Vaishnavi Jayakumar is among several Asian American techies going public with charges of discrimination and retaliation
Several Asian Americans techies including an Indian American have filed lawsuits alleging their companies have unfairly denied them leadership roles over their race.
Vaishnavi Jayakumar claims that despite her qualifications and experience, she faced racial bias and was denied opportunities for growth and advancement at Meta, according to media reports.
Originally from Singapore, she joined Facebook and Instagram owner Meta in January 2020 after stints at prominent companies like Disney, Google and Twitter.
READ: Parag Agarwal, other ousted executives sue Twitter (April 11, 2023)
According to court documents cited by NextShark, Jayakumarâ€™s supervisor excluded her from projects and marginalized her by “layering” her under less experienced employees.
Despite positive feedback and a history of being a team player, Jayakumar was told she lacked seniority and collaboration skills, impeding her chances of promotion.
“After I had endured enough and filed an internal complaint about this repeated discriminatory behaviour, I was mysteriously the only person laid off from my youth policy team,” she later wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Jayakumar is now seeking policy changes from Meta that include monitoring the rate of promotion for Asian American employees and training managers on stereotypes about Asian Americans.
Her job on the youth policy team was to protect children and teens from bullying, harassment and other forms of abuse, but Jayakumar says she couldnâ€™t shield herself from racial bias on the job.
Soon after inquiring how she could move up at Meta, Jayakumar says her supervisor began leaving her out of opportunities and initiatives that used to be in her scope and â€œlayeringâ€ her under less experienced employees.
Despite years of experience and positive feedback as a team player, Jayakumar says her supervisor told her she was not senior or collaborative enough to be promoted, according to a complaint Jayakumar filed with Californiaâ€™s Civil Rights Department. While her workload and responsibilities increased, Jayakumar says her performance ratings began to slip.
â€œI’ve never felt more keenly that as an Asian woman, I’m destined to be a worker, I’m not destined to be a leader,â€ she told USA Today in an interview. â€œAnd that’s an awful feeling.â€
Jayakumar is one of a growing number of Asian Americans in the tech industry breaking their silence and going public with charges of discrimination and retaliation, the paper said.
In a series of recently filed lawsuits, they say that racial biases spanning decades in Silicon Valley that typecast Asian Americans as worker bees have shut them out of management and executive positions with greater power, profile and pay.
“The pattern of discrimination experienced by Jayakumar mirrors that faced by the broader Asian American community: others make assumptions about what work Asian Americans are suited for,” Jayakumar’s complaint said. “Asian Americans are unsupported in the workplace in taking on leadership opportunities.”
â€œThese conversations have happened in private rooms, living rooms and in personal spaces for long enough,â€ Jayakumar was quoted as saying. â€œThe generations of men and women before us had to suffer in silence. I don’t think any one of us wants this to continue for a minute longer than it already has.â€
Despite being among the most-hired racial group for high-tech jobs, several studies have found that Asian Americans face significant obstacles in advancing to management and executive positions in Silicon Valley.
Asian Americans make up a significant portion of the workforce in major Fortune 500 companies, such as HP, Intel, Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn, representing 27% of employees, according to a 2015 study by Ascend.
However, their representation as organizational leaders and executives in these companies is less than 15%. In contrast, white employees represented 62% of professionals and 80% of executives in these firms.