Research: Asian Americans least likely to be promoted to management in tech

Asian Americans were the least likely among all races to become managers and executives, even though they were the most likely to get hired for tech jobs.

In Silicon Valley, your ability to get the job does not necessarily mean you’ll be able to move up the ranks. This is the key finding an Ascend report highlighted by a new Harvard Business Review article found. According to Equal Opportunity Commission data analyzed by Ascend, Asian Americans were the least likely among all races to become managers and executives in Silicon Valley, even though they were the most likely racial group to get hired for these tech jobs.

“Despite being outnumbered by Asian men and women in the entry-level professional workforce, white men and women were twice as likely as Asians to become executives and held almost three times the number of executive jobs,” the report co-authored by Buck Gee and Denise Peck, states.

There is a lack of Asian American representation in top management

Asian American workers are being successfully recruited into the tech sector. According to the Ascend report, they held 47% of Silicon Valley individual professional roles in 2015, compared to 43% of white people in those roles. But the success in hiring did not translate to a success rate in promoting these workers up the corporate ladder. They only held 25% of tech executive positions, compared with nearly 70% held by white people, the report found.

The lack of Asian American leadership is not just limited to technology. It is seen across the corporate sector. Last year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Asian Americans make up less than 15% of upper management at four of the biggest U.S. banks.

Why is there a dropoff between hiring and promotion? Gee and Peck argue that diversity programs focus on hiring over nurturing the leadership talent of Asian American workers. They may be more likely than other groups to get into the room, but they are less likely to be leading the discussion as an executive.

“Asian Americans are 12% of the professional workforce while making up only 5.6% of the U.S. population,” Gee and Peck wrote in HBR. “Because Asian Americans are not considered an underrepresented minority, they are given little priority or attention in diversity programs. We have found that in many companies throughout the country, Asian-related programs are geared toward cultural inclusion, not management diversity.”

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.