Discrimination in the tech industry: why is it still happening?

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Discrimination comes in every form but many have a limited understanding of how it manifests. The classic examples include racist and homophobic insults as well as harassment at the work place. How does discrimination manifest in the tech industry?

The Data

A common stereotype is the idea that Asians are very successful in the tech industry. We've heard of figures such as Sundar Pichai of Google or Satya Nadella of Cisco, but what about the workforce?

Former vice-presidents of Cisco Buck Gee and Denise Peck conducted a study of 184,776 employees of San Francisco Bay Area tech companies. They found that between 2007-2015, representation of leaders in the tech industry was reducing for minorities.

For Asian men, 38% were below executive parity. For Asian women, it was at a whopping 66%. 

Where does this stereotype come from?

The idea that Asian people always perform well in tech derives from the "model minority myth," which originated in 1960s America. However, the illusion of Asian success has created an "Asian Glass Ceiling."

The concept reiterates the ideology that Asian Americans are an "acceptable" minority. As a consequence, companies often fail to recognise Asian people as an unrepresented minority.

This argument is obviously highly simplified. It fails to account for the fact that there are dozens of ethnic groups all over Asia, all of whom migrated for different reasons and face different problems.

This ideology prevents Asian people from having access to benefits that other marginalised communities have access to. The likelihood of Asian people being promoted to leadership positions is therefore much lower than the average employee.

Jane Hyun's Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians addresses this issue. While companies reap the benefits of employing Asian graduates, these environments often make it difficult for Asian people to be promoted.

It is time for companies to think about why they aren't promoting Asian people. Companies should start acknowledging the fact that Asian people are just as capable of taking leadership roles as anyone else.

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