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Tech

Asians Make Gains In Bay Area Tech Workforce

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An aerial view of the downtown San Jose skyline. (Helene Labriet-Gross/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Asian-Americans are now making up the bulk of the Bay Area’s high-tech workforce, according to the latest numbers. Despite these gains, the numbers aren’t being reflected in senior management or on company boards.

Asians, including Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, make up 50 percent of the employees in fields such as IT, engineering, and software.

Of the Bay Area’s top 25 largest tech companies, Asians make up just 12 percent of senior executives and only 8 percent of board members. Among those companies, Hewlett Packard, EBay and Facebook have no Asian chief executives whatsoever.

John Chen, former CEO of Sybase, a company he grew into a $14 billion enterprise, told KPIX 5, “You have to quote unquote ‘work harder’ and demonstrate more results. It takes you a little longer to gain the trust of employees.”

The numbers raise concerns that Asians are still battling stereotypes in the workplace and that perhaps they are dealing with deeper, cultural issues that are self-inflicted.

“There is an Asian stereotype about being very quiet and being geeky and being a team player and working really hard and really smart. And that stereotype is by and large true,” said Buck Gee, one of co-founders of the Asian Leadership Program at Stanford University.

Gee says there’s a social norm that most Asians are quiet and not good leaders.

Chen argues that having Asian executives can be good for business and that it can help attract and retain Asian tech workers.

Vishal Sikka, Chief Technology Officer and executive board member at software giant SAP, said a few words in Hindi at a recent conference. It was a gesture that had an emotional impact on employees like Ritika Suri.

“We just know a lot of people were moved to tears just to hear a board member at SAP addressing them in their language,” Suri said.

While Sikka values diversity in the workforce, there’s something he values more: Hiring the best.

“You still cannot compromise on the quality because the team suffers. So what you do is you look more. You look more intensively, you find more candidates,” said Sikka.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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