Our Keynote Speaker

Joy Chen 陈愉

Joy Chen former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles looks out window

As a child of immigrants, *I know* how it feels to be an outsider.  Growing up, my number one question was, "How do you talk to White people??" After many awkward encounters, and with the help of key mentors, I transitioned from outsider to corporate insider.

At age 31, I was appointed Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, where I led the upskilling and integration of a workforce which spoke 90+ languages.

Then, I became an executive search leader at Heidrick & Struggles, and for 7 years found CEOs and Board members for Fortune 500 companies.

To teach others the unwritten rules of the game, I started a careers blog, which went viral –in China, launching me there as an author (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》), leadership guru and founder of a global leadership training company which served millions.

Then, the trade war, and the pandemic. I returned to the States and founded the Multicultural Leadership Institute.

I am so blessed to be doing my life's work, and to be partnering with many incredible people just like you.

When I’m not working, you can often find me playing pickleball with friends, or hanging out with my husband and our two teen girls. We live in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles, where we keep a backyard farm with 8 hens we call The Ladies.

Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen smiles in a full-length image

Joy's bio


Joy Chen is CEO of the Multicultural Leadership Institute and a trailblazer in integrating cultural intelligence into leadership, enhancing global competitiveness and innovation. Her journey from Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles to executive recruiter for Fortune 500 leaders has equipped her with unparalleled leadership acumen, blending practical experience with cultural and psychological insights to empower today's business leaders.

Joy is a former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, where she led economic and workforce development for a culturally diverse city whose workforce speaks 90+ languages. Her public policy initiatives in broadening access to opportunities across varied communities have left a lasting legacy.

Transitioning to the corporate sphere, Joy joined Heidrick & Struggles, a premier executive search firm. Over seven years, she excelled in recruiting top-level CEOs and Board Members for Fortune 500 companies across North America, Europe, and Asia. Her adeptness in identifying and nurturing executive talent underscored her deep understanding of leadership dynamics in a global context.

The pivot to leadership training was a stroke of serendipity, ignited by the viral acclaim of her leadership blog in China. This unexpected platform catapulted her to prominence as a best-selling author and  acclaimed keynote speaker, leading her to establish global leadership training organizations that have served millions in Asia and the Americas.

Joy's global cross-cultural leadership has garnered widespread recognition, featuring in media including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, CNN and Vogue China.

Joy holds an MBA and an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA, a BA from Duke University, and a Diversity & Inclusion certificate from Cornell University. She is a 2004 American Marshall Memorial Fellow.


To watch a 3-minute Wall Street Journal video feature on Joy's impact in China, please scroll down.

Joy in the news

Wall Street Journal logo
In an expansive print and 3-minute video feature, The Wall Street Journal reports on the profound influence Joy has had the lives of millions of Chinese professionals.
Wall Street Journal profile of Joy Chen titled An American Lean In Guru in China
The Economist logo
Special Report
Feeling at home
Why some immigrants settle in faster than others
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.

Excerpts:

"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.'"
China's war for talent hots up
The Financial Times features Joy's cutting-edge work to help global companies solve their most pressing talent challenges in China.

Excerpts:

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"
Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in a Los Angeles Times profile titled The Networker

ABC News profiles Joy as "a superstar in China" and the champion of young women there

Excerpts:

"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."

Excerpts:

"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."

OZY Media profiles Joy as "a modern-day Joan of Arc" among her "much vaunted sisterhood," the "Alpha Females of China"

Media in China

Joy has been widely covered across China's business and fashion media, including Caixin, Wall Street Journal Chinese, VOGUE, ELLE, GQ, Trends Health, Marie Claire, Cosmo, Esquire, SELF, and Harper's Bazaar.
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in a Chinese magazine spread
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in Cosmo China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in Harper's Bazaar Jewelry China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in ELLE China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in Vogue China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in Cosmo China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen magazine spread in Cosmo China
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in a China magazine
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in China magazine SELF CHINA
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in China magazine
Multicultural Leadership Institute CEO and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen in China fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar