Glass ceiling: Asian Americans still under-represented in Silicon Valley leadership


(San Jose Mercury News) If a company has a workforce that is predominantly one demographic, with none on its senior staff, is there a glass ceiling? And what could be done about it? These are questions raised by women like Sheryl Sandberg in her new book LEAN IN. We enthusiastically endorse her "choose to lean in" advice.

But we put these same questions to leaders including CEO Meg Whitman, CEO Tim Cook and COO Sandberg, whose Silicon Valley workforce in HP, Apple and Facebook is largely Asian American but whose leadership teams posted on their web sites are conspicuously lacking in Asian Americans.

While the proportion of Asian American high tech workers in Silicon Valley has grown from 38 percent in 2000 to over 50 percent in 2010, their representation on senior executive teams is only 11 percent. In board rooms, their presence has declined from 8.8 percent to 8.3 percent. And even though Chinese Americans constitute the largest Asian group, their board representation has dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent.

Asian American women appear to face a double-pane glass ceiling. Women are 17 percent of boards and 16 percent of senior executives in Silicon Valley, but Asian American women are less than 1 percent in both.

These are red flags missing in the public conversation about the corporate glass ceiling.

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