Just about one month into her job as state Representative of the 14th Essex District, Democrat newcomer Tram Nguyen sparked conversation on social media about the need for more diverse representation after sharing an incident during which she was assumed to be a legislative aide by a lobbyist.
Nguyen took to Twitter to explain the incident. Her tweet said: "Lobbyist: Are you Rep X's aide? Me (in full suit): No. Lobbyist: Are you Rep Y's aide? Me: No. I'm Rep Nguyen. Lobbyist: Oh, you're Rep Nguyen's aide. Me: No! I'm the representative. This is why we need more women, and (women of color) in leadership positions."
"My aide was sitting next to me and it was just assumed I was the aide," she said. "This isn't the first time it's happened. I've been mistaken for the aide numerous times."
She said she posted about the incident on social media in an effort to motivate people and raise awareness of the reality that there is not fair representation in leadership positions. It sparked a much bigger response than she had expected, receiving thousands of likes and dozens of responses.
In her previous job as an attorney, Nguyen said she was often mistaken for the victim's advocate or even the interpreter.
And Nguyen is not alone. One of her new male colleagues, who is a decade younger than 33-year-old Nguyen, affirmed he had never once been mistaken for an aide. Nguyen, however, said she has conversed with other women colleagues, and other Asian-American women colleagues, all of whom had said they are never just taken as the Representative, and always assumed to be an aide.
"I realize it's a reality, and it's a reality we need to change," she said.
Nguyen said there is a misconception that only a certain type of people can hold office, and people from different backgrounds need to be encouraged to run for office to break that misconception.
"We have to have more representation from the LGBTQ community and so many ethnic groups," she said, adding that there's value in diversity, because better results come from perspectives of people with different ways of thinking.
Nguyen is one of two Asian-American women serving in the House of Representatives.