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Introducing Coursera’s Asian Identities Employee Resource Group

By Crystal Chen, Product Marketing Lead, Coursera for Business

On 12-22-2020, a group of employees at Coursera established the Asian Identities Employee Resource Group. In just the first few months of its launch, we have been able to serve Coursera and create a stronger sense of community, inclusion and belonging. We were able to host our company’s first-ever virtual Lunar New Year celebration. We created Brave Space forums for employees to process the rise in anti-Asian hate and the tragic impact of COVID-19 surges in Asian regions. And we’ve staged countless events to showcase the many cultures, traditions and stories of the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora. 

The journey toward establishing this group started in January 2020—back when we were all still in the office. It was a Thursday evening, and we were screening the movie “Always Be My Maybe.” One of our longest-tenured senior engineers, Jon Wong, was sitting next to our CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda, in the front row of the screening room. Jon was chowing down on snacks and Jeff peered over and asked what it was he was eating. And that was when our CEO had Strawberry Pocky for the first time in his life. 

I love that moment, as I love all the other cultural celebrations we’ve had at Coursera. From Diwali to Mid-Autumn Festival to dumpling-making nights and movie nights, there are so many ways that we celebrate our Asian heritage with the people who mean so much to us. 

Last year, we opened 2020 with the first-ever official Coursera-sponsored Lunar New Year. It was a huge cross-functional effort and it was buzzing— there were 30 volunteers on the planning committee alone! There were events for a whole week, and decorations, and for those of us who couldn’t “go home” that year, a little sense of home.

The success of the event led us to wonder—besides throwing great parties—what else could we tackle together? 

What would it look like if we could balance cultural values with professional success? What if we could overcome the “model minority” and “worker bee” stereotypes? Could we drive broader awareness of underserved markets in Asia Pacific—and help Coursera build a truly global operating mentality? 

And what if we could be better allies to other groups at Coursera? 

During the police brutality tragedies of May and June 2020, my heart ached. I felt useless and clumsy, with zero clue how to help my Black friends and colleagues. Around that time we sent out an internal survey at Coursera about race dialogue at work, and many Asian respondents said they didn’t know how to think or talk about race. Many people also said they were only comfortable talking about race and equity with members of their own group. That moment was a wake up call for me. My feeling alone and useless wasn’t going to help anyone. Maybe if we could have a place to learn from each other how to talk about the tricky and hard things like race, diversity, inclusion, and equity, we could not just become better Courserians, but better allies, and better friends. 

That’s why I’m so proud and happy to share that the Asian Identities ERG now exists. 

The AI ERG exists to contribute to Coursera’s strength in diversity. 

To keep Asian and Pacific Islander people at Coursera; 

To teach us how to be better allies to our friends—

And how to advocate for ourselves;

To share with everyone the rich and varied cultures of which we are so proud,

And also,  

To bring Coursera to all corners of the earth

To reach learners with the good stuff 

That is going to change their lives. 

Building from those who came before us 

and to whom we owe our abilities—

we are here to begin again, every day, as our best selves.

Crystal Chen, on behalf of the AI ERG 

Cheri Kau (Chair) & Doug Kim (Co-Chair) & Richard Wong (Executive Sponsor)

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