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Q&A with AAPIC Co-Chair Pei Chung

May 1, 2024

The SEC's success in achieving its mission is due in large part to the agency’s ability to attract, hire, develop, and retain a high-quality, technically proficient, and diverse workforce. Any SEC employee can voluntarily participate in workplace affinity groups that plan educational and cultural programs and help facilitate inclusiveness throughout the agency.

The SEC periodically features a Q&A with an employee involved in one of its affinity groups to understand how they strengthen the agency's diversity and inclusion efforts. To commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, Pei Chung shares her background and explains her role as co-chair of the SEC’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Committee (AAPIC). She is an assistant director in the SEC Division of Enforcement.

Bio photo of Pei Chung
   Pei Chung

Q. Can you share a little about your background and what drew you to the SEC?

A: I was interested in being lawyer from a young age, but I can’t really say why. I think it was based on seeing lawyers on TV. I went to Duke University for undergrad and then to the University of Chicago for law school. Before law school I participated in the Department of Justice’s Honors Paralegal Program, and through that experience I developed a deep interest in public service as a career. I spent several years in private practice before I was fortunate to be able to make my way back into public service with the SEC. After 10 years here in the Enforcement Division, I continue to find the work challenging, exciting and deeply rewarding.

Q. Why did you decide to join the AAPIC and what has been most rewarding in your role as co-chair?

A: It’s always been important to me to represent an Asian voice. In college, I was an active member of our Asian American Students Association. In law school, I was the president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. I was so pleased to see an affinity group for Asian Americans at the SEC and honored to be given the opportunity to serve as co-chair. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the aspects of being co-chair, but the most rewarding has been the chance to meet so many folks across the Commission, both of Asian heritage and otherwise, and to facilitate connections between people across the Commission.

The advice I’d give to others is to just keep at it, be who you are, and try to tune out others’ perceptions.

-Pei Chung,

Q: What unique perspectives do you bring to your role as AAPIC co-chair that you may draw upon to help enhance diversity, equity and inclusion both internally at the agency and externally in the community that we serve?

A: I grew up in a small town which was not diverse. Until high school, I was the only Asian in my class. When I graduated, there were fewer than five diverse students in a class of over 500. Based on that experience of always feeling a little bit like an outsider, it’s been even more important to me to find an Asian American community and to enhance and grow that community where I can.

Q. In addition to serving as AAPIC co-chair, you also serve as on the Enforcement Division’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Washington D.C. Can you share a little about what this committee does?

A: The committee was started in late 2021 and has initiated many programs in our three-year tenure, including several engaging and well-attended speaker and social events; outreach efforts to affinity student groups in law schools and underrepresented groups in high schools; and investor education at colleges and universities. We are especially proud of our Virtual Coffee program, which matches up a potential job applicant with an internal contact for informational interviews about careers at the SEC and the application process, a program that has served as a model for other offices and divisions across the SEC. We are very excited about some new initiatives we have in the works, including outreach to professional association affinity groups and upcoming programming on imposter syndrome.

Q: At the SEC, we emphasize the importance of mentorship, sponsorship and internships as conduits for creating personal and professional opportunities. Is there a person, experience or event that was pivotal to helping you get to where you are today?

A: I’ve had a number of extraordinary mentors throughout my career including ones here at the SEC who continue to guide me in important ways, but there is one particular mentor who has really shaped my career path and professional “personality” and that is Lynn Murray, who was the managing partner at the law firm where I worked before coming to the SEC. She is tough, respected, sharp, and the hardest worker I’ve ever known, but also beloved, fun, and generous with her time. I still seek out her guidance to this day.

Q: What barriers have you encountered on your career path, and what advice might you give to help others overcome similar barriers?

A: Although it has improved over the course of my career, Asians and women are still significantly underrepresented in law. I have felt the weight of the constant experience of being the only person who looks like me in a room and the assumptions about you based on how you look. I continue to have this experience. The advice I’d give to others is to just keep at it, be who you are, and try to tune out others’ perceptions.

Q: You have two young daughters. What message would you share with them for navigating the world today?

A: One thing that has struck me is how different my daughters’ childhood experience is compared to mine. Unlike my experience, our community is very diverse, and women and diverse professionals are dominant in their lives. Their doctors and dentists are all women or people of color; almost all of our family, friends and neighbors have two working parents in professional careers; and fathers are prominent caretakers. I don’t think they have any sense right now that it might be harder for them as women of color to navigate the world. I hope that is true as they grow up, but I am preparing myself to have those tough conversations with them as they get older.

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