All my life, I’ve been obsessed with expanding access to opportunity. That’s because *I know* how it feels to be an outsider.
My parents had saved and sacrificed to buy a house in a good school district, which meant that we were the oddball Chinese in a school that was nearly all white. I struggled to belong.
Finally, I *got* belonged. At 31, I was appointed Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. I focused my term on expanding access to new skills and jobs.
From there, I joined the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, where I found CEOs and board members for Fortune 500 companies. I started a blog, in Chinese and English, on the unwritten rules of the game.
The blog went viral, taking me to China, where I wrote bestsellers - Do Not Marry Before Age 30《30岁前别结婚》and How to Get Lucky in Your Career《30 岁趁势而为》—and founded a leadership training company which has served millions.
When the pandemic hit, I returned to the States to establish the Multicultural Leadership Institute. We help individuals and organizations to unlock their full potential in a rapidly changing world.
I am so blessed to be doing my life's work, and to have discovered many incredible partners and colleagues along the way.
When I’m not working, you can often find me playing pickleball with friends, or hanging out with my husband and our two girls. We live in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles, where we keep a backyard farm with 12 hens we call The Ladies.
Joy Chen (陈愉) is CEO of the Multicultural Leadership Institute and a former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles who for two decades has been on a mission to help people fulfill their potential.
As Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, Joy spearheaded workforce initiatives which have expanded access to new skills and jobs for generations of Californians.
Upon leaving public service, she joined the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, where she recruited CEOs and board members across North America, Asia and Europe.
Joy also headed a Beijing-based leadership training company that created books, courses and viral social media which has served millions.
Now as CEO of the Multicultural Leadership Institute, Joy gives keynote speeches and trainings, and teaches the Asian American Leadership Accelerator, a 6-week online course on the unwritten rules of the game.
For her global leadership unleashing human potential, Joy has been profiled by media including the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNN, CBS News, ABC News, the Los Angeles Times and Vogue China.
Joy holds a Diversity & Inclusion certificate from Cornell University, MBA and M.A. in Urban Planning degrees from UCLA, and a BA from Duke University. She is a 2004 American Marshall Memorial Fellow.
Joy in the news
In a print and 3-minute video package, The Wall Street Journal features Joy as a global careers guru in China.
The Economist features Joy as a child of immigrants who as Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles is creating access to opportunities for Latinos and other immigrants.
"In Los Angeles, Joy Chen, a second-generation immigrant, the daughter of an MIT-educated Chinese father, is deputy mayor. She waves a sheaf of charts showing that the Latino population of the city has outstripped the white; that the new jobs for which demand will grow fastest will require a college degree; and that only one in ten Latino youngsters completes college. That is half the rate for the city's blacks.
Still more alarming is the performance of the immigrants' grandchildren. Of foreign-born Latinos, 35% have no more than a sixth-grade education, and another 27% do not finish high school. The comparable percentages for second-generation Latinos born in America are 1% and 17%. But for the third generation, they are still 1% and 19%. 'By this time, says Ms Chen, incongruously, 'they're us.'"
The Financial Times features Joy's cutting-edge work to help global companies solve their most pressing talent challenges in China.
The task of hiring top Chinese executives is made more challenging by a dearth of qualified candidates. A report from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles gives several reasons for this: education and work opportunities of many now aged 50-60 were disrupted by the Cultural Revolution; the local talent pool was depleted by China’s “brain drain” of the 1980s and 1990s; there are few strong business schools in China; and local Chinese executives often lack global know-how.
“Companies want to localise but the majority of people who are local mainland Chinese don’t have experience with global business principles,” says Joy Chen, principal at Heidrick & Struggles.
Executive search firms are using unconventional means to identify qualified Chinese, who are not well documented in formal company rosters. Heidrick & Struggles 18 months ago began a big initiative to build a database of potential candidates by tapping networks used by Chinese émigrés, such as alumni associations of Chinese universities, civic associations, churches and recreational clubs.
Even when qualified candidates are located, it is not certain that they would be willing to return to China. But in the past five years there has been more interest from overseas Chinese as big potential for career development in China beckons.
This is especially true if in America someone has hit the “glass ceiling”, the invisible barrier said to keep women and minorities from reaching upper-level management. “Maybe they speak English with an accent or weren’t in a fraternity in college. Those kinds of things can lock them out of management jobs in the US,” says Ms Chen. “But it’s those bicultural attributes that can be a big advantage going back.”
The Los Angeles Times profiles Joy in an article simply headlined "The Networker"
ABC News profiles Joy as "a superstar in China" and the champion of young women there
"Joy Chen is a superstar in China, the champion of young women known as "leftovers" -- those who are still single in their mid-20s and scorned by all. Chen is the author of "Do Not Marry Before Age 30," a pop culture bestseller that offers dating advice and strives to help women reach their full potential. The book is a latest sensation among a new class of working women in China, some of the best educated in the world.
Women have been flocking by the thousands to her speaking engagements. "It's more of a guide on how to be happy and confident in your own life -- how to love yourself," she said of the book. But it also includes techniques she learned while working as a global headhunter after her stint in city government.
'One of the things we keep hearing all over again in pop culture is there are very few role models with success in their career and a happy family life,' she said. 'My intention is to start the conversation these women need to have amongst themselves."
"On stage, celebrity Joy Chen is like a walking exclamation point. She speaks in rolling torrents and flashes a brilliant white smile. Her poise and polish are hallmarks of her much vaunted sisterhood — call them the Alpha Females of China.
Today, a hushed audience of tens of thousands of white-collar women — all young, educated, urban and all in black pumps — are eagerly eating up every word of her feminista rallying cry. “We don’t want to survive in society,” she says. “We want to lead society.”
It’s a brazen decree with a lot of lofty ideals behind it. But with doe-eyed looks and a certain gal pal appeal, Chen is a modern-day Joan of Arc."