“Celebrating colleagues’ diverse backgrounds and experiences is part of the job,” says Alyssa Vu. “Uplifting their stories and perspectives allows the SFPUC to be a more inclusive workplace.”
Vu is a Senior People Science & Strategy Analyst in the SFPUC’s Human Resource Services department. Vu’s role leverages her background in data and research to support talent management, workforce analytics, employee engagement, and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives. Her responsibilities also address whether employees are compensated equitably, if there are certain groups of people that leave the organization at a higher rate, and if the SFPUC is creating an inclusive workplace culture. Vu presents these findings to SFPUC leaders to enable them to make data-driven decisions, instead of relying on their intuition, which can be biased.
“We need to make sure that all groups, including women and BIPOC employees, are treated fairly, have access to the same opportunities, and get the support they need to succeed,” she explains. “With different backgrounds and perspectives comes creativity, innovation, and challenging the status quo.”
Vu stresses how this is especially important in her field of strategic workforce planning, where the goal is to think beyond the industry as it is today and plan for how it might change in the future. “If we only hear from one perspective, that’s how we become stagnant and end up getting left behind. Bringing diverse voices to the table is how we generate new ideas, become open to change, and ultimately become a more agile organization.”
In reflection of Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month, Vu shares it is an opportunity to learn about other cultures, experiences, contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). “AAPI a very broad term. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders span a wide range of ethnic groups and come from many different countries,” she explains. “The Asian and Pacific Islander communities are very diverse, and each group has its own distinct and rich history, language, food, and more.” She notes there are many different ways for individuals to celebrate APA Heritage Month, whether it is supporting a local Asian-owned business, trying out a new cuisine, or watching Asian-led or created movies.
Vu says it is equally important to lift up the APA community for its accomplishments and fight against anti-Asian discrimination. “Speak out if you see or hear anti-Asian sentiments or discrimination. Reflect on your own relationships and experiences, especially with coworkers,” she shares, stressing that change starts with self reflection and confronting biases as subtle behaviors may make others feel like they do not belong. This includes recognizing how stereotypes, such as the model minority myth, are not only untrue, but harmful.
Vu notes that up until recently, the media has failed to cover anti-Asian discrimination and violence. She explains the perceptions of Asian Americans being mild-mannered, rich, and successful hides the reality of many Asian communities living in poverty with poor health outcomes, as well as downplays the discrimination they face everyday. “The perceived collective success of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is often contrasted with the equally stereotypical image of struggling Black Americans. Both stereotypes pit people of color and marginalized communities against each other, and no one wins,” she shares. “Instead, we need to be working together to make sure systems are fair and that everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, has the same opportunities.”
Vu encourages everyone to celebrate their differences and take APA Heritage Month as an opportunity to learn and grow from each other. “By celebrating different cultures, we can make sure that everyone feels safe to live authentically,” she shares.