approach to the things I do and say among the executive committee.”

For Mia and Joanne, Dr. Meredith’s enthusiasm and involvement has helped shape and improve their ideas, programming and influence within the company.

“Being from Australia, Ian has been immersed in the Pacific culture more than maybe some of us in the United States and he offers a wonderful perspective to those experiences," says Joanne. "At the same time, he recognizes that he is not Asian American and is sensitive to listening and understanding and being supportive in our programming.” 

For Dr. Meredith, PEARL’s real power lies within the employee participants and especially the strong leadership of Mia and Joanne.

“They work tirelessly, with enthusiasm and passion, to make sure the voices, needs and perspectives of our Asian colleagues are heard," says Dr. Meredith. "We have a very caring culture here at Boston Scientific and because of the efforts of people like Mia and Joanne, our ERG program adds to the fabric of the organization in a unique way–it’s something we should applaud.”