Why The Race Problem Is Worse Than The Gender Problem In Tech Leadership

Written by Staff

Race is a stronger impediment than gender when it comes to climbing Silicon Valley’s corporate ladder, according to a new study from Ascend Leadership, a nonprofit group for Asian professionals.

Representation of white women in leadership roles improved by 17 percent between 2007 and 2015, whereas for all other minority groups, the percentage went down.

tech leadership
Storm Warman


From Wired. Story by Nitasha Tiku.

Companies should approach the issue with an understanding that sexism and racism are structural issues that are always operating in tandem, rather than interpret studies like this as a hierarchy of discrimination, Lucal says.

Buck Gee and Denise Peck, both former vice presidents at Cisco, co-authored the report. They studied a data set of 184,776 employees, 63,299 managers, and 12,856 executives — information collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2007 and 2015 from tech companies in the San Francisco and San Jose areas, a group that covers Apple, Facebook, Cisco, Twitter, Intel, HP, and Yelp. (The EEOC has this data because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires private employers with more than 100 employees to submit confidential reports.) The study focuses only on the promotion within an organization, not hiring or retention.

The study focuses only on the promotion within an organization, not hiring or retention.

Ascend’s findings revealed unique diversity issues for each segment. For black women, the data pointed to potential hiring and retention issues. There was a 13 percent decline from 2007 and 2015 in the number of black women who even entered the tech workforce. The number of Hispanic women, on the other hand, declined slightly at the professional and managerial level, but they had the worst leadership representation after Asian women.

Studies show that assumptions that Asians are good at math, science, and technology make it easier for them to get in the door, but the same bias is reversed when it comes to leadership roles, Gee says.

In April, Palantir paid a $1.7 million settlement after a Department of Labor investigation found discrimination against Asian employees. There is an ongoing investigation into Oracle for favoring Asian workers in recruiting and hiring for technical roles, but paying white men more than women, black, and Asian employees.

Several advocates and investors have pressured publically-traded companies like Apple and Alphabet to better diversify their ranks. In 2015, Jesse Jackson’s group Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a nonprofit, began demanding diversity numbers from tech companies, including showing up at shareholder meetings for Facebook and Amazon.

In a statement to WIRED, Jackson said, “Tech companies over and over have said they ‘must do better’ but the fact remains that blacks and Latinos still make up just 2 to 3 percent of the tech workforce, even less representation in the C-suites and boardrooms.”

Read more at Wired.