Diversity Questionnaire Response

Candidate for Elected Director

Rita Pang AB ’96 cum laude

Co-Founder and Counsel, Bridgeway Prime Shop Fund Management Ltd
Hong Kong

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)

Diversity is essential for Harvard to carry out its mission: to educate future citizens and citizen leaders for the society.  Diversity should be a core principle that permeates policies and practices that relate to admission, mentoring, ensuring equal opportunity, and retention.  The University needs to dedicate resources so that students from vastly different backgrounds and experiences are identified and given support to transition to college life successfully.  As an example, while at Harvard, I saw how the difficulty in adjusting to the urban setting or busy rhythm of a cosmopolitan Cambridge, was devastating to students who otherwise had no issues with academics.

In my own experience, I believed that being immersed in one of the most diverse environments while I was at Harvard made me a better person, a better collaborator, and a better leader.

I grew up in Hong Kong, attended a local all-girls school, and spent three years in a US high school where New Englanders was one of the largest segments of the student body. I started freshman year with a rooming group that consisted of a Korean American, someone from rural part of Minnesota, a New Yorker and also one of Native American descent.  It was the first time in my life, as an Asia female from Hong Kong, when I learned about the history of Native Americans. I also came to appreciate the high degree of diversity that exist even within the Americans, as each of my roommates came with very different social, cultural, geopolitical experiences. My college experience tells me that a diverse environment is a foundation for productive collaboration and peace-building that we need in our society, as we operate at our best, and are more at peace with each other, when all voices are heard and represented. 

2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 

 

Harvard can encourage more diversity by developing a diverse alumni leadership pipeline, involving alumni volunteers and leaders from diverse backgrounds to be its ambassadors, sharing best practices guidelines that inform alumni community, and keeping alumni leaders updated of the steps that the University leaders take to practice the principles of diversity and inclusion.

I believe that when management truly embraces diversity as an overall governing principle of its strategy, in a sustained fashion, this will trickle-down through the layers of functions, all the way through faculty selection, admission and down to individual alumni level.

I am fortunate to have experienced this first-hand as an alumni volunteer. 10 years ago, I was working long hours as a lawyer and had no involvement with Harvard for many years. It all started with HAA leaders who travelled to Hong Kong many years ago, subsequently inviting me to become an HAA volunteer.  This has allowed me, as an Asian female from Hong Kong, to reconnect with Harvard at a deeper level, and in turn help re-engage more alumni in our region, and with diversity and inclusion in mind. Allow me to go back in time a bit further to explain this better.

My earliest connection back to Harvard after graduating in 1996 started with a small check that I wrote in 2011, in response to an email solicitation for donations for the Harvard Club of Hong Kong’s Book Prize Program. Having been a winner of the same prize as a high school student, the email struck a chord in me. I felt an urge that I should give back, so I wrote a check in three seconds before quickly diving back to my legal work. I was quickly recruited to help and then run the Book Prize Program. Later, as a Club leader, I had the chance to meet HAA leaders as they visited different cities with professors and deans from Harvard. Before I knew it, I was back in Cambridge two to three times a year, hearing about the University’s update, such as President Faust’s policies in staunch support of diversity, inclusion, and the liberal arts education (among other topics).

President Faust’s endorsement of diversity and inclusion (through her public statements, policies, and recently, her frequent visits to Washington DC to promote diversity) was personally felt through my being elected to serve the HAA in Asia.  I have come to see myself as a small piece of the overall mosaic of diversity.  As an Asian female thousands of miles away from Cambridge, I was fortunate to be given the chance to re-engage with old friends and new at Harvard, and to give back to my alma mater.

I shared the details above because I think my experience reinforces my belief that the right leader who embraces diversity and inclusion, will provide the basic foundation where staff, faculties, students and alumni could then be encouraged to promote the same in each of our respective spheres. Now, as board member of the Harvard Club of Hong Kong, I have helped promote the same principle of diversity and created a more diverse board (noting diversity encompasses much more beyond representation by different school, and the latter being one aspect of diversity). 

 

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 

Diversity is essential in enriching learning experience for everyone involved.  As part of that, affirmative action and race-conscious admissions is necessary to build a diverse environment where all of our communities are represented, heard and understood.  But race should be among the broad range of factors that should be considered in building a truly diverse environment, including gender, culture, geography, religion, socio-economic background, interests, knowledge base, etc.

Race-conscious considerations should not be relevant not only to admissions, but also to student orientation, advising, dorm life, mentoring, course offerings, extra-curricular activities offerings.  Harvard should create and monitor an environment such as every student representing any communities or background is respected, accepted, and embraced.  We should build an environment that not only are proctors and house masters responsible to ensure there is a safe and respectable environment for every student, but that it is everyone (and every student’s) responsibility to safeguard the sanctity of a diverse environment where each person feels respected and accepted).

 

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society? 

 

As a world leader, Harvard has the duty to play a leadership role to help build a more equitable, inclusive and just society. As an education institution that educates future citizens and citizen leaders, Harvard should help develop future citizen-leaders who can help build a more equitable, inclusive and just society.

The question then is, how to achieve that? I think about this in three main aspects: Knowledge, Exposure, and Research & Scholarship

Knowledge: Harvard needs to equip its students with the relevant knowledge and skills to examine, analyze and critic historical and present day injustices and complex problem.  Courses and experiences offered should help students understand complexity in the racial, ethnic and religious and other conflicts seen in our world. Under President Faust’s leadership, I saw adjustments made to the curriculum to better equip students to tackle present day problems through a multi-disciplinary approach (e.g., changes made to GenEd and core requirements, and new seminar classes that draw students from different concentration to examine and resolve a present day wrong).  This non-complacent vigilance over the knowledge requirements of our students is necessary and must be continued to ensure course offerings are evolving with changing needs in society.

Relevant courses and programs can be shared with alumni globally and beyond through established online channel, such as EdX platform, to broaden the impact and empowerment.

Exposure: Experience and exposure is important, before one can attempt to tackle and resolve those problems.  Harvard should continue to support programs that give students (and sometimes faculties and alumni) exposure to social inequality and injustices, such as pro bono clinics at the law school where students provide legal assistance to often underprivileged groups; tutoring program at Philips Brooks House (e.g., when I served as a tutor for children in the decrepit neighborhood in Dorchester, I was shocked by the vastly different socio-economic environment seen beyond the ivy walls that I was familiar with). Also, a current student whom I interviewed years ago recently updated me that he went on a medical volunteering trip to Nicaragua, this being just one example of many trips that are offered. Harvard should continue to provide relevant exposure for students and faculties so that it can be the place for open, diverse dialogues that lead to discovery of new knowledge and solutions to world’s problems.

Research & Scholarship: Scholarship can help not only to expose and examine injustices and inequity, but also to find possible mitigating solutions.  New findings can inform other researchers in the field, the University’s curriculum and programming, and attract best students and scholars to Harvard. As an alumni volunteer, I am interested to actively seek out alumni who are interested to fund / support research and programs that advance fairness and justice in areas where Harvard scholars also see a need.

 

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

My work has everything to do with promoting inclusiveness. I left the lawyer job that I love to co-found Bridgeway five years ago in order to provide innovative business solutions that can help build a more inclusive, harmonious community.

I co-founded Bridgeway based on two premises: (1) be inclusive - provide access to those who otherwise would not have access to shop investment opportunities, and (2) be the most reliable shop developer by creating shared value for all parties (tenants, landlord and investors).  To that end, my company launched Hong Kong’s first ever one-stop Serviced-Shop Plan which was designed to give financial mobility to our tenants (mostly SMEs). Under the Serviced-Shop Plan, tenants can (a) invest in shop properties at a discounted price to share in investment growth in properties that were previously not accessible to them largely because of the large price tag, and (b) seek reimbursements for certain shop opening and shop operational expenses (making it easier for small businesses to grow their business).  As such, my company created innovative products with an aim to convert the typical adversarial relationship between tenants and landlords to one where both parties benefit from a win-win situation.

Also, I promote inclusion through our hiring. I work with an NGO that focuses on job placement for those with a disability (mental illness, physical handicap, etc.). I have hired those with a disability at our office.

Outside work, I helped create a more diverse board for the Harvard Club in Hong Kong by bringing in candidates that represent a broader range of schools at Harvard, as mentioned earlier. Leveraging my professional networks plus legal and business knowledge, I spend a significant part of my volunteering time for those with physical impairment, such as helping a local theater group founded by the blind to create a sustainable revenue model, and helping with fundraising for an NGO that operates in Africa, with a mission to create a world where no one is needlessly blind.
 

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