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Silicon Valley

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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
Nvidia Asian man
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Asian woman
Brocade Communications Systems Black man
Google Brown man
LSI Logic Brown man
NetApp Brown man
SanDisk 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
eBay White man
Electronic Arts White man
Facebook White man
Intel White man
Intuit White man
KLA Tencor White man
National Semiconductor White man
Netflix White man
Oracle Corporation White man White man
Sanmina-SCI White man
Symantec White man
Western Digital Corporation White man
Xilinx White man
Hewlett-Packard White woman
Lockheed Martin White woman
Yahoo! White woman
• Category: Economics • Tags: Silicon Valley 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"