Governor Quinn's Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council today began its work to fulfill Governor Quinn's charge of ensuring a diverse population exists within state government. Asian Americans currently comprise five percent of Illinois' population yet represent only 2.5 percent of the state government workforce. The council is working to develop policies that will increase the number of Asian Americans working for the state of Illinois.
"A workforce that includes all, no matter what race or ethnicity, is one that best reflects the diversity of Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "To ensure our state is best represented, I have charged the council with the task of doubling the number of Asian American workers in state government, and expect they will be aggressive and creative in doing so. By having a more diverse workforce, we will be able to better assist all residents of Illinois, regardless of their background."
Legislation creating the council was approved unanimously in the General Assembly last year and signed into law by Governor Quinn in July of 2012. The council first crafted a profile of Asian Americans in the workforce and collaborated with agency directors to achieve the goals of the new law. The panel reviewed data which illustrated the need for strong action. For example:
Only 1,100 of the state's 44,589 employees are Asian American;
Nearly half of all Asian American state employees work at just one agency (Human Services);
Of 50 code agencies, only five agencies have a proportion of Asian American staff exceeding five percent: Arts Council, Public Health, Criminal Justice Information Authority, Environmental Protection Agency and Insurance.; and
Of code agencies with at least 75 staff, four have no Asian American employees and three more have only one Asian American employee.
"A diverse workforce enables state agencies to provide services more efficiently to those who need them," Malcolm Weems, Director of the Department of Central Management Services said. "We will emphasize that to agency directors and remind them of their obligation to Equal Employment Opportunity."
The 11 members appointed by Governor Quinn represent a range of ethnic origins, professional backgrounds and regions of the state, and are unpaid. Members include:
Thomas Chen (Urbana), a retired University of Illinois professor and Past-President of the Chinese American Association of Central Illinois;
Jerry Clarito (Skokie), Skokie Park District Commissioner and Executive Director, Alliance of Filipinos for Immigration Reform and Empowerment;
Grace Hou (La Grange Park), President of the Woods Fund and former Assistant Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services;
Nasir Jahangir (Bartlett), U.S. Air Force veteran now a Koenig & Strey broker/realtor;
Ravi Karan (Carbondale),a Southern Illinois University instructor who is active in the Indian Association of Southern Illinois;
Mary Lou McLaughlin (Chatham), past Chair, Alton Human Relations Commission, and President, Filipino American Historical Society;
Josina Morita (Chicago), Executive Director of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations;
Hon. Ameya Pawar (Chicago), 47th Ward Alderman;
May Saengpraseuth (Chicago), a Chicago Board of Education social worker who volunteers for the Lao American Organization of Elgin;
Sik Son (Hoffman Estates), Executive Director, Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, and
Choua Vue (Chicago) Assistant Director of Community Engagement, Illinois Action for Children.
Each agency Director will designate a staff person as ex-officio members of the council. The council will be led by Dr. Theresa Mah, who was recently named Senior Policy Advisor to the governor.
People of Asian heritage have been residents of Illinois for 150 years. The first sign of Illinois Asian American residents appears in the 1870 Census, though Chinese reportedly lived in Cook, McHenry and Morgan Counties earlier. Japanese immigrants came in the 1890s, followed by Filipinos, Koreans and Indians. Illinois is now home to people with roots in Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Tibet, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia and Malaysia.