FAN Forms at NIH, Marks Year One
On a March afternoon in 2021, Caroline Goon, a principal strategist in NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), received a call from Jimmy Do, chief of the Financial Management Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Do and Goon, who oversees NIH’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AA & NHPI) employment portfolio, were concerned about the uptick in reports of anti-Asian violence. They discussed how to support their AA & NHPI colleagues during this stressful time and what role NIH should play.
Less than a month later, as a result of the conversation, the NIH Federation of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Network (FAN) formed—the first time at NIH that all known AA & NHPI employee resource groups (ERGs) came together under one umbrella coalition. Leaders from these ERGs met to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Co-led by Goon and Dr. T. Jake Liang, NIH distinguished investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, FAN currently has more than 80 members from 21 institutes and centers and 10 ERGs across NIH.
FAN’s mission is to cultivate an inclusive workplace at NIH where AA & NHPIs feel seen, heard, valued and have equal opportunities to thrive.
One of FAN’s recent accomplishments was publishing a research paper examining the AA & NHPI leadership gap and exclusionary environment in the federal workforce. The study, published Sept. 29 in Frontiers, is the first peer-reviewed paper written by an NIH-wide coalition representative of the NIH workforce.
A collaboration between EDI and members of FAN, the paper was co-authored by Goon and Tamara Bruce, both of EDI; Janetta Lun, Center for Scientific Review; Gabriel Lai, National Cancer Institute; Serena Chu, National Institute on Mental Health; and Phuong-Tu Le, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
The paper shows that AA & NHPIs are clearly underrepresented in senior leadership. In FY2021, AA & NHPIs made up nearly 20% of the NIH permanent employee workforce but only about 6% of senior leadership positions. This disparity may be due to potential hidden biases in the leadership selection process. Furthermore, differences in cultural expectations and characteristics of leadership may prevent AA & NHPIs from pursuing leadership advances.
The study also described the exclusion and invisibility AA & NHPIs often face in their work environment, which may stem from AA & NHPI stereotypes, such as being an outsider and a model minority.
Many employees also recount experiences of ignorant, racist comments. These testimonials, such as the one below, were published in a campaign video on the NIH EDI website during AA & NHPI Heritage Month.
“Based on my name (which is Japanese), people who call me at work assume that I cannot speak English very well. When I answer the phone with my strong American accent, some people hang up after saying that they mistakenly called the wrong number.”—Facing Discrimination: Voices from the AA and NHPI Community, NIH EDI Office
As FAN celebrated its one-year anniversary in 2022, the coalition continues to work to advocate and uplift the AA & NHPI community through its NIH-wide outreach and partnerships.
To learn more about FAN, contact Goon at firstname.lastname@example.org.