Nadia Lim says rich-lister Simon Henry's 'Eurasian fluff' comments damaging for young women of colour, suggests unconscious bias training

Nadia Lim says rich-lister Simon Henry's comments about her were 'disappointing' and reflect the stigma many women of colour face in business. 

Henry, the founder and CEO of specialty chemicals company DGL, made the comments during a rich list interview with NBR last month. 

During the interview, Henry hit out at the My Food Bag co-founder and celebrity chef, suggesting her looks were to blame for the company's disappointing entry into the public market. 

"I can tell you, and you can quote me," he said. "When you've got Nadia Lim, when you've got a little bit of Eurasian fluff in the middle of your prospectus with a blouse unbuttoned showing some cleavage, and that's what it takes to sell your scrip, then you know you're in trouble."

He went on to suggest Lim, a well-respected businesswoman and entrepreneur, was using her "sensuality" to sell the meal delivery service. 

Lim told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green she was saddened by the comments and concerned about the impact they might have on other Asian women in business. 

"I'm a tough cookie. I have had enough years and support to become resilient and confident. My big issue with it is, it saddens me how other people and women and women of colour and ethnic backgrounds might see themselves in those comments and how they would feel hurt," Lim told Chan-Green on Thursday. 

"I had the chance to reflect on these comments when I caught my flight from Christchurch back down home to Queenstown yesterday and my air host was this lovely, awesome Eurasian girl who was quite a bit younger than me and clearly of Asian descent. 

"I smiled at her and she smiled back and then it hit me like I wonder what she thinks when she reads comments like this or hears things like that."

Lim said the comments are incredibly damaging for young Asian women. 

"What's so damaging is young people who hear these things over and over again, who then over time somehow start to believe they are less capable and have less to give and contribute than their peers. 

"That's why comments like this are so damaging. It's water off a duck's back to me, it's other people I feel really, really sad and disappointed for."

Lim said Henry could be using his position of power to celebrate diversity and inclusion but he's choosing not to. 

When asked by Chan-Green whether Henry had reached out to her since his comments were exposed, Lim said "no" but had a simple message for him. 

"First off I would say, 'Go get some unconscious bias training' but also if I met him I would say, 'Hey Simon, come on in we are going to make you a cup of tea, sit down, have a korero' and very quickly I would show him that I am not just 'a little bit of Eurasian fluff'.

"I just want him to open up his mind and see the potential… that it comes in all shapes and forms and sizes and ages and cultural backgrounds and if he did that, if he could think like that, I think it would open up a world of amazing opportunities for him."

Nina Santos from the National Council of Women told Chan-Green the comments highlight attitudes women in business often face. 

"I think we definitely need to acknowledge the broader context in which these comments were made. It just proves that misogyny and sexism are alive in New Zealand, even when we are considered a front runner in gender equality and women's rights, there's a lot more to be done."

Santos said she was offended and saddened by the comments. 

"Personally as an Asian woman myself I was really offended by it but also it's just saddening because it's impossible to dissociate the racial aspect of this and the racial microaggressions, and the reality that a lot of women of colour experience this every day. 

"I just think it's extremely dismissive and condescending for that comment to have been made." 

Santos said Asian women are often hypersexualised in the media and this is an example of that. 

"This is unfortunately not an isolated incident and it needs to be confronted."

Earlier in the show, Chan-Green said the comments were "derogatory". 

"The issue here for me is actually not the term Eurasian, it's how it is used because he was clearly trying to be derogatory and in being derogatory he's used her race to further illustrate his point which is the problem," Chan-Green said. 

AM newsreader Bernadine Oliver-Kerby agreed, calling them sexist and racist. 

"It's racist and sexist and you know what, it's kind of archaic thinking and terminology, " she said. 

It was a sentiment shared by co-host Ryan Bridge who called Henry's comments "shameless". 

"He's trying to undermine My Food Bag using Nadia Lim, who by the way, we all know Nadia Lim and have interviewed her many, many times and she is smart and what she's managed to do in terms of business, on top of her love and her skill and her day job, is incredibly and should be admired by everybody. 

"So to use that to try to undermine the commercial imperatives of what she's trying to achieve is just a really douche move."

AM has contacted Henry for comment but is yet to hear back.