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How a mom-daughter talk led to a global celebration of Hmong women

How a mom-daughter talk led to a global celebration of Hmong women

How a mom-daughter talk led to a global celebration of Hmong women

Elizabeth Yang, with her daughter Evelyn Nouchi Vang and her mother Sandy Yongvang. Photo by Rory Lee | Courtesy of Elizabeth Yang
Hmong Women Inspired to Take on the World

Hmong Women Inspired to Take on the World


posted by Brittney Le

A page from the Global Digital Look Book. Photo by CX Photography.

By Brittney Le
AsAmNews Staff Writer

Elizabeth Yang and her daughter Evelyn Nouchi Vang, wearing scarves that can be purchased at the online shop. Photo by Elizabeth Yang.

Elizabeth Yang’s seven-year-old daughter just wanted her friends at school to think she was Asian, not Hmong.

“She told her friends that she was Hmong and her Hmong name, and they laughed at her,” Yang said her daughter, Evelyn Nouchi Vang, told her one night.

“If I don’t do something, my daughter will forget where she came from,” added Yang. “My baby girl would forget all the struggles of what it was to be a Hmong woman.”

Yang was thus inspired by her daughter to start Hmong Women Take on the World (HWTOTW), a virtual summit to celebrate and share the experiences of Hmong women from diverse backgrounds across the globe.

The summit will take place this May 19-20. HWTOTW also just launched its Global Digital Look Book this Wednesday showcasing positive images of Hmong women across different ages and life moments, captured by Hmong photographers and enthusiasts.

“I wanted this to be reflective of the diversity of women all around the world, so I started to crowdsource stories,” Yang told AsAmNews. “I wanted to talk about how the face of leadership within Hmong women could look different.”

In about 5 months, Yang has gathered about 60 Hmong women from all around the world, each with unique skills and professions, to help lead the summit. “I’ve always believed that when she rises, we rise,” said Yang. “How do I help that one sister to rise?”


Photo from the Global Digital Look Book. By Khue Lor, Filmtroverse Studios.

Yang has been touring the U.S. and Australia, in her “Quest to Believe that We Are Enough.” She visits various cities to meet her Hmong sisters and introduce them to her global sisters through Facebook Q & A. Talking to these Hmong women about their stories, Yang says, “It leaves an imprint on your heart.”

Elizabeth Yang was born and raised in Fresno, California, until she moved to Minnesota with her mother at about 12 years old. Both Fresno and Minnesota had large Hmong populations, but she still struggled with her identity. “I wasn’t quite American enough and I wasn’t quite Hmong enough, because I was Hmong American,” Yang told AsAmNews. “I identified much more so as being an American girl growing up, and it was challenging. I didn’t fit in between the two cultures.”

HWTOTW Minnesota leaders with Elizabeth Yang’s mother. By Pang Foua Xiong.

However, as she grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, she began to get involved in Hmong community groups and started to embrace her Hmong identity.

When Yang graduated from high school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do. “A lot of the stereotypical Asian American narrative is that you go to college and that’s kind of your path,” she said. After college, Yang ended up in a corporate job, but she “wanted to give back to the world but I just didn’t know how.” Yang tried being a community organizer but eventually landed in product development in the healthcare field.

When her job moved her to Boston, her family left behind the dense Hmong community that they knew. “Nobody knew who Hmong people were,” she said. That’s when Yang had the talk with her daughter that spurred a whole movement.

While Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have large Hmong populations, physical summits often limit involvement – what about the many Hmong women elsewhere all over the globe? Yang wants to “close the gap between these stories” through this virtual forum that doesn’t have physical boundaries.

From the look book. Photo by Panhia Lee.

“Within the Hmong community, it’s still a very patriarchal system,” she said, acknowledging that a lot of work still needs to be done to uplift women within Hmong culture. “The world is big enough to have this space to give them a space to rise.”

The summit can be viewed the day of through visiting the HWTOTW website. They are still looking for city hosts that can accommodate large crowds to watch the summit. Yang also encourages people to gather at their homes to watch, as a “day just to celebrate each other.”

People can show support through the online shop, where talented Hmong women have contributed their products and skills for proceeds to go towards HWTOTW.

HWTOTW also plans to release a digital magazine this June to continue to share stories of Hmong woman experiences after the summit.

Going back to Minnesota for HWTOTW, Yang has realized that her hometown hasn’t changed much, but she definitely has. “I feel that there’s a greater purpose,” she said. “I feel that I can make a difference.”

From the look book. By Nhia Ly Photography

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About The Founder, Elizabeth Yang

About The Founder, Elizabeth Yang

Elizabeth Yang is a business strategist specializing in customer experiences and leadership through social growth. She helps business leaders gain financial benefits from building a customer-first organization that invests in inclusive global community experiences. She shows them how to build a profitable, customer-first organization with strength-based teams and build a social network to help achieve goals. She is a speaker, trainer, and advisor that has worked with many global leaders and brands to get seen, heard, and connected to monetize.

From leading emerging technology team in innovation to alignment across global teams and locations, Elizabeth brings nearly two decades of experience at top Fortune 50 companies working with executives and leading teams to turn ideas into viable business growth across health care, education, staffing and retail. She’s also gives back by serving on boards and committees for many non-profit organizations.

She saw that the #1 difference in initiatives that succeeded or failed was the leader’s ability to rally people to support and build the vision. This common phenomenon across her expertise in product, innovation, marketing and organizational transformations was when she recognized the mastery in inclusive leadership and the power of social networks, starting with the art of conversations.

“Saved” by the power of her social network, Elizabeth’s biggest turning point was when she got laid off and rehired all on the same day on her 8th year company anniversary while on vacation with her family.

Elizabeth’s a continuous learner that’s known for her ability to think strategically in seeing the big picture and operationalizing the vision for teams to execute methodically. She geeks out on technology and is an active listener where she can spot the “1 degree shift” that people need to make to get the biggest ROI (return on investment).

Elizabeth is also founder of Hmong Women Take on the World, a global online summit that celebrates women and girls using emerging technology, product marketing, and social media. Launched in just 6 months, the crowdfunded campaign raised $30K USD and generated 100+ curated stories, bringing together 60 partners across 8 different countries, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Laos, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

She’s a Gallup Builder Profile Talents (BP10) coach with certifications in Pragmatic Marketing (PMC), Harvard’s consulting continuing education program, and BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits for behavioral change. She’s a former PhD candidate, studying Human Factors & Ergonomics. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Technical Communications and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Business Marketing & Communications.