APASA and Women LEAD Present: Leadership Panel

On Thursday, April 17, APASA and Women LEAD hosted a panel featuring four successful Asian American women from Houston. Although all extraordinary and charismatic leaders, the women represented a wide range of fields, experiences, and career paths. We were honored to have these inspiring women come speak at our event:

– Donna Fujimoto Cole, Founder & CEO of Cole Chemical
– Lily Jang, KHOU 11 News This Morning anchor
– Anne Sung, Chief Strategy Officer at Project GRAD, Co-Founder of Community Voices for Public Education
– Pranika Sinha, Manager of Employee and Organization Development at Occidental Petroleum (Oxy, Inc.)

Panelists (from left): Donna Cole, Lily Jang, Anne Sung, and Pranika Sinha

The panel began with each woman talking about her career path, then transitioned to questions from the moderator, Nicole (APASA Chair), and questions from the audience. A variety of topics were covered, ranging from obstacles each woman faced to how they balanced their personal lives with their careers. A lot of great advice was offered; for example, Lily Jang encouraged the audience to listen to their “inner voice” – she had encountered poor grades at the beginning of college, as well as doubt and discouragement from her professors throughout the rest of college, but something inside told her that she needed to be a journalist, so she continued pursuing that path and is now a successful, Emmy-nominated journalist.

Lily Jang tells her life story.

The APASA board members shared their takeaways from the panel:

Margaret: For me, it was interesting how the four women had such life stories and ambitions, yet had managed to achieve so much. As someone who was raised by traditional Asian parents, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that it was possible to be fulfilled by a career path other than the stereotypical path of K-12, elite undergraduate school, graduate school, stable and well-paying job, family, then retirement and travel. However, after seeing how each woman deviated from this path in her own way to suit her needs, I began to understand a little better. Although they were in different places in their lives and pursued different things, there was one important thing that all the women had in common: they were passionate about what they were doing. This passion allowed them to persevere and maintain spirit through all the obstacles and the opposition and was a large contributor to their success.

Nicole: I was struck by how brave and tenacious these women were in how much they personalized their lives to meet their unique desires, skills, needs, and ambitions — from career changes to “work-life balance,” or as one of our panelists, Pranika Sinha, called it, “blending” because one’s work and personal life will always be in flux with one another. One must constantly prioritize different aspects of life at different times — and this is okay.

Eileen: I was truly amazed by the panelists’ ambition, compassion, and most importantly, respect and care for other individuals. They all worked their way through obstacles including facing racial and gender prejudice and now have achieved tremendous success in their fields. This success, however, did not distant them, but rather brought them closer to those in need. The panelists’ desire to give back to society was contagious and definitely inspired me to be someone who can leave a big impact in the community.

Bo: As a Houstonian, I was really interested to hear how each of the panelists talked about the city’s growth and the unique opportunities that this city was able to provide. Most of the panelists had some tie to Houston growing up, and a number of them ended up moving here even after living in cities like Boston or Chicago. I think the varied opportunities that Houston was able to provide to these panelists really speaks to the growing diversity of Houston and its status as a world city. Sometimes for us Rice students it’s easy to forget just how great of a city Houston is, so it was a nice reminder to hear about all of the different industries and career paths that are available to those of us fortunate enough to live or work here.

We hope that everyone who attended the panel was also able to take something away from the event, whether it be a new outlook, a pearl of wisdom, inspiration, or simply an increased morale.

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