Three years ago, Ellen Pao — former junior partner of Silicon Valley venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — filed a lawsuit against her former employers, citing a pattern of bias against female employees; yesterday, lawyers in her suit against Kleiner completed their closing statements with a plea for greater efforts to address gender equality in the tech industry. Pao’s suit alleges that Pao was harassed, and eventually fired, from Kleiner for challenging a culture of sexual harassment within her former company.
Throughout the Pao trial, Pao has courageously endured the usual victim-blaming, character assassination and mudslinging used to dismiss, invalidate, and insubstantiate the experiences of women. She has been tone policed. She has been slut-shamed. She has been labelled a gold digger. She has been accused of being untalented, amateurish, and unprofessional. The message Kleiner’s lawyers are trying to communicate is clear: Ellen Pao is lone voice trying to capitalize off an imagined gender problem in Silicon Valley.
The problem for Silicon Valley is that Ellen Pao is not alone.
This is the first in a series of posts aimed at presenting data on the institutional sexism that affects Asian American women (and by extension other women of colour).
Feminists have long known about the gender income gap, which shows that in aggregate women earn approximately 75 cents to the dollar earned by their male counterparts. One of the more surprising statistics out there, is that when the gender income gap is subsequently stratified by race, the gender income gap is widest within the Asian American community compared to their male counterparts. In fact, Asian women earn 73% the income of Asian men (compared to 81% for income of White women vs White men). While this statistic is tempered by the fact that AAPIs on the whole — i.e. both men and women — are bringing home a much higher median household income than folks of other races, the wide gender pay gap within the Asian American community demonstrates clear evidence of a strong gender-based disparity faced by AAPI women that goes largely unaddressed in our community.
But, some might wonder, what does this number really mean? What are the factors that lead to such a discrepancy in earning between AAPI men and AAPI women?