AAPI EVERYDAY SHEROES
This May, we celebrated AAPI Everyday Sheroes in honor of APA Heritage Month.
AAPI women are creating change in their local communities and on the national stage. NAPAWF is proud to highlight the Everyday Sheroes among us – the fierce movement-makers who are building a more just world for AAPI women and girls.
Below are three of my “sisters” that have been diligently working in the community & the United States to make an impact. I am proud to be part of a group of such empowering women.
Dr. Theresa Mah (Chicago, Illinois)
Dr. Theresa Mah is a Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach in the Office of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied history and ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley before attending the University of Chicago where she earned her Ph.D. in U.S. history. She has researched and written about housing segregation in the United States and has taught history, ethnic studies, and Asian American studies at various universities, including Northwestern University, New York University, Bowling Green State University, University of Illinois Chicago and the The University of Chicago. She has served on the boards of The Toledo Fair Housing Center and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. During the 2008 presidential campaign she served as a member of Barack Obama’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Council.
Since returning to Chicago in 2006, she has been a strong advocate and activist in the Asian American community. In 2012 she was elected Community Representative on the Local School Council at Thomas Kelly High School and appointed to the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education. While on staff at the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, an advocacy coalition in Chicago’s Chinatown, she led a successful redistricting effort for the Chicago Chinatown community; helped pass the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011; conceived the effort to establish an Asian American Caucus in the General Assembly; and spearheaded the passage of the Asian American Employment Plan Act. In her current position, she oversees the implementation of policies that promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of state government, paying particular attention to the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of Asian Americans in order to better reflect the diversity of the state’s population. She works closely with the Governor’s cabinet to ensure that state agencies provide adequate outreach and services to the Asian American population. She serves as the Governor’s representative in the Asian American community and advocates for the state’s 600,000+ Asian Americans, bringing their issues and concerns to the highest levels of state government and working on policies to address them.
On a more personal note, I am the child of immigrants and the granddaughter of a paper son who came to the United States from southern China in 1924. I am motivated to do what I do because of what I know about Asian American history and the experiences of people like my grandfather. I would not be where I am today were it not for their sacrifices, so I feel a deep obligation to give back what I can, to use my relative privilege to fight for justice and equality for our communities. Because I grew up in a working class immigrant family, I am particularly sensitive to issues of language access, immigrant rights, educational opportunity, equity and representation. Those are issues I work on every day, and I feel tremendously privileged to be able to do personally rewarding work that I love and feel a deep commitment to.
I support NAPAWF because I think it’s really important to support the next generation of AAPI women leaders, provide a local safe space for AAPI women and girls, fight for reproductive justice, and protect immigrant rights.
Kiran Ahuja (Washington, DC)
Kiran Ahuja has served as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) since December 2009, working to improve the quality of life for AAPIs through increased access to and participation in federal programs.
Well-known as a leader among national and grassroots AAPI and women’s rights organizations, Ms. Ahuja served as the founding Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) from 2003-2008. Through her leadership, Ms. Ahuja built NAPAWF from an all-volunteer organization to one with a paid professional staff and organized a strong, vibrant network of AAPI women community leaders across the country. She attended Spelman College, an historically black college, and the University of Georgia School of Law.
Anne Shaw (Chicago, Illinois)
Born the daughter of Asian American immigrants in Atlanta, Georgia, Anne Shaw has lived and worked in the greater Chicagoland area almost her entire life, and is a proud wife, daughter, sister, small business owner and attorney.
Ms. Shaw and her husband, Matt, live in East Village/Wicker Park Chicago where they are both active with family life and community service.
Now the founding officer and shareholder of Shaw Legal Services, Ltd., Ms. Shaw’s legal practice centers around taking care of families and the businesses that support those families. Her and her firms’ work focuses on civil litigation in the areas of commercial, civil rights and personal injury. Her firm also handles estate planning, small business representation, bankruptcy, family law and real estate.
Ms. Shaw strongly believes that we need more Asian Americans and women in public office. Ms. Shaw ran for public office in 2011-2012 in an effort to save a local police station from closing. She organized thousands of people, 4 rallies, and gathered over 6000 signatures to save the police station from closing. With less than three months to campaign, she beat the incumbent and came in second place with 30% of the vote as a first time candidate. She is now a candidate for Chicago City Council and will make history if elected as the first Asian American woman to join the Chicago City Council in February 2015.
In 2012, Ms. Shaw discovered that the cosmetology and nail technician State licensing exams were only offered in English and Spanish but not in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or any other Asian languages. She immediately started working pro bono to have these licensing exams translated into Asian languages to help the Asian community. By 2013, working closely with Governor Quinn’s Policy Director, Theresa Mah, the Governor agreed to work on translating and offering these exams in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean and by February 2014, the first cosmetology exam in Chinese was offered to students.
Ms. Shaw is regularly invited to teach other attorneys business and financial laws. Knowing that the Asian Pacific story is part of the fabric of the American story, Ms. Shaw has remained incredibly active in her cultural community, and in May of 2013 she was honored by the National Association of Asian American Professionals Chicago for her achievements in our community and was invited to speak as a keynote speaker at their Asian American Heritage Month Leadership Celebration.
In 2010, Ms. Shaw co-founded the first pro bono legal clinic in Chinatown with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and the Chinese American Service League, now in its fourth year and serving thousands of underserved and underrepresented immigrants and Asian American minorities.
Ms. Shaw has been invited to speak to numerous other organizations, including the Chinese American Service League, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and others.
Ms. Shaw received the prestigious Hon. Sandra Otaka Leadership Award, the highest honor from the Asian American Bar Association in 2010 for her work in the legal profession and the community.
In 2008 she was named one of the top lawyers under 40 in Chicago by Chicago Law Bulletin. In 2009 she was named a “Best Lawyer Under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
In 2009, Ms. Shaw was appointed to serve as the first Asian American Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Ethics.
This year she received the Asian American Coalition of Chicago’s Community Service Award.
Ms. Shaw supports NAPAWF because she strongly believes that the greater community needs strong AAPI women leaders in the professional, civic, and political arenas and NAPAWF gives women leaders the support and resources to be able to do this.
Dr. Karen Eng (Chicago, Illinois)
Dr. Karen Eng has worked to build CSMI as a leading process & packaging engineering firm in the FDA & USDA regulated industries. CSMI provides project management, field and construction support, electrical, mechanical, controls, automation, and packaging engineering services. Upon Dr. Eng becoming President in 2000, CSMI has grown exponentially in both revenues and staff, and continues its growth by developing a stronger client base, more in depth projects, and more experienced staff.
Dr. Eng received a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego and her doctorate from the New England College of Optometry.
Most recently, she has spoken at the Export Import Bank of the United States regarding exporting back to China, and the Food and Drug Law Institute’s conference in Beijing. She has been a panelist for Senator Durbin’s U.S. Export seminar, North Park University Executive Director Boot Camp, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Chicago Globalization conference, and Working Mother Media’s Chicago Women’s Leadership Summit.
Dr. Eng serves on the Board of Directors of the Export Import Bank of the United States, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois College of Optometry, and Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council. She chairs the STEM Task Force through the Girl Scouts which aims to be the liaison between Chicago headquartered corporations & the Girl Scouts.
Dr. Eng supports NAPAWF because she is passionate about developing more AAPI women leaders and growing local safe spaces for progressive AAPI women and girls.