13:53 PM

Nationwide employees encouraged to become stronger allies during AAPI heritage month

Like many of us with aging parents, Anna Mok worries about her dad. At 88 years old, he just stopped driving and still prefers to get his daily newspaper from the corner store.

“I worry about him every day,” says Mok, who is the president and CEO of Ascend, the largest non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America. “He’s a prisoner in his own home right now, and it’s very distressing to me. A random act of violence could come at him when he’s just trying to get his newspaper.”

While the pandemic has been hard for everyone, it has claimed disproportionate numbers of lives in communities of color and has given rise to a surge of anti-Asian sentiment.

From March 2020 through February 2021, the group Stop AAPI Hate logged nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian aggression, with most them occurring against the elderly, women and children.

“I sometimes use the term “accidental activist” because I never saw myself as an activist,” Mok told Nationwide’s employees during a fire side chat this month as part of its monthlong celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. “It has become clear, especially since the pandemic that more voices from those of us that are sitting in companies is important for us to really drive change.”

That’s why Ascend, along with its partners, have come together to address the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through a Five-Point Action Agenda.

This plan, supported by Nationwide and a growing list of companies, not only addresses the adverse impacts of the pandemic, but seeks to create meaningful change in our workplaces and in society.

“It was an easy decision to support Ascend’s Five-Point Agenda,” says Angela Bretz, chief diversity officer. “Promoting inclusion, raising awareness, denouncing bias, supporting communities and giving both time and money are actions Nationwide are engaged in today and has been for many years. We strive to create a culture in our workplaces where everyone feels a sense of belonging, empowerment and respect.”

In support of the AAPI community, Nationwide has encouraged its employees to learn how to become stronger allies. What to do if you witness street harassment and how to teach inclusion and tolerance from home are some of the resources Bretz’s team has made available to all employees. An employee-led panel also hosted a discussion on cultural awareness and other tips for broadening your personal network and finding ways to get involved.

“We’ve encouraged our associates to think about their role as allies and look for ways — big and small — to do their part,” Bretz says. “By working together, we can create sustainable changes for all.”