The nonprofit Gold House is best known for elevating films like “Parasite” and “Crazy Rich Asians” into epic blockbusters. But true representation of Asians isn’t just necessary in Hollywood; the organization is determined to see it in every industry, in every C-suite.
On Monday, Gold House released its annual A100 list, a diverse lineup of 100 of the most impactful Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) of the year. The 2021 list includes Vice President Kamala Harris, Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao, tennis champion Naomi Osaka, and co-founders of Stop AAPI Hate Cynthia Choi, Manjusha Kulkarni and Dr. Russell Jeung.
“As a 501c3 we don’t ever really make political statements, but recognizing the voices that have been particularly strong in activism has been a clear focus on this year’s list,” said Megan Ruan, co-director of Success Ventures at Gold House.
Gold House also recently launched its spring 2021 business accelerator, called Gold Rush, which connects smaller Asian-led companies with AAPI venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in a rigorous 12-week program. This round was judged by powerhouses like cosmetics influencer Michelle Phan, Caviar founder Shawn Tsao and more.
In the past few years, the organization’s famous #GoldOpen initiative has secured theater buyouts, global distribution and media campaigns for films “Parasite,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Farewell” and others.
By uplifting and showcasing ambitious, successful Asians, Gold House is hoping to tip the statistical scales. While Asians are highly represented in the overall U.S. workforce, they are the least likely to be promoted to management levels, according to Harvard Business Review. And AAPI women have fewer opportunities for advancement than AAPI men.
“If you are not a quiet worker bee, willing to put your head down and not rock the boat, people are going to feel threatened and say ‘this isn’t why I hired you,’” said Ruan about many AAPI women’s experiences in the workplace. “Expectations are a huge part of it, but the lack of mentorship is a problem too: if there aren’t already women who are in positions in power, there aren’t enough to mentor the next generation.”
The recent escalation of violence toward AAPI has thrust Gold House’s efforts even further into the spotlight. The organization quickly raised more than $5.5 million toward restorative justice efforts, for victims of the violence and for cultural leaders. The support is unprecedented.
“I think that it’s a shame that it took an event like [the Atlanta shootings] for people to be aware enough to put their wallets to the cause. But the most important thing is that it’s now a part of the national conversation,” said Ruan.
Compared to previous years, 2021’s A100 list was released with even greater fanfare, including a lit-up announcement in Times Square, New York.
“It’s always loud intentionally, but this year it’s extra because of what has gone on in the last few weeks and months,” said Ruan.
As Gold House tries to increase AAPI visibility, Ruan touts the community as a personal lifesaver. While growing up in Minnesota and working in banking, she was usually the only woman and person of color in the room.
“I started to get used to it, which is a dangerous thing,” said Ruan, who joined Gold House two years ago and remains an unpaid volunteer for the organization. “If you accept that type of reality, you stop fighting as hard for what the reality should be. Gold House was an extremely motivating reminder of what it should be...It’s the first time I felt truly at home.”