Behind the Green Apron: Meet the Co-Chairs of the Starbucks Canada Pan-Asian Partner Network who want to change the world

This week, Joanna, customer logistics manager, and Sonia, district manager, and co-chairs of the Canada Pan Asian Partner Network (PPN) tell us about the experiences that led them to launching the network in Canada, what they hope to accomplish with PPN and how the network plans to celebrate Asian Heritage Month for the first time at Starbucks. 

We come from different backgrounds, but the two of us have a lot in common. We were both born in Canada to immigrant parents, and coincidently, for most of our young adult lives, we both tried to distance ourselves from our culture and heritage. Growing up, we felt a strong desire to fit in. To be seen as “Canadian”. 

Not liking the food. Seeking friends who were not Asian.  Making sure to speak immediately so people knew you didn’t have an accent.  These are just a few of the deliberate efforts we’d make to push who we were away. Since we were both born in Canada, this was also a way to differentiate ourselves from those who were new and not easily accepted.

It wasn’t until recently that we both discovered how truly connected we were to our cultures and how special they are in making up this beautiful country. It took being avid travelers of the world, and lots of conversations with each other, our families and friends, to see the beauty that we set aside for so long. We also recognized that we still had so much to learn.  

In our professional lives, we’ve had similar career paths that led us to amazing opportunities, but still, there were times we each often felt lonely from a diversity perspective. There weren’t many people in our peer groups or leadership that looked like us or could even understand or relate to us.   

A culmination of these experiences led us to launching the Starbucks Canada Pan-Asian Partner Network (Canada PPN).

Canada PPN was born out of a curiosity – of our own cultures and of others – and a desire to connect and create pathways for others.  A year into our journey and the meaningful connections our members have built with each other and our allies is more than we could have expected.

Our Canadian PPN vision is to foster meaningful connections and elevate the impact of Pan-Asian partners and allies within Starbucks and the community. We have found a new family. Although partners in the network come from many different cultures, and each partner is unique in their journey, it’s our shared experiences that bring us together and create trust and an unconditional feeling of “We got your back!”.

Connecting through the network has ignited a strong desire to change the world, not only because we can, but we have a responsibility to do so, even if it is in small ways, within Starbucks and in our local communities.

Since launching the network, we hosted a forum for Pan-Asian partners to share their experiences and feelings in a safe space. This allowed our partners to be seen and heard and helps us better understand how to support them. We have also begun to build relationships with community organizations that support Pan-Asian Canadians and fight against anti-Asian racism across Canada.

This time next year, we hope to have more partners from across the Pan-Asian community (South, East, West Asia and more) truly feel supported by our network with resources that we can provide and ultimately a network that they can call family too. 

This May, we are so excited to be celebrating Asian Heritage Month in Canada at Starbucks for the FIRST time. This month is all about celebrating the culture and contributions of Pan-Asian Canadians to Canada and amplifying the topics and issues important to our communities. We have heard partners say, “wow, we get our own month?” We never truly understand how important the role that space recognition plays in helping our partners feel valued and like they belong.

Our theme this year for Asian Heritage Month is Being Asian Canadian: the past, the present and the future. We are looking forward to bringing our partners along the journey as we highlight the history of Asian Canadians who forged a path for our parents to immigrate to Canada and learn about the Asian Canadians who have made significant contributions to our country to the present. We will also bring awareness to important issues such as the Model Minority Myth and mental health in our community.

Most importantly, we will celebrate the unique identities and cultures in Asia that make us to be proud be part of the community.    We welcome you to follow our journey on Instagram by searching starbuckscanadaPPN

thumbnail for ‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community 

‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community