Here’s a good argument for immigration: the CEOs of two of US’s three biggest tech companies were born in India.
— Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) August 10, 2015
As you can see from the Tweet above some people are trying to score political points about off Sundar Pichai being tapped to lead Google. I joked in response that these CEOs “sure don’t look like America.” Excessive focus on whom/whom issues inevitably gets knotty and difficult to navigate. I don’t personally care who makes good products as long as the products are good. But reading a Time magazine piece, Everything You Need to Know About the New CEO of Google, made me reconsider an assumption I’d had. The article ends: “He’ll join Microsoft chief Satya Nadella as one of the few minority CEOs in Silicon Valley.” This is a pretty strong assertion. My impression is that at large firms like Apple the management does tend to be white males, while the engineering talent is Asian or Asian American to a much higher degree. But I’d never bothered to check.
If you go to the Wikipedia entry for “Silicon Valley” it has an entry for notable companies. In particular, I looked at the ones which were “Fortune 1000.” Some are very well known. Google, Yahoo, and Apple, for example. Others are lower key, but not obscure. Juniper Networks is probably one of those. Then there’s Xilinx and Maxim Integrated Products, which occupy opposite poles of distinctiveness and lack thereof of corporate names, despite being obscure to the general public. I don’t recall hearing of them before I saw them on the list.
It’s not that hard to look up CEOs, and that’s what I did. The results are below.
To my surprise there’s actually a fair number of minorities as CEOs at large firms with a a presence in Silicon Valley. This went against my expectation. 5 out of 32 CEOs in “Fortune 1000” Silicon Valley firms were of Indian ethnicity. That’s ~16%. As ~1% of the American population is Indian American, that means they are more than an order of magnitude over-represented among CEOs. 21 out of the 32 CEOs were white, 23 if you include the two Middle Eastern men (if they had Southern European names they would definitely be categorized as white). So whites are actually barely over-represented among these CEOs in comparison to the general American population (~63% for non-Hispanic whites). Of course I don’t deny that in comparison to their representation in professional ranks at these types of firms people of Asian origin do seem under-represented in management overall. But, I’d challenge the null hypothesis that society can or should aim for perfect proportionality in all facets of life, and deviations are only due to invidious discrimination, implicit or explicit (there’s very little explicit discrimination, but there is some implicit discrimination when people use words like “corporate culture”). We don’t know all the various factors which result in these sorts of statistics, and Silicon Valley is too important to American productivity to tinker with too much.
|Fortune 1000 Company||Demographic|
|Adobe Systems||Brown man|
|Marvell Semiconductors||Asian man|
|Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)||Asian woman|
|Brocade Communications Systems||Black man|
|LSI Logic||Brown man|
|Juniper Networks||Middle Eastern man|
|Maxim Integrated Products||Middle Eastern man|
|Agilent Technologies||White man|
|Apple Inc.||White man|
|Applied Materials||White man|
|Cisco Systems||White man|
|Electronic Arts||White man|
|KLA Tencor||White man|
|National Semiconductor||White man|
|Oracle Corporation||White man|
|Western Digital Corporation||White man|
|Lockheed Martin||White woman|