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Asians Now Half of Silicon Valley Work Force

Susan Hall

Asians make up half the work force at tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau that shows Asians’ gains were Caucasian workers’ loss.

Whites made up 50.9 percent of the work force in 2000, but that number declined to 40.7 percent by 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of Asian workers grew from 38.7 percent to 50.1 percent. Hispanics declined from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent, blacks from 2.8 percent to 2.3 percent and the “other” category from 3 percent to 2.7 percent, reports SiliconValley.com.

The article quotes Yolanda Lewis, president and CEO of the Oakland-based Black Economic Council, which has staged protests at tech companies, as saying they:

"do not want to employ Americans. They import labor from overseas, pushing for H-1B visas. Check the job boards. They basically say, 'H-1B Visa. Americans need not apply.' For years, women, blacks and Latinos have been kept out of the tech job market. Now white men are being forced to train their replacements."

The article then goes into the lack of mentorship that young blacks and Hispanics face in their pursuit of so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, math — while Asian kids come from families who place a premium on excellence, as my colleague Don Tennant has written. (My high-school-age son tells me that Asian kids who aren’t math and science whizzes face teasing at school because they don’t fit the stereotype.)

Expanding and improving the teaching of STEM disciplines was part of Microsoft’s proposal that tech companies pay more for H-1B visas, though that proposal was largely seen as a ploy, since Microsoft, the largest H-1B employer, always advocates for allowing more.

But clearly as a country, we need to lift our standards, putting more emphasis on math and science and providing better support for those who teach it if we are to boost the homegrown work force in STEM careers. Too often, rather than being fascinating, as they should be, they’re taught in a way that’s duller than dirt, my son tells me.

But there’s also decline in immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States, according to recent report by AnnaLee Saxenian of Berkeley and Vivek Wadhwa of Duke. While 43.9 percent of Silicon Valley startups launched in the past seven years had an immigrant among its founders, down from 52.4 percent in 2005. The reasons for the decline could be related to U.S. visa issues and better opportunities abroad.

That illustrates the work cut out for Argentine Wenceslao Casares, which this Slate article describes as one of the up-and-comers from Latin America.


Wadhwa, of course, routinely calls out Valley tech companies on racial bias — to the point of death threats.

Meanwhile, on Friday the U.S. House passed a bill that would grant more visas to foreign-born students who graduate with advanced degrees from American universities in the STEM fields, USA Today reports. That bill has little chance of passage in the Senate, though an alternate bill has been introduced in that chamber.


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