Diversity and Inclusion

MBALauncher Jessica Yu Jin Isn’t Letting Anti-Asian Sentiment Hold Her Back

Jessica Yu Jin works in the tech industry in New York City and is part of Forté’s 2021 MBALaunch cohort. After the shootings in Atlanta in March, during which eight people, including six Asian women, were killed, Jessica considered putting her MBA plans on hold.

That week, Jessica was taking a break from reading the news, so when a friend texted, “Are you okay?” She replied, “Yeah, I’m good. Why?” When she heard what had happened, she recalls, “I was completely shut down and confused, like, ‘Why are these women that look like me being killed?'”

Jessica generally feels safe in New York City, but the increase in anti-Asian violence has made her more aware of her surroundings. She says, “Every single time I walk on the street, I feel like I have to be confident. I have to be on guard.”

Jessica has also noticed her friends and family becoming more fearful. When she talks with her parents, who live in Shanghai, they say, “Are you okay? Don’t go out.” Jessica’s 5’8” height helps her feel confident, but her 5’4” Korean-American roommate recently started carrying a taser. “She’s so afraid to go around the city, especially after seeing how Asian-Americans were beaten and killed in the subway,” Jessica says. Other friends will only venture out after covering up their Asian features with gloves, sunglasses, and a mask.

When she wants a reminder of what it’s like to fit in, Jessica visits Flushing, Queens, a neighborhood with a predominantly Asian population. She says, “I grew up in Shanghai, so when I walk in Flushing, I can just assume people know my culture. It’s like, ‘This is my place, I’m comfortable.'” But she also likes exploring New York City’s other micro-communities — even when she’s the only Asian person there. She says, “I thrive in environments where I’m learning about other cultures.”

Reassessing Her Priorities

An ambitious woman who wants to use technology to make a difference in the world, Jessica says, “What I see tech doing is not only bringing in X amount of profit, but connecting humans on a deeper level and really improving their lives.” After the Atlanta shootings, she was concerned that she wasn’t doing enough to help people in need. She started to question if an MBA was the right choice for her, until conversations with women at Forté gave her a new perspective.

Now, she says, “I definitely want to get an MBA, but I have a clearer goal.” Instead of focusing on career advancement, she is thinking about the impact she’ll be able to have. She says, “I believe that people who decide to go to business school and get accepted are going to be future leaders. And if you can influence them as peers, I believe you’re shaping the world as well. That gives me a deeper understanding of why I should go.”

Jessica knows her life might be easier if she reunited with her family in Shanghai, but she says, “There are so few people here in the Western world that truly understand what Asian people are like, and what their capabilities are. There are so many assumptions and stereotypes. If I have a voice here, I can help them bridge the cultural gap.” Despite the challenges of being an Asian person in the United States right now, she says, “I have something to contribute, I have something to say, and I cannot just shy away from it because of what’s happening.”

When Jessica talked to a close friend, who is non-Asian, after the Atlanta shootings, her friend didn’t understand where all the anti-Asian hate was coming from. To better understand why the violence felt so personal to Jessica, her friend attended a webinar at which Professor Ellen Wu spoke on Asian-American history. Jessica says, “She took that step to learn the history of what people have gone through previously, and it was really empowering for her.”

Forging a Path to Leadership

Looking to the future, Jessica hopes that with an MBA, she can show other Asian women what’s possible for them. She says, “If you look at the Forbes list or any list of very influential people in the world, you barely see any Asian women.” She finds that disheartening, and says, “If you don’t see anyone like you there, then how would you believe you can make it? Representation matters.”

For now, she is focused on sharing resources and encouraging people to consider perspectives that are different from their own. She says, “I want to create a community where we can just listen with no filter, truly understand what each person is going through, and have empathy.”

How can women in Forté’s community support their Asian friends and colleagues? Jessica says, “Be willing to learn.” She also suggests reaching out to them and saying, “Hey, do you want to grab coffee? I know what’s going on. How are you doing?” She says, “Small things like that are so powerful.”

To hear from more Asian women in business, register for Forté’s webinar Women Lead: Asian Women in Leadership Share Their Paths to Success. This webinar is free to attend.

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