How are our employees taking action to make LS&Co. a more diverse and inclusive workplace? Our DE&I Champions series sets out to answer exactly that. This month’s featured champion is Ken Leung, head of Marketplace Insights, Greater China. Ken shares his courageous story of how he created a safe space for his LGBTQIA+ colleagues and allies in Asia and offers insight into using your voice to stand up for what you believe in.
Q: Share something we wouldn’t know just by looking at you.
My expertise is in consumer insights, which often overlaps with my side passion of DE&I through a curiosity for people and a respect for differences.
I was recently trained to be a counselor — driven by the wish to become a better human being — and have been counseling older adults with a focus on grief. I love to listen to people’s stories and also enjoy sharing my own. Being listened to and understood is an important part of the healing process.
While many people may know that I am a runner and a biker, not many know that I am also a yogi (RYT-200) and have taught at a community center for the underprivileged.
Q: Why is DE&I important to you?
Growing up gay in Asia, I witnessed firsthand bullying and discrimination, suppression and the many compromises LGBTQIA+ people make in their lives every day to feel a sense of belonging. My lived experience was something I believed I could affect over time, and for me, the workplace was an important part of the journey. When I rejoined Levi Strauss & Co. 15 months ago, I found the courage to launch and lead an LGBTQIA+ employee resource group (ERG) in Asia. We have similar ERGs in the U.S. (Inside Out) and Europe (Unlabeled) but did not have one in Asia, which could greatly benefit from the ERG given the region’s challenging legal and cultural landscapes.
Leadership happens when there is active participation in the goal and mission of an organization or group. Since we launched the BeYou Alliance ERG, we’ve seen like-minded associates (both LGBTQIA+ and allies) come together to forge cultural shifts within the organization. It’s been heartwarming to see hundreds of people becoming inspired by our combined voices — one person and one day at a time (which is one of our mottos). We also joined hands with other fashion brands to create an industry voice in the Pride in Fashion network.
Q: What is your call to action to your fellow LS&Co. employees and leaders?
Live with candor — find your authentic voice and give yourself permission to express it.
Find your community so that your combined voices become stronger.
Use your own stories to inspire others — “the personal is political,” as the cliché goes.
As leaders, we’re in privileged positions to be heard and to influence widely, so my ask is for all leaders to leverage their positions to create a better world. Your direct reports and junior colleagues look up to you as examples for living as their true selves, so be courageous and show up as an authentic and inclusive leader.