Chinese engineers learn to deal with 'bamboo ceiling' in Silicon Valley

Updated 2018-03-20 09:52:04 Xinhua

Some Chinese engineers and programmers, who work in Silicon Valley in the U.S. state of California, said the so-called "bamboo ceiling" has got in their way of reaching a higher position, but they are increasingly confident to cope with it.


Asians, including a major share of Chinese, fill about 30 percent of professional positions at Apple, Facebook and Google, but far fewer become senior executives and managers, according to a report published in January on SiliconBeat, the tech blog of the Mercury News.

A "bamboo ceiling" is there preventing Asians, including Chinese, from being promoted to higher positions in the Bay Area where Silicon Valley is situated and top high-tech enterprises cluster, it added.

"Chinese programmers are a mainstay in Silicon Valley. They contribute a lot to many companies, and they account for a relatively large part of the staff. It is a pity that they are seldom promoted to high-level positions, which I think will improve in the coming years," said 38-year-old Zhao Yao.

He came from Hunan province in south China, won computer science degrees at Chinese and U.S. universities and is now the director of data science at a high-tech start-up Shape Security.

Chinese faces are seldom seen in the top hierarchy of behemoth companies, leaving some aspiring engineers and programmers of Chinese descent perplexed and even plunge into self-doubt.

"One of my directors who is an Asian woman used to tell me about that. We talked about it a few times. She said that you need to watch out for a 'sticky floor' as much as you watch out for a 'glass ceiling'," said Steve Mansour, CTO of Accord Interest and once hired by major companies in Silicon Valley.


Year after year, thousands of Chinese talents flock into the high-tech multinationals in the Bay Area, California, to seek their fortune.

Often successful in making a more affluent life, they would gradually found that their ambitions got stuck half air there because of the "bamboo ceiling."

"Actually there have been several folks that either used to be in my group or who are friends of folks that used to be in my group who have contacted me for advice on how to move up the food chain or which positions to accept or what to do for an interview or things like that. And all of those people without exception have been Chinese," Mansour told Xinhua.

In Silicon Valley, Chinese seem to be more likely to secure comparatively senior technology positions, but less likely to become top managers.

"There are many reasons. First is linguistic ability. Besides, Chinese are still on their way of understanding the American culture. When you reach a senior level, the challenge no longer lies in programming, but how to socialize with others," Zhao told Xinhua.

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