Foreign-Born Engineers Dominate Bay Area Tech Jobs

The 2018 Silicon Valley Index also reports that local universities are cranking up their engineering pipelines, and dang, San Francisco is getting young

Asian Engineer With Digital Tablet In Factory
Photo: iStock photo
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Joint Venture Silicon Valley annually releases the Silicon Valley Index, a report tracking demographic trends, population flows, average salaries, poverty statistics, graduation rates, crime, and other trends big and small. This year, its confirmation of Silicon Valley’s housing crunch, growth in office space, and income inequality made the local headlines. But the 2018 Silicon Valley Index’s 93 pages had some more specific insights for engineers.

Here’s one statistic that jumped out at me: Nearly three-quarters of Silicon Valley women who work in computer, mathematical, architectural, and engineering occupations were born outside of the U.S., mostly in Asia. That includes nearly 79 percent of those in computer and mathematical professions. The data showed slightly more than 70 percent of men in those professions are foreign born.

The study also looked at local universities, and discovered that they have been cranking up their efforts to fill the engineering pipeline. In 2016, the report said, there were 17,721 science and engineering degrees granted by Silicon Valley’s top academic institutions—that’s 1,580 more than the previous year and 6,380 more than the number graduated a decade ago. Zooming in on women, again, little has changed—37 to 38 percent of science and engineering degrees in the area have been awarded to women in each of the past 17 years.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley took a look at venture capital investments in the area—recording $14 billion in Silicon Valley companies and an additional $10.9 billion in San Francisco companies. That continues the high levels of investment seen in recent years, but, the report pointed out, there’s a bit of a change: the cash isn’t being spread around among as many companies as has been typical. In 2017, the report said, Biotech firm Grail got the biggest piece of the Silicon Valley pie with $914 million while shared ride firm Lyft topped the San Francisco list with two infusions of capital in 2017 totaling $2.1 billion.

What about the workforce? One interesting tidbit—those young tech workers migrating to San Francisco are skewing that city’s age distribution. According to the report, San Francisco’s population is 39 percent 25 to 44 year olds, vastly higher than California in general (28 percent) or the United States as a whole (26 percent).

And the report confirmed that when Silicon Valley residents are sitting in all that traffic (and there is a lot of it), they are indeed seeing more electric vehicles. However, in spite of Tesla getting most of the media attention, more Silicon Valley electric vehicle owners are driving models by Nissan or Chevrolet.

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IEEE Spectrum’s blog featuring the people, places, and passions of the world of technologists in Silicon Valley and its environs.