Founding SALUTE

By Neha Singh

At SALUTE (South Asian Ladies Unite to Empower), our founding team has been at the forefront of pioneering new paths in our respective fields. Often, we have been the trailblazers, being the first South Asian women to step into our roles and ascend to leadership positions within our companies. This notable journey of South Asian women in leadership roles has recently been highlighted by the historic election of the first South Asian and Black woman as Vice President of the United States. While this marks significant progress, it also prompts a reflection on the pace and extent of our collective advancement.

The genesis of SALUTE dates back to 2015, culminating in its official formation in 2021. The journey to this point was measured and intentional, shaped by several key considerations:

  1. Balancing Career Commitments: Our careers always took precedence, which often meant that the development of SALUTE took a secondary role.
  2. Beyond a Social Network: Our vision for SALUTE was to be more than just a social group, avoiding the limitations of such a label.
  3. Creating Lasting Impact: We aspired for SALUTE to be a distinguished addition to professional networks, not merely another name on a list.
  4. Striving for Perfection: We recognized the importance of getting it right from the start, understanding that this would be an evolving process.

The landscape of South Asian-centric professional networks has predominantly been skewed towards social and non-profit activities, with minimal emphasis on women's professional advancement. Additionally, these networks often overlook the needs of more experienced professionals and can become forums for competition rather than collaboration. SALUTE is our response to these gaps, offering a new direction for professional development and empowerment.

South Asians in the Professional Realm: An Overview

  • Representation: Asian Americans constitute 12% of the professional workforce in the U.S., significantly higher than their 5.6% share of the population.
  • Challenges in Advancement: Despite their substantial presence in the workforce, Asian Americans, particularly women, are the least likely to be promoted to management roles compared to other racial groups.
  • Corporate Presence: A 2017 Asia Society study revealed that over a quarter of U.S. corporations had no Asian or Asian American representation at all.

When focusing specifically on Asian American women, their representation in leadership roles is disproportionately low compared to their White, Black, and Latina counterparts. This disparity becomes more pronounced when breaking down the Asian American category into specific ethnicities like Indian, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, and Filipino.

Following the publication of my article “Top 20 South Asian Women Leading in Tech,” I had the opportunity to connect with six remarkable women featured in it. These interactions reinforced two key insights: South Asian women must become a norm in leadership, not an exception, and it's possible to integrate our cultural identity into our professional lives without it overshadowing our professional contributions.

After extensive feedback, navigating through the challenges of COVID-19, and meticulous planning, we are excited to announce the official launch of SALUTE. Our mission is to build a curated, impactful community of South Asian female professionals, dedicated to fostering innovation, unity, and progress.

Why a curated community?

While our ambition is to embrace every South Asian woman, we understand that a more focused approach is necessary to truly serve the needs of rising leaders who are actively shaping their industries. Our commitment is to cultivate meaningful professional connections, fostering trust, respect, and leadership.

Eligibility for SALUTE Membership

We invite applications from those demonstrating a significant trajectory in leadership and a substantial impact in their professional domains. SALUTE is not defined by titles or age, but by the influence and contributions one makes in their field.

Inclusivity in Definition

At SALUTE, we embrace a broad and inclusive definition of ‘female’ and ‘woman’. Anyone who identifies as such is welcome in our community.

As we embark on this journey with SALUTE, we acknowledge that there will be learning curves and challenges. However, our goal is to navigate these with the support and feedback of our community.

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