April 12, 2018
“As a child I would wonder: Am I Asian or am I Caucasian?” Why diversity is so important for me
By: Zoe Yap

When I was young I had a few identity crises. One day in particular sticks out in my mind.

I was about 11 years old in Year 6. A new teacher arrived as a substitute for a few weeks. On his first day he told us that he could speak many different languages. Then he looked directly at me and spoke to me in Mandarin or Cantonese. I had no idea what he was saying and I stared back at him blankly. He quickly realised that I did not understand.

I went home that evening and looked at myself in the mirror and wondered why he picked me. Do I really look that different to my classmates? From that moment on, I would often look at myself in the mirror and wonder how different I looked to my friends. I sometimes even wondered - am I Caucasian or am I Asian?

I was born in New Zealand and am of Asian (Malaysian) background. When I was 5 years old I moved to Australia. My family spoke to me in Chinese when I was very young but growing up in Australia I lost that. I went to primary school in a Melbourne suburb and had friends from all different backgrounds – Italians, Indian, Australian.

As a child, to me we were all just Australians growing up, we were all just people.

Therefore, I honestly felt in myself as a Caucasian person and when people randomly spoke to me in Chinese it was a bit confusing to me. I would even look at my cousins from Malaysia who could speak Chinese and think they looked very Asian. And even though I looked the same as them, I didn’t feel the same.

By the time I got to high school I was more aware that people had different backgrounds and different ethnicities. And that’s when I really began to appreciate diversity.

As I met more and more people I realised the great thing about diversity is that you get to learn about so many different ways people think, or reasons people do certain things. It could be because they come from a different background and this is how they see things or have done things all their lives.

You might even be from the same culture but still think see things in different ways. That whole mentality for me makes things normal. For me normality is when you’re all different.

At Uni I did a Bachelor of Business Information Systems and joined Accenture through the graduate program in the Technology department. Choosing a company that embraces diversity was very important for me.

There are many examples of how they encourage equality here, but a few examples stand out to me and make me feel great.

Firstly, attending our International Women’s Day events has been awesome and so inspiring.

Secondly, there are lots of LGBTI events taking place and it’s so nice to know that we don’t exclude anyone because of who they are. Even though I may not be part of the LGBTI community, receiving those emails and invitations to events is very reassuring for me. And this is the same for all types of diversity - culture, gender, disability, ethnicity. It’s really cool that the company strives to include everyone – and I really believe it’s because those different points of views benefit everyone.

But to be truly inclusive it’s not just about the big general diversity labels such as gender, LGBTI, disability etc – it’s about everyone’s own individual story.

And that bring me to my third example.

Sometimes in the cafeteria having lunch or coffee, I saw this video playing about diversity and inclusion, it's called 'Inclusion Starts With I'. It was of people putting up signs with words and sentences about their lives. For example: “Just because I don’t have a family, I don’t feel I have to work more or people look down on me”. All of these sentences about people’s lives who work at Accenture. It was so nice to see and hear these stories. To know that we’re all different and have different stories. Not just cultures but our lives in general. How we have been brought up, our families, our childhoods, whether we have a mental disability, whether we have a sad story. We’re all human.

It was nice for me to see this. Real people’s concerns about their background and lives and simply not wanting to be judged. Knowing that there is someone else going through the same thing that you went through – that’s really reassuring for me.

And being surrounded by so many different kinds of people makes me feel that I should never be afraid to be myself. And that’s the best part about it. I’m not afraid to be myself.

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