Katherine Tai, Biden's Cabinet member, reflects on challenges as a leader and Asian American woman

May 4, 2023 : As the Biden administration celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the first woman of colour to serve as U.S. trade representative, reflected on her struggles as an Asian American woman in leadership. Speaking exclusively in an interview after delivering remarks at the White House Forum on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI), Tai mentioned people’s seemingly impossible expectations of Asian women. She cited an exchange with Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., who told her during a March Ways and Means Committee hearing that she might be “too nice.” Tai, also a co-chair of the White House Initiative on AANHPI, said she copes by grounding herself and being true to her heritage.

During the forum, several other prominent Asian Americans spoke about their identities and the significance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Vice President Kamala Harris addressed anti-Asian attacks, gun control, and reproductive rights, as well as ensuring that positions like hers don’t remain exclusive. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Tai’s co-chair on the White House initiative, emphasized prioritising the group’s issues.

Tai also mentioned that the women and trailblazers from marginalized communities who have ascended to leadership positions had shown her that such roles are possible for those in such communities. She believes that fulfilling these roles doesn’t require change and that the privilege of having these types of jobs is showing that one can do them while still being true to all the parts of one’s heritage that make them who they are.

In conclusion, as the country celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Tai’s and others’ experiences remind them that there is still work to be done to ensure that leadership positions are open to all, regardless of their background or ethnicity.