- Sheena Yap Chan is an author and podcast host who helps Asian women improve their confidence.
- Yap Chan believes Asian women are stereotyped as “submissive” and “obedient.”
- She shares three steps Asian women should take to break these stereotypes.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 41-year-old Sheena Yap Chan, an author and podcast host based in Toronto. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I grew up in the Philippines before moving to Toronto, Canada, when I was seven years old. I experienced a lot of culture shock from living in a new country. To fit in, I remember dying my hair blonde and even thought of changing my name to “Heather.”
It took me decades to accept my identity as an Asian woman living in the West. To do this, I started off by dying my hair back to its natural color. I made it a mission to learn about my culture deeply and formed a community of Asian women who could look out for one another.
Now, 34 years later, I’m on a mission to help Asian women gain the courage to embrace our identities.
I’m an author and the host of the podcast “The Tao of Self-Confidence”, where I interview Asian women who share how they work to overcome stereotypes and gain the confidence to break them. I have spoken to more than 700 Asian women on my podcast.
My first book, “Women Who Boss Up”, profiles over a dozen Asian women who excel in industries like STEM and finance, despite the many challenges they faced.
I started the podcast as a support system, because I saw how hard it could be when you’re seen as quiet, submissive, obedient, and treated as a sex object. These stereotypes aren’t fair. They are harming Asian women even beyond their personal life — these misconceptions are affecting us in the office too.
In 2021, women made up 54.3% of the US workforce, but only 35% held senior leadership positions. And of that percentage, only 2.7% of Asian women took on management roles.
In my upcoming book that’s named after my podcast, I share how Asian women can overcome self-doubt and emerge as leaders. There are three simple steps that Asian women can take to improve their assertiveness in and out of the workplace.
1. Asian women should start asking for help.
Asking for help, in our culture, is seen as shameful — it’s like asking for handouts. But Asian women shouldn’t just be quiet and take all this crap, because we’re seen as the model citizen.
Asking for help accelerated how I built my confidence. This was when I recognized that I’m not doing this alone.
2. Accept that you’re going to make mistakes.
We, as Asian women, have been taught that we have to be the perfect mother, daughter, wife, but that really harms us and we never take action. You don’t have to show up perfect. Sometimes our mistakes can lead us to our greatest opportunities.
3. Asian women need to take steps forward— even if it’s just one small step at a time.
As Asian women, we’re taught to live one way of life. When we do something off track, we’re are often labeled as crazy or shameful.
But gradually making positive changes in your everyday life can completely change the way others see you.
You don’t have to take a big leap. It’s the small, daily actionable steps that really build your confidence.”
Sheena Yap Chan’s new book, “The Tao of Self-Confidence,” is available for pre-order on Amazon. The book is set to be released on May 9.