May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. As we celebrate and honor those in our community and our country in the AAPI community, we wanted to highlight one of our own Grand Rapids leading business owners in this community and ask them a few questions about their experiences in this space. For this Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are interviewing our very own Asian American Business Council chair, Floriza Genautis. Here is some background information on Floriza.
Floriza Genautis is the principal and founder of Management Business Solutions, a certified Micro Local Business Enterprise (Micro-LBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) company. She has over 30 years of specialization in the professional staffing industry including over 25 of experience in the accounting, finance and human resources, education, manufacturing, and service industries. Prior to calling Grand Rapids home, Floriza recruited for Silicon Valley companies such as Hewlett Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, Network Associates, McAfee, and Nike.
Q: What unique challenges have you had to overcome as an Asian American and as a woman in your career over the years?
Over the years, I’ve found that the “model minority myth” tends to overshadow the real hurdles as an Asian American Woman. Asian Americans have a constant battle to fight stereotypes that we’re all successful, don’t deal with racism, and are quiet.
This stereotype has often been a challenge I face. I grew up in a patriarchal society in the Philippines where I can be seen but not heard, and that success is achieved by a.) getting good grades in school and going to college is a given expectation and not a choice, b.) working hard with extra responsibilities and long hours without complaining, and c.) just simply putting your head down and not rocking the boat. Migrating to America was a challenging transition with cultural values instilled in me since my childhood; it’s been a challenge to find my voice not only in my career but also in the business world. The first challenge I have to learn to overcome is my language barrier; having English as a second language, I had to learn to enunciate my words to be understood when I speak. I had to practice constantly, as simple as reciting the alphabet from A-Z out loud during my commute and reading out loud every billboard I pass so I can practice my diction. From there, it’s getting the courage to speak up, hoping that what or how I say the words are understood. I continue to battle these ongoing challenges, but there have been many more challenges we continually faced as an Asian American woman in the workforce, from equality, fair treatment, and being passed on promotions, to name a few.
Q: What lessons have you learned that have shaped you and led you to where you are today?
One central lesson that I have learned is that you will fail, and that’s okay. Facing failure with the realization that it is unavoidable makes it easier to accept. It is with failure that we grow and learn new things. Also, speaking up, however challenging it may be, was a vital lesson. It allowed me to be part of the conversation and the solution when I offered my thoughts verbally. Lastly, being true to myself and following my passion. It led to my role as a recruiter and eventually opening my business at Management Business Solutions.
Q: In your experience, what are the unique ways the AAPI community contributes to the rich fabric of our community and nation?
In my experience, the AAPI community has contributed to the rich fabric of our community and nation by bringing diverse cultures and heritage. By sharing and embracing our differences in celebrations filled with ethnic food, cultural dances, and traditional values.
Weaving the various AAPI traditions with the new culture helps shape a more decadent fabric in our community and nation.
Q: What role do you see Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training and education playing in the community and businesses in helping to decrease the incidences of racism and discrimination toward the AAPI community?
Given the state of social unrest, DEI training and education are vital in helping decrease incidences of racism and discrimination. Racism and discrimination are not unique for the AAPI community, although the surge of attacks against Asian Americans has brought to light the often-overlooked racism and discrimination that have affected Asian American communities for decades. Of course, we have a long way from the acceptance, but with DEI training, we can continue to pave the road to acceptance: “Instead of viewing differences as a negative, that they are seen as strengths, adding more flavor to life, allowing all to contribute in unique ways. Children learn that differences among groups exist and can be respected and enjoyed, rather than feared and disliked.” So, building the framework for diversity, providing training and resources for equity, and being in a community where you feel a sense of belonging and inclusion will hopefully lead to acceptance.
Q: What advice might you give to other Asian Americans, particularly women, business owners, and professionals today
A professional piece of advice that I would give is always to be yourself, follow your passion, and don’t be afraid to speak up, and if you don’t ask, the answer is NO!