Is There a Glass Ceiling for Asians in Silicon Valley?


From a new survey of the 25 largest Bay Area companies comes this nugget: Asians represent just about 6 percent of their board members and 10 percent of their corporate officers.

It’s not huge news, but given the prominence of Asians in Santa Clara county, it’s a bit of a surprise all the same. Santa Clara has experienced the largest Asian population growth three years in a row. At Stanford and UC Berkeley, Asian students constitute a quarter or more of undergraduates. And at some Silicon Valley companies, Asians make up more than one third of all employees.

The disparity may highlight a problem, according to its authors, Buck Gee, a retired Cisco VP and former Valley CEO, and Wes Horn, a retired IBM VP who was chair of IBM’s Asian Diversity Task Force, and who with Gee created the study by poring over publicly available company data.

Interviewed yesterday about their findings in the San Jose Mercury News, Gee told reporter Mike Swift, “There is an underlying belief in the Asian community that there is a corporate glass ceiling. This has been talked about in the Asian community for a long time.” Added Gee, “It’s mostly our fault.”

The pair, whose survey is titled “The Failure of Asian Success in the Bay Area,” blame cultural factors for holding back Asians, including a general deference to superiors, a disinterest or failure of some Asian employees to network enough, and comparatively weaker English-speaking skills.

What do you think? Are they on to something?