Podcast host Sheena Yap Chan shares what people get wrong with Asian women

  • Sheena Yap Chan is an author and podcast host who helps Asian women boost their confidence.
  • Yap Chan believes that Asian women are stereotyped as “submissive” and “obedient”.
  • She shares three steps Asian women should take to break these stereotypes.

As I said, this essay is based on a conversation with 41-year-old Sheena Yap Chan, a Toronto-based author and podcast host. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in the Philippines before moving to Toronto, Canada when I was seven years old. I experienced a major culture shock from living in a new country. To blend in, I remember dying my hair blonde and even thinking about changing my name to “Heather.”

It has taken me decades to accept my identity as a Western Asian woman. To do this, I’ve started dying my hair back to its natural color. I made it my mission to fully learn about my culture and create a community of Asian women who could take care of each other.

Now, 34 years later, I’m on a mission to help Asian women find the courage to embrace our identity.

I am the author and host of The Tao of Confidence podcast, where I interview Asian women as they share how they work to overcome stereotypes and gain the confidence to break them. I spoke to more than 700 Asian women on my podcast.

My first book, Women Who Boss Up, profiles over a dozen Asian women who are excelling in industries like STEM and finance despite the many challenges they have faced.

I started the podcast as a support system because I saw how hard it can be when you’re being treated as quiet, submissive, obedient, and a sex object. These stereotypes are not fair. They harm Asian women even beyond their personal lives – these misunderstandings also affect us in the office.

In 2021, women made up 54.3% of the US workforce, but only 35% held senior management positions. And of that percentage, only 2.7% of Asian women took on managerial positions.

In my upcoming book, named after my podcast, I show how Asian women can overcome self-doubt and emerge as leaders. There are three simple steps Asian women can take to improve their assertiveness both in and out of the workplace.

1. Asian women should start asking for help.

Asking for help is considered shameful in our culture – it’s like asking for alms. But Asian women shouldn’t just sit quiet and take all this crap because we’re seen as model citizens.

Asking for help accelerated my confidence building. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t doing it alone.

2. Accept that you will make mistakes.

We as Asian women have been taught that we need to be the perfect mother daughter wife but that really hurts us and we never take action. You don’t have to appear perfect. Sometimes our mistakes can lead us to our greatest opportunities.

3. Asian women need to take steps forward – even if it’s just one small step at a time.

As Asian women, we are taught to live a way of life. When we throw something off course, we are often labeled insane or shameful.

But gradually making positive changes in your everyday life can completely change the way others see you.

You don’t have to make a big jump. It’s the small steps you can take every day that really build your confidence.”

Sheena Yap Chan’s new book The Tao of Self-Reliance is available for pre-order on Amazon. The book is expected to be out on September 9th.

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