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I'm preparing an interview for a job with an USA company based in silicon valley, but the first thing I noticed is the lack of diversity. I counted 30 people from 36 people are Asian

Is this normal for a company based in USA where Asian are small part of American people ?

Is this a red flag I need to be aware of

I'm not Asian by the way

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  • Doesn't have to be, a lot of people get first notice of a job opening from friends/family. Perhaps thats how they got it.
    – A.bakker
    Dec 11, 2021 at 17:30
  • They are us citizens, from their accent they are us rised. But it's the first time I see this Dec 11, 2021 at 17:51
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    Asians - What do you mean? Over 1/4 of the worlds populate live there. So what? A company that has a good job is that all counts
    – Ed Heal
    Dec 11, 2021 at 18:06
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    California and the west coast are some of the most heavily populated places in the US for people emigrating from Asia (i.e. China, Korea, Japan, India, Russia, Philippines, Malaysia, etc.). From that perspective it make senses. TBH, this is not answerable because 1) We don't know the company 2) We don't know their history 3) It's around 30 people/startup ... it's statistically impossible to make claims one way or another.
    – David
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:13
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    There is one orange flag you need to worry about and that's if most workers are on an H1B visa. Workers on H1B visas have less flexibility in switching employer and less negotiation power. vice.com/en/article/qvgn9q/… Another thing you need to worry about is if everyone shares the same regional language/dialect, because that can mean you'll be left out of crucial conversations, but even if most of the workers are from India, them sharing the same language but English is very unlikely anyhow. Dec 12, 2021 at 4:54

4 Answers 4

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TLDR: It is concerning, but like a lot of things in diversity, the explanation can sometimes be more benign than something like explicit racism. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

One of the key considerations is context. I would be just as deeply concerned about a company that is 100% asian in Montana as one that is 100% white in India. "Ideally", the ethnic diversity of a company should reflect a combination of the local and national context where it's located. Asians do make up ~20-30% of the Bay Area population... or higher, depending on the area... or much lower if you consider the broader USA. So seeing a company that is ~80% asian is concerning and would definitely give me pause before joining (I am not asian BTW), but what would be even more alarming is if they are all from the same country... that is a company I would very likely pass on.

Another contextual clue stems from the size of the company. 36 people is small enough to be biased by a very natural human tendency to associate with people similar to them. Maybe the founders/owners of the company are asian, and all their friends and family are asian (very common and nothing wrong with that). Since early hires can be so important, they want to hire people they trust... so they tap their network. Doing things this way is still obviously biased, but it's an alternative explanation to the makeup of the company which does not involve blatant racism.

As a final few personal examples: (1) I currently work for a company in the bay area that is at least ~40-50% asian (but from a variety of countries), and there is a pretty positive culture that is accepting of diversity. (2) A previous job was at a large company that was very diverse overall, but the team I was on was not diverse and I experienced blatant bias against me due to my ethnicity. (3) My husband worked at a company that was >80% asian (and mostly from one country), where most were H1B immigrants because they're much cheaper and management basically abused them to get more work out of them. My husband (who is not asian) did stay there for five years, learned a lot, and still has some nostalgia for it... but he admits it was still a very bad place for most people to work at.

Probably the best thing for you to do your due diligence by (1) asking them questions during the interview, (2) lookup online reviews, and (3) see if anyone you know works there (or if one of your friends knows someone). For example, here is a list of questions you could ask about regarding diversity: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/interview-questions-inclusive/. One thing you could gauge is if they're aware of their lack of diversity and want to improve. Maybe all non-Asians they previously interviewed passed on them due to their lack of diversity, so they've been forced to hired Asians?

You see, there can be many nuances. Maybe there is a benign reason for the lack of diversity, or maybe it's just racism... that's for you to find out. I hope that helps.

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Your observation may be way weaker than you think

  • San Franciso + STEM field -> the number of potential applicants is not distributed in the same way as the general population.

  • The intrinsic bias needed to make this believable is not excessively big and could actually vanish if e.g. a group of Asian/Asian-american friends joined at the same time.

So do your own math, and the "30 out of 36" figure will look much less conclusive than it sounds in the first moment.

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  • +1 I like how this answer is the most factual and based on real world mathematics/statistics (the only way to be objective). I like Michael's answer as well for "what to do", but I like this answer a touch more as it is pointing out some of the issues in the OP's observations such that "there may not be anything to do".
    – David
    Dec 13, 2021 at 19:33
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It's not a red flag, but something you should investigate during the interview process. As you'll read here often: interviews are a two way process. The company has to make you want to work there. So, I suggest asking directly if and when you get to the final multiround interview, if you are comfortable. If you are not comfortable asking directly, then just note your interviewers' dispositions toward you. If they are welcoming and nice to you, you probably will have no issues. If instead Asian American interviewers are cold or indifferent to you, that will be the red flag. Bottomline, if the company wants to hire you despite being non-Asian, you will probably be welcome there.

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It can be a red flag, but not necessarily. Firstly, 36 people is not a large company. They are a startup, and likely they were a group of friends, former coworkers, or whatever, who all knew each other previously and started a business together. The fact that they are all the same race lends credence to this; as much as we all like to pretend that everyone lives in one harmonious society and everyone has an equal number of friends of each race, that's not true; people tend to gravitate towards those with similar language/culture/background/beliefs/etc as they have, so the situation of a bunch of friends, who all happen to be Asian, starting a small business together, particularly in the Bay (which has a lot of Asians anyway), is not particularly out of the ordinary.

That said, it is something to be aware of and something you may want to keep an eye on. For example, if they are all Chinese, and they all speak Mandarin in the office to each other, and you don't speak Mandarin, you may get left out of conversations or miss some details. Particularly if they do not speak English at a level where they can converse with you in English, this may cause friction in the office when they have to deal with you. This is an experience I have had myself, where I worked for an ostensibly English-speaking company in Japan but only 1 of my teammates spoke English with any sort of fluency, and I felt left out a lot and my team had difficulty communicating with me. This is something you may want to keep an eye on (I don't know if there's a tactful way to ask this during the interview process, but if you can think of a tactful way to raise this issue, it's something I wouldn't be opposed to doing).

In any case, absent the fact that you will be a racial minority in this company, if the rest of the situation looks above-board, there is no reason to discount this company solely due to the makeup of the employees. Again, this is a startup, so as they grow this issue will even itself out. If, for whatever reason, this turns out to not be the case and this company is, in fact, racist, it's unlikely you will make it very far in the interview process anyway and the time you have wasted on this company will be minimal.

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