Asian American Women Leaders Who Face The Hurdles Of Politics

Asian American women are underrepresented in political leadership as existing power structures favor males and men of color. Even within the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, women occupy the political office at lower percentages than males according to New American Leaders’ research.

Following anti-Asian violence and hate crimes, AAPI voting turnout surged. Six Asian American women were killed in a shooting in Atlanta last year, making it more vital for AAPI women to address the community’s marginalization.

Sonia Chang-Diaz, the first Latina and Asian-American in the Massachusetts State Senate, said disadvantaged individuals get negative comments when they seek politics. Despite that, she championed criminal justice reform including abolishing racial sentencing regulations while Gov. Baker and Beacon Hill elites were ready to turn the other way.

Bee Nguyen is a leading advocate for voting rights, public education, and criminal justice reform. She made history as the first Asian American Democratic woman in the Georgia General Assembly. She is now a candidate for Georgia Secretary of State headed into a runoff after this month’s Democratic primary. Nguyen says she’s prepared for the scrutiny women of color endure disproportionately compared to their white colleagues.

Chinese American Democrat Michelle Au was elected to Georgia State Senate in 2020. As she has been a practicing anesthesiologist for more than a decade in Atlanta, the community’s well-being and health are her focus. The public health degree helped Au understand why things worked and why things didn’t for their patients.

Diana Hwang was a former candidate for the Massachusetts State Senate and “one of Boston’s most powerful thought leaders” in Boston Magazine for her work. She launched the Boston-based Asian American Women’s Political Initiative (AAWPI) in 2009 to promote AAPI women in political leadership.

Only 77 female AAPI state lawmakers are in the nation, according to Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, that’s 1% of the nation’s 7,383 state lawmakers.