Joy Chen on the roadblock to fulfilling potential

Thought leaders share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at SXSW EDU 2023

“How can college prepare people not just to be successful as individual contributors, but to be successful 5, 10, 15 years past graduation?” asks Joy Chen, CEO, Multicultural Leadership Institute.

WorkingNation sat down with Chen at SXSW EDU 2023 in Austin.

“The role of an individual contributor is actually quite similar to the role of a student. Your boss gives you assignments and you work hard and you have to make one person happy, your boss,” says  Chen.

“If that person is happy, you are good. Whether it’s a teacher or your boss, those skills are quite transferrable from college these days to individual contributors. The problem is what happens when you want to move up?”

Chen explains, “When they start to want to move up, they crash into the glass ceiling because nobody ever gave them the skills that they need or even told them there are other skills that you need in order to move up after age 30.”

Among those skills – cultural fluency. Chen says stakeholders have to develop the ability to work with people from different backgrounds.

With her past experience as a CEO headhunter and deputy mayor of Los Angeles, Chen says, “When I went around and interviewed CEOs and said, ‘Hey, what are the biggest issues facing you guys?’ The number one issue that I heard was,’ I cannot find the skilled workforce that I need.’ That was really surprising to me.”

She continues, “One of the things that I’ve observed is the way that these individuals are measured to be successful in their careers is not aligned with the overall goal of preparing students to be successful and fulfill their potential in our economy.”

Learn more about the Multicultural Leadership Institute.