Kontoor Employees Celebrate and Reflect during AAPI Heritage Month
In the U.S., May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month – a time of joy, celebration, reflection and commitment to fostering a more inclusive and caring world for everyone. With recent acts of violence against this community, Kontoor recognizes the challenges our AAPI friends and colleagues have endured. But, what’s more, we recognize the many contributions the AAPI community have given to our society and culture.
Our brands and employees honored the month with different activities. Our Wrangler® and Lee® brands are supporting the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund in honor of AAPI Heritage Month, and the shared dream of equality.
In addition, our Diversity Networking Association ERG hosted a virtual panel discussion with some of our AAPI colleagues, for our global employees.
Below you can read the perspectives of just a few of our AAPI colleagues. We are grateful to our employees and others for sharing their stories.
What does it mean to identify as AAPI?
Alex Ley – Global Infrastructure and Cloud Services, Kontoor Brands
“I am extremely proud of my diverse cultural background. My background and personal history as a refugee immigrant arriving in America at the age of 11 have helped to define my strength, attitude, determination, family values, approaches to handling most difficult situations, and my many successes. I feel very blessed as an Asian American to have been given this opportunity to embrace and cultivate the best values of both worlds as an Asian American.”
Sande Pahl – Senior Sales Planner, Kontoor Brands
“Representation matters. To see Asians cast in lead roles of films, to hear kids who don’t speak Korean singing K-Pop music, and having a Vice President with Asian roots, it all matters. I’m excited that young Asian Americans can see themselves in media and in leadership, and know that they do not have to be the sidekick in their own lives.”
How has your background and personal history impacted the person you are today?
“As a child, I spent more than three years in various refugee camps in Thailand after escaping the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and that experience has really defined me as the person I am today. In my day-to-day, there is nothing that is ever taken for granted. I strongly believe that I am a better person, husband, father, friend and colleague today because of my personal diverse background, history, opportunities and help that I have received along the way on this great journey that we call life.”
Sujith Chandran - Vice President, Finance, Lee
“Growing up in a small town in India with middle-class working parents, I learned early on, the virtues of hard work, humility and gratitude. The opportunity to work for companies that champion inclusiveness and equity has played an immense role in my personal and career development. My background along with a conducive work culture and my ability to embrace change has helped me overcome barriers and lead with confidence.”
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
“My career advice to my younger self would be, do not be afraid to take risk or changes – embrace it. Always do the right thing even if it is difficult or nobody is around to see it. Be kind and extend a helping hand to others. Tackle life’s difficult situations head-on and do not forget to have fun along the way.”
“Often, may of us have a tendency to be private and discreet in our communications and stay out of the limelight while delivering results. I would encourage my AAPI colleagues to be more visible in the workplace, increase awareness of Asian issues within your influence areas and start conversations on tough topics. Be comfortable listening to your voice. Sign up for reverse mentoring so you can share and educate leaders. Above all, believe that you can make an impact without losing your identity!”