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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

March 21, 2007

Written by C.N.

America’s Top Asian American Women CEO

I’m assuming that not too many of you have heard of Andrea Jung. No, she’s not some up-and-coming actress or singer. Rather, she occupies a much more potentially powerful position as the only Asian American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, in this case Avon Cosmetics. As BusinessWeek magazine reports, she and her company have had some ups and downs lately but seem to be back on the upswing:

At the height of Jung’s problems, in December, 2005, management guru Ram Charan gave her a piece of pivotal advice. He advised Jung to go home that Friday night and imagine she had been fired. Then, he said, return Monday morning with the mindset of someone brought in from the outside. “If you can be that objective and blend in your institutional knowledge and relationships, you’re going to have an advantage,” he told her. . . .

Jung’s No. 1 role continues to be communicating the company’s new strategy. In the weeks leading up to and just after the February analysts’ gathering, Jung visited Bangkok, Hong Kong, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Warsaw. All that travel comes at a sacrifice. Jung has a daughter who will graduate from high school this spring and a son who is 9.

She says she has completely re- prioritized her life in the past two years, skipping business dinners and formal evening affairs in order to be sure she sees them when she’s in New York. But she also tells her children that she loves the company and the work, even if it has been grueling in recent months. “I think it’s important they know that,” she says. “Otherwise why would you do this?”

To be honest, I really don’t know anything personally about her and how important she considers her identity as a woman and/or as an Asian American. Nonetheless, but I think it’s important to know that there are examples of Asian American success in the corporate world out there, especially in her case as not just Asian American, but also as a woman. As such, whether she thinks about it or not, she potentially wields a lot of power and influence over not just people in her industry but Asian Americans — particular women — who see her as a role model.

I hope she does recognize her status and position in this regard and can serve as a positive force to create more opportunities for Asian Americans to follow her path and break through the glass ceiling into the ranks of corporate executives.