• http://www.8asians.com John

    Welcome to the stark reality of Silicon Valley…

  • http://www.pikindaguy.com Tien Nguyen

    Personality is truly what elevates one in the corporate world–if you’re loud, brash, and always keep your mouth moving, people are going to be more likely to view you as smart and know what you’re doing–as opposed to say, actually being smart and knowing what you’re doing. It explains why women are underrepresented in major executive roles as well..

    The optimist in me says it has less to do with a “glass ceiling” or perception that Asians can’t lead, but that your stereotypical Asian–nerdy, shy, keeps to himself–don’t fit the mold of what corporate America wants in its leaders.

    I’d say that an outgoing, out-spoken charismatic Asian has as much of a chance at advancing as quickly as a white person does–if anything, the idea of a subconscious affirmative action policy in the company may even help the Asian advance quicker, as every firm loves to give off the appearance of diversity..

  • gameover

    In Silicon Valley, I would say the number of asian executives is quite high, just maybe not in proportion with the rest of middle management and rank and file. Especially if you look at the Web 2.0 companies. Do you count Indians as asians? If so, there are many asian executives. Possibly because they all founded the companies that they are executives at, but still..


    I have to agree with Tien Nguyen.

    So I wouldn’t say that there is active discrimination, but I would rather say that Asian Americans’ personalities tend to be less assertive.

  • http://gayparenthood.blogspot.com Tim

    @Gameover: Yes, I count Indians. In fact the other 3 Asians other than me on the executive team (the ones in engineering) at my company are all Indians. I’m the only non-Indian Asian on the team. I’ve had a really hard time getting to be an executive in my career. At first, I was told I didn’t have enough “gray hairs” (by a well-meaning boss trying to explain why I didn’t get a position), but as you know Asians look much younger than they are, and the people getting the jobs were younger than I was. I’m certainly not the stereotype, which is probably why I’ve been able to get as far as I have, but even now, I’ve heard from my current boss about people asking why I’m in the position I’m in, and aren’t I too young to be doing what I’m doing (and I’m over 40, older than most of the other management team).

  • http://www.8asians.com John

    @Tim – I’ve always wondered if greying my hair would improve my chances of looking older, more experienced, and wiser – i.e. “the look” for upper management.

    Study: Americans Expect Business Leaders to Be White

  • http://www.8asians.com/author/ancientone95131/ Jeff

    “Welcome to the stark reality of Silicon Valley…”

    This is way too dramatic and misses important context. The way I see it, after working a long (long) time in Silicon Valley, things are SO much better than before. In the old days, there was a kind of caste system. You’d have white management, Chinese and Indian Engineers, white, Vietnamese and Filipino technicians, and Filipino, Vietnamese, and Hispanic assemblers. Going to work definitely felt like some strange colonial experience! I remember talking to an HR person during that time about the biggest source of racial conflict, and she said it with white technicians who were working for Asian engineers. They were often older and knew more than some young Asian engineer who was just starting, but they made less and had to work for that engineer, resulting in much resentment – a problem almost exactly opposite of the problem you are talking about.

    Eventually, most of manufacturing moved out of Silicon Valley, which broke up part of the hierarchy. At that point in time, my HR contacts told me that their big racial issue concerned Asian Engineers who felt that they couldn’t advance up the management hierarchy would leave and start up their own companies. I knew many Asian-American engineers who felt like that felt that they were relegated to only being technical coolies and struck out on their own. One issue that occurred in that situation was when they did start up companies, the venture capitalists would not let the company be run by an Asian. I recall that there was even a venture capital firm that specialized in reaching out to Asian-American founded companies (forget the name – anyone?)

    What about the glass ceiling? A study published in 2000 called “Silicon Valley’s New Immigrant Enterpreneurs” by AnnaLee Saxenian (http://www.ccis-ucsd.org/PUBLICATIONS/wrkg15.PDF) has some interesting insights. She says that although Asian-Americans point to the “glass ceiling” as a race based barriers, income data doesn’t support it – there is no statistical difference in the incomes of Chinese or Indian managers and that of white managers. Tellingly, she said that those surveyed attributed differences in management participation less to “racial prejudice and stereotypes” than to what was perceived as an old boy network. I think that that perception is pretty accurate. Many of the white folks in Tim’s management probably were part of an “old boy” network.

    Much time has passed. At the company where I work, there have been Asians who have headed up marketing and major product divisions. I see Asians all over the management hierarchy, and my own boss is Asian. Much of this occurred as employees of all kinds of ethnicities at the company were encouraged to network and get mentors. More and more Asian-Americans are venture capitalists. Some of my Asian engineer friends who left are now the CEOs or high in the management hierarchies of their respective companies. There are now some well-established Asian old boy networks, and I am sure that non-Asians and Asian-Americans people not of those ethnicity would have trouble cracking those. The Asian-American CEOs and VP level management in Silicon valley that I know definitely have their own networks of Asian-Americans that they will tap for management positions.

    The meaning of “not enough gray hair”? I’d interpret that as, “you aren’t in our OLD boy network.” I’d think that that to get further, you’d have to crack into the old boy network that is probably there – play golf with those folks, schmooze, etc. – yucky stuff that I’d don’t like to do, which is probably why I am still a technical coolie!

  • http://gayparenthood.blogspot.com Tim

    @Jeff: I don’t disagree with you. It’s definitely a lot better than it was when I started here in Silicon Valley in 1990, but some things haven’t changed. I’ll agree I find a lot of Asian execs in startups, but you just don’t find that many in public companies. I’ve worked for a few startups with Asian execs, but in many cases they were pushed out as soon as the company took on funding, etc. So while there’s definitely opportunity to create your own company and become an exec, there’s definitely not as much opportunity in established companies. In my own company there’s been super fast growth and we’re public, so it’s not really the old boy network. Over half of the exec team that met was new within the last 2 years, and you can’t hire that many execs just from a pool of people that know each other. Quite a few were hired using head hunters, but still there’s few Asians in the mix.

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  • lazybye

    What percentage of the engineers at your company are Asian? Do you know any of the stats for HP, Apple, Yahoo, etc.? I know that Cupertino, Ca is 51% Asian according to the 2000 census, so the % of workers at HP and Apple, which are located there, should be high.

  • lazybye

    @Jeff: Nearly all of the Asian CEO’s of tech companys founded those same companies, like Jerry Yang (formerly of Yahoo), Jen-Hsun Huang (Nvidia) and Min Kao (Garmin). The last two are especially successful companies, so it can’t be that Asians aren’t good leaders–there couldn’t be something more daunting, from a leadership point of view, than starting your own tech company from scratch to a workforce of a few hundred or thousand. It’s more like Asians won’t rise in companies where whites are in charge.
    What Saxenian said in 2000 is still true: venture capitalists usually demand whites to lead the companies that Asians started. Still, a few Asians manage to stay in control even after going through VC funding.

  • andrew09

    Hi, I don’t think it’s a matter of being of the Asian ethnicity per se more so than the physical attribute of masculinity. It’s really sad to realize that it exists to this day, knowing Silicon Valley is predominantly Asian (see that’s why i think minorities outnumbering whites in 2020ish is irrelevant). That gray hair comment reminds me of black women’s frequent experience in job interviews that the employer commented they just “didn’t smile enough” that caused their position.

    For you, Tim, I think it’s more of a perceived age prejudice than anything else. We also need to consider the fact that most Asian men are very shy in social functions (yes I’m speaking for myself lol), what more in representing a corp.

  • Edwin

    I think there’s more to it than a glass ceiling based on race. It may be that, as “high tech” as Silicon Valley companies present themselves, the people at the top are not the “technies” (engineers, technicians, etc.). It may just so happens that Asians/Asian Americans are more likely to be the engineers rather than PR, HR, or people with business degrees. I believe your statistics reflect more on our nation/culture’s preference for Harvard Business grad’s snazzy presentation than for a state college educated programmer’s software (which actually makes the profits).

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