For many of us on the founding team of SALUTE, we’ve been privileged enough to pave our own paths in our respective fields. Many times, we were the first South Asian woman to join our companies, and more often than not, we were the first in a leadership position. This month, our country elected its first South Asian and Black woman as Vice President, so it seems as though South Asian women have come a long way. On one hand, we can say yes, but on the other, we have to ask why we haven’t come further or faster? The truth is the collective journey of South Asian women is just starting.
What started as an idea five years ago, slowly led to the creation of South Asian Ladies Unite to Empower (SALUTE). Between Neha Singh, Era Ray, Jasleen Singh, Dheerja Kaur, and Shubneet Malhi, we’ve finally made SALUTE a reality. In case you missed it, it’s taken us five years to get to this day. Here’s why:
- We are all working on our careers and to be honest, it kept coming second
- We didn’t want to fall into the trap of being just a social group
- We wanted SALUTE to not just be another group on your LinkedIn list
- And most importantly, we wanted to get it right (but that takes time and we’ll constantly be evolving)
To date, many of the South Asian centric professional networks have been focused more on social activities or non-profit causes with few to none focused on women. In some cases, age plays a role where there isn’t space for more seasoned professionals, while in others, it feels like everyone is trying to speak over each other in forums. While each organization is right in its own way, we wanted to push in a different direction with SALUTE.
Let’s start with some facts about South Asians in the professional world.
- Asian Americans make up 12% of the professional workforce even though we only make up 5.6% of the U.S. population.
- Despite such high numbers, we’re the least likely group to be promoted into management — less than any other race, including blacks and Latinos.
- In 2017, a study by the Asia Society revealed that more than one in four U.S. corporations had no Asian or Asian American representation at all.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at Asian American women. According to a study by Ascend Leadership, the representation of Asian American women in leadership roles is the worst in comparison to White, Black, and Latina women. If we double click and categorize Asian Americans into Indian, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, Filipino, the representation will get less and less.
After my “Top 20 South Asian Women Leading in Tech” piece went live, I had the amazing opportunity to connect with six of the women. Our discussions validated two things: South Asian women should be a norm, not a token in leadership, and our identity can be integrated into our professional lives without it being the sole focus.
After many months of gathering feedback, dealing with COVID, and prepping, we’re proud to announce the official launch of SALUTE | South Asian Ladies Unite to Empower, a curated, impactful community of South Asian female professionals focused on innovation, unity, and progress.
You might be wondering, why curated? While we would love to be an organization for every South Asian woman out there, we know that we can’t be the organization that every woman needs. Our focus is on rising leaders who are building the present and shaping the future of their industries. We’re focused on making meaningful professional connections, which means we have to be mindful of how we foster trust, respect, and leadership.
Who should apply to be a member of SALUTE? To be accepted as a SALUTE member, we’ll be looking at your leadership trajectory and how you’re developing your professional footprint. It’s not just about your title or age, but rather the impact you’re having within your professional field.
What do you mean by female or woman? We are not here to put anyone into a box or exclude anyone, so we’ll keep it simple: if you identify as a female or a woman, then SALUTE is right for you.
While we start and grow SALUTE, please know that we anticipate making mistakes along the way, but our aim is to tackle each challenge with the support of our community. We’re always open to feedback and we hope you’ll consider applying to be a member. A special thank you to our moms (the original OGs), Shelly Kapoor Collins, Minal Mehta, Sharmi Albrechtsen, Sabena Suri, and Shaherose Charania, for connecting and supporting this initiative!