Overlooked and Unheard: A National Study of AANHPI Girls’ Leadership

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and make up 7.7% of the total U.S. population. Until now, no national study existed on the experiences of AANHPI girls and gender-expansive youth.

This project was co-led with the AANHPI Youth Research Council and in collaboration with Evaluation Studio.


What if the voices of AANHPI girls were heard and their leadership fully realized?

Girls Leadership embarked on a national study to learn how ethnicity and culture impact the leadership development of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) girls. 

The goal of this study was to understand the wide-ranging definitions and understandings of leadership within the diverse communities of AANHPI youth, as well as the external leadership supports and barriers, so that teachers, schools, and community-based organizations can create greater equity in the leadership development of all girls.



Join Us

On April 30, 2024 Girls Leadership and the AANHPI Youth Research Council launched Why We Lead, the first national study of AANHPI girls’ leadership. This study included analysis from the largest sample of data of AANHPI youth to date, with over 2,300 valid responses, and qualitative interviews and photojournalist responses. 

Help us spread the word about this study to make sure that every AANHPI girl and gender-expansive youth knows that they are not alone on their leadership journey.

Download the Why We Lead Report







Interested in sponsoring or partnering? Contact us at donate@girlsleadership.org for more information.

Donate now to contribute to this project.


Advisory Board


Research Cabinet



This study will explore:

  • How ethnicity and culture impact girls’ definition of leadership, their leadership identity, and skill development
  • How leadership definition is impacted by intersections of family structure, income level, education level, language spoken at home, geography, immigration status, and generational status
  • How parents and caregivers define leadership and identify as leaders
  • How teachers perceive supports and barriers to leadership for AAPI girls

Why is this research important?

With the model minority myth, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) are often unseen and unheard. But they’re the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., accounting for 7.7% of the nation’s total population at 24 million in 2020 — nearly double that of 2000’s AANHPI population of 12.7 million.

Yet very little data exists on this disparate group that hails from more than 50 origin countries and speaks 100+ languages. And while there is some data on the general AANHPI population, no research exists on AANHPI girls.

Why now? 

In mainstream media and news, AANHPI experiences — especially those of AANHPI girls and women — are often erased, tokenized, fetishized, stereotyped, or overlooked. Asian American women reported anti-Asian violence and discrimination during the pandemic at 2.2 times the rate of Asian American men, and Pacific Islander women also reported high rates of discrimination.

The economic impact of COVID further amplified the income disparity, disproportionately harming the lowest income groups, including Hmong, Cambodian, Burmese, and Pacific Islander communities.

The time to tell the story of our AANHPI girls is long overdue.


About our research firm:

Evaluation Studio is an innovative and community-centered research firm. Our model is more than just research; it’s about transforming knowledge creation by centering the experiences and voices of the communities we serve. We are a women-led organization grounded in helping girl- and BIPOC- serving youth development nonprofits craft the data-driven narratives they need. We are grounded in an integrated approach of using traditional and liberatory research methods. Our iterative process of discovery, discussion, and design help clients refine their data and knowledge creation processes to empower their stories of impact.


AANHPI includes:

  • Those who identify as biracial, multi-racial, adoptees, and trans-racial adoptees
  • Those who identify as Filipino/Filipino American
  • Those who identify as Vietnamese/Vietnamese American
  • Those who identify as Central Asian/Central Asian American (Afghani, Kazakh…) 
  • Those who identify as East Asian/ Southeast Asian (Chinese, Hmong, Hongkongers, Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, Taiwanese…)
  • Those who identify as South Asian/South Asian American (Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan…) 
  • Those who identify as Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander (Fijian, Samoan, Tongan…)
  • Documented and undocumented girls and gender-expansive youth


  1. Liz Lee

    The QR code on the flyer still doesn’t work… It’s sad that we can’t share these with our AAPI girl students.

    • Dorothy Ponton, Director of Marketing and Engagement

      Hi Liz,

      We’ve tested the QR code again and it is working on our end, so I’d love to know more about how to help. Check your inbox for my email about connecting with your AAPI students.

  2. Liz Lee

    Ths poster to collect AAPI girls survery QR code in the posters don’t work.
    Can you edit it to a working QR code?

    • Victoria Serrato

      Hi Liz, thank you for your feedback! We’ve updated the fliers with new QR codes. If you still experience difficulty with scanning and reading the codes, please use this direct survey link: https://bit.ly/3wkdaxz

  3. Leah

    Hi, when will we hear back about the applications?

    • Dorothy Ponton, Digital Marketing Manager

      We are currently still reviewing applications, and will share an update for all applicants this week. We expect to share interview candidate status in early July.

  4. Sadia

    Is there a payment?

    • Dorothy Ponton, Digital Marketing Manager

      Hi Sadia, applications for our paid Youth Research Council are now closed. May I help you with any other questions?


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