Hidden in Plain Site

Photo: Dai Sugano/Mercury News

In the report, Hidden in Plain Site: Asian American Leaders in Silicon Valley, the authors looked at the 2013 EEOC data and found huge disparities in race and gender. The analysis was made possible by increased transparency by tech companies in disclosing previously confidential data. The EEOC data released by five large Silicon Valley companies (Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo) allow the public, for the first time, to analyze the number of employees in the pipeline of management classifications by gender and race.

The authors identified three major Asian leadership gaps: a gap in awareness and expectations, a gap in role models, and a gap in behavior.

Although awareness and behavioral gaps are not unique to the Asian community, social science research and our personal observations find that traditional upbringing and cultural norms can hinder many in bridging those gaps. Social science research suggests that an Asian effect is rooted in a cultural mismatch between Asian and western leadership norms which feed the western implicit stereotype that Asians have poor leadership skills.

Key findings from our analysis comparing the Asian and white workforce data are as follows:

• Although there are nearly as many Asian professionals as white professionals in most of these five companies, white men and women are ~154% more likely to be an executive compared to their Asian counterparts.

• Asian women are the least represented as executives, relative to their percentage in the workforce. There are 9,254 Asian women professionals in our sample (13.5%), but only 36 Asian women executives (3.1%).

• In the aggregate, the data reflect that white women are 16.8% of professionals, well below their numbers in the U.S. population (40%), but also suggest that they are having success at reaching executive levels in Silicon Valley–based companies. White women have an EPI nearly at parity at executive levels, relative to their representation as individual contributors.

• The “Asian effect” is 3.7X greater than the “gender effect” as a glass ceiling factor. The Asian effect was measured at ~154% for both men and women. The gender effect was measured at ~42% for both whites and Asians.

For more information see the Mercury News coverage: Report: Asian-American tech workers absent from Silicon Valley’s executive suites.