DE&I Sharing Stories Series - Ashley Terrell, CREW KC
1. Can you share a bit about yourself and your cultural heritage?
I am an immigrant. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and adopted at 8 months old by my Kansas City-based parents. Through my adoption, I became a naturalized citizen as a toddler and currently hold dual U.S. and South Korean citizenship. While not born in KC, I was raised in the area and have a deep connection to our City and its continual growth.
2. What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
AAPI Heritage Month is more than a celebration of our heritage; to me it symbolizes the many obstacles our community has had to overcome--immigration access, the right to obtain American citizenship, deportation/incarceration during periods of war, and today's current violence and racial tensions, which emphasized during Covid. Our past is a storied one. Xenophobia and generalizations have been obstacles we've worked hard to overcome and will continue to do so in our future. I strongly believe education, equity, and inclusion of all peoples of all races, generation, geography, and socioeconomics will continue to build understanding and respect for all.
3. How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?
During my childhood, it was hard being disconnected from my heritage and raised in a neighborhood that generalized me as the “Chinese kid”—I felt pressure to conform and felt uncomfortable in my different appearance. It was hard; it instilled a will to constantly promote change, speak up, and support initiatives focused on the acceptance of all. Throughout my career, I have intentionally been a leader/promoter of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I live and raise my two daughters to see past differences, reframe unconscious biases, and embrace individuality. Our family firmly believes everyone is a whole person with many different layers, experiences, and voices.
4. Have you seen the workplace change in terms of offering support and community for AAPI colleagues?
Yes, but there is still so much work yet to be done. I still find often hard to explain my discomfort with comments about my heritage, sex, or single-mother status. In a professional services role, I have worked with colleagues, partners, and clients who have made assumptions or have stereotyped my abilities as an Asian single mother. Employers and firms dedicated to DEI initiatives, implementation, and company-wide buy-in/sponsorship attract and retain top talent. I firmly believe we are the percipient of change; firms unwilling to adopt tactics to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion of all will lag in growth.
5. How have you paved the way in CRE and how have you paid that forward to other women in the industry?
Like my mentors, I am a strong promoter of women in commercial real estate. I happened to fall into commercial real estate post-college—no one was there to share insights and career advice about joining this dynamic field. Few programs specifically designed for women in real estate exist, especially brokerage positions. Today, the brokerage community is predominantly men and tends to be the “good ol’ boys club.” I have worked hard to engage and educate the younger generation of women to seek careers in real estate, especially as a broker. I have advocated for salaried-based training until new brokers have an established book of business, the inclusion of women in business development meetings/events, and equal mentorship guidance.
6. Do you have a favorite CREW story to share?
CREW has been my community. During all of my wins and losses, my CRE squad has been there. Most recently, my family experienced an extremely emotional and challenging time that affected my home and work life. My CREW community immediately jumped in to support me and my two daughters. They shared any resource they knew to assist, lent an ear, and a good set of shoulders to raise me back up. I cannot express how blessed and honored I am to be a member of this amazing group of women, who have provided me with unwavering support, love, and friendship.