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Why Race Trumps Gender In Silicon Valley’s Glass Ceiling

The “glass ceiling” has generally been associated with the struggles of women in the workplace, but many marginalized groups find themselves dealing with similar issues, especially in the innovation capital of the country, Silicon Valley.

By Ryan Velez

The “glass ceiling” has generally been associated with the struggles of women in the workplace, but many marginalized groups find themselves dealing with similar issues, especially in the innovation capital of the country, Silicon Valley. Despite countless statements and initiatives, a new study reported by EURWeb shows that the companies here have yet to deliver on their promises to bring on a more diverse workforce.

This data comes from The Illusion of Asian Success, a new report from the Ascend Foundation, a non-profit Pan-Asian career lifecycle organization that spotlights the evolving challenges for Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and minority women in climbing the professional ladder to success.

To get its data, Ascend analyzed the leadership pipeline for San Francisco Bay Area technology companies through publicly available data covering 2007-2015. Note that all companies with 100 or more employees are required to file EEOC reports identifying workforce composition by job categories, race and gender. Some of the companies included in the aggregate are Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Twitter, Yelp and others.

The results showed that overall, race was a bigger obstacle than gender to reaching levels of management. Asian and Hispanic women were the most affected overall. In fact, despite being the largest group of minority professionals and most likely to be hired, Asians were the least likely to be promoted to managerial or executive positions. Even other efforts for other groups are falling short. For example, white women have managed to have a great deal more success than all minority men or women when it comes to reaching the executive level. But white men are still 47% more likely to get those jobs. In addition, Blacks and Hispanics are actually declining in their percentage share of the professional workforce. This calls into question the effectiveness of efforts to hire them and other underrepresented groups.

“When we used the Executive Parity Index to compare the numbers of minorities as executives to their numbers in the workforce, it was clear that that efforts to promote more Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics have made no meaningful impact to the minority glass ceiling,” said Buck Gee, a former vice president and general manager at Cisco Systems who is an Ascend executive advisor and a study co-author. “That said, we saw progress made by white women, so we know tech companies can change. Now it’s time to do the same for minority men and women.”

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