As a starter, let me give you a sense of who’s behind these words: I’m an Asian in my 30s. I’m a woman and identify as one. I am androgynous looking – short hair, wears t-shirt & jeans, don’t wear dresses. I’m a blend of nerdiness (with my glasses that Asian exams impose on us) and sportiness (as a former tennis player). So yes I’m kind of tomboyish, but trust me I have a prey girly personality and never want to be a boy! And to make sure I fit into the Berlin narrative – I am queer, and live with my girlfriend.

I always joke that I’m the diversity dream hire. No matter how you define diversity, I fit! In Europe, I’m the ethnic minority. Woman. Queer. Check, check, check! No joke, but in one of my former jobs, management insisted I should be in a photo shoot so my picture can be showcased at the entrance of the office. Now, this all sounds pretty good, I’ve had many comments: “come on, in the world now, do you think you’re at any disadvantage at all? You just get luckier with all the job interviews!”

That is when I can’t help but roll my eyes. Let’s not talk about bigger things, let’s just talk about things we all take for granted, like going to the toilet when we feel like it. So far, I have never managed to get into an airport toilet without getting questioned or kicked out. The only one exception I had was when I decided to play a life experiment and wear pink that day – it worked! On all other days, I have had women go back out to check the signs, had girls gasping at the sight of me, had cleaning ladies telling me straight away that I am in the wrong toilet, you name it. Now, after 20 years of training, I have tried to avoid going to public toilets to the extent possible. I have also tried as much as possible to route my business trip flights to not transit through less liberal countries where I know from experience I get into more trouble.

To slightly bigger things, I’m often mistaken as my girlfriend’s son. I don’t blame them – I guess my physique fits quite well into what Caucasians typically perceive as a teenage boy. And yes I guess my girlfriend adopted me from some Asian country. I have also had a former boss ask me, while tipsy “why are you gay, and since when?”.

The list can go on… but sometimes I think to myself, if I use all the time I spend on these inconveniences on other things, I probably have invented a new light bulb or a physics theory by now. Let’s be real, convincing your company you don’t want to be on a diversity photoshoot takes quite some time and all these things add up (especially if going to the loo is part of it!).

Anyway, I can keep on ranting and fulfill the stereotype of an angry lesbian or feminist. I can tell you 1000 more bigger examples. I can go into detailed examples of discrimination or aggression. But this is not the point of this article. Today I’d really like to share with you some thoughts that have been ringing in my head for some time now: Am I really really disadvantaged? Am I just judging myself based on what society tells me? I am privileged in some other sense (e.g. born to a loving family and a good education) – is my life really harder? Are these “disadvantages” really a downside, or can they actually be hidden gifts too?

Now I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to any of these. I have had many days where I raged over comments made by a certain person. I have had days where I wonder when will there truly be equality in the world. I have had days where I read the news and wonder why I am not protected and offered equal rights as heterosexuals, especially where I am from. But I have come to the conclusion that we can either choose to be angry and upset, or we can pick ourselves up and: i) fight for what we want to see in the world or, ii) simply see the brighter side of things and leverage what we have.

So – I have now chosen to see this as a gift and here’s why:

1. As much as I can be brought down by stereotypes, I can also play them to my advantage!

When I just moved from Hong Kong to Germany, I was told I am a math whiz kid but need to be less of an introvert. Now this completely surprises me. When in Asia, I am considered great in communications. Can work on that financial modeling skills a bit more.

I felt frustrated in the beginning and stressed about having to be less of an introvert. But after a while, I realize this is in part due to culture & standards differences, and in part due to a stereotype effect. I am assumed to be too quiet until I prove otherwise as an Asian. Now yes I can stay upset about it, but I realize it’s quite convenient to be trusted with my math abilities now that I am the “nerdy” Asian!

2. Being the devil’s advocate in the room.

Throughout my career I was surrounded by white males especially in leadership. Yes it’s intimidating at times, but I also realize, if there’s one person who can bring a different perspective, it’s me! That’s quite special isn’t it? There’s once a fellow colleague who said to me “Yea XX is amazing but she’s Asian, you know . She doesn’t stand up for herself or her team. She is soft spoken so I don’t think we should make her a director”… which of course I called out as a biased comment. If I wasn’t an Asian woman, it may not be so instantly intuitive that this is a bias!

3. Trained to be resilient.

Navigating difficult situations growing up from going to the toilet, to coming out, to conflict resolutions. Let’s say I’ve had way more training opportunities in
adverse situations than average. If I have to name one strength of mine – it’d be grit!

4. Naturally seen as a trusted person that people can come to me with issues and share openly.

I can empathize with colleagues and friends who went through difficult situations easier than maybe the average person. I have had many cases where “minority” employees come to me with their challenges at work and tell me they feel I’d understand. I’d say that helps me in building up a network, just in a slightly different way than usual!

5. Bringing new skills or experience into the team.

E.g. with an Asian background working in Europe, often I find it way easier for me to connect with our Asian counterparts than other colleagues. It’s probably natural as you share the same culture!

6. Having a stronger sense of purpose.

I was once going through a pretty stressful period in my job and questioning my whole life and why I pushed myself into a demanding career. And I remember one of my friends telling me. “Think about you’re doing this not for yourself, but for who you represent. You are showing the world an Asian queer woman can excel as a global VP at a multinational company. Representation matters.” When there is meaningful cause, harder tasks become easier.

If we come to think about it – these are pretty much “superpowers” that we as “minorities” have! I won’t lie that sometimes things still get difficult and I do get frustrated. But who says having superpowers is easy? If we all embrace our superpowers and make use of them, I’m sure things can only go for the beer.

May sound slightly cringy, but at Delivery Hero we believe “we are heroes because we care” (and to all recruiters out there, hit me up on my LinkedIn if you’re struggling on your diversity KPIs – just kidding, my boss may be reading this).

Just as a side note – we are always looking to connect with strong talents at Delivery Hero! If you are interested to use your superpowers to make a difference, reach out or check our career site for future opportunities.

Melda Tsang, Senior Director, International Marketing at Delivery Hero

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