A few weeks ago it emerged that caste discrimination was quite common in Silicon Valley companies, so common and so pervasive that it led to the California Department of Employment and Equitable Housing (DFEH) filing a lawsuit against Cisco. Now, a new report says Cisco is hardly the only company where some employees have said they face caste discrimination. It is common in Silicon Valley.
In a joint statement published by the Washington Post, 30 Dalit female engineers from Silicon Valley say they regularly face caste discrimination. In their letter, the women urged American companies to adopt caste as a protected category to eradicate caste-based discrimination in the US tech industry. The women also hailed Cisco’s John Doe for speaking out against the caste hierarchy in Silicon Valley.
“We thank Cisco’s John Doe for speaking because his experience echoes ours. As Dalit women, we have already seen both caste and sexism during our technology education in India. Many of us have the burden of proving our worth to our male peers, while also having to deal with multiple caste assumptions that we are not competent developers, “the statement read.
He adds, “We must always dodge the difficult caste-spotting questions of where we come from, what religion we practice and who we married – questions designed to fit us into the caste hierarchy against our will. We also had to endure humiliating insults about our background and accusations of having achieved our work solely because of affirmative action. “
When the case was presented, Cisco said in a statement, “Cisco is committed to creating an inclusive workplace for all. We have robust processes to report and investigate employee concerns that have been followed up in this case since 2016 and we have determined that we are fully compliant with all laws and our policies. Cisco will vigorously defend itself against the allegations made in this complaint. “
The 30 engineers in their letter specifically call their Indian managers in Silicon Valley. They called working with Indian managers a “living hell”.
The letter also claims that managers joke about the Dalit reservation in India and about Dalits and Muslim women. “Hindu nationalist chauvinism is also on the rise, following the election of the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” notes the letter.
A Washington Post report accompanying the letter talks about how pervasive caste discrimination is in tech companies.
An engineer, identified as Benjamin Kaila, tells the US newspaper that in nearly 100 job interviews in his career he only got the job once when there was an Indian executive in the team interviewing him.
The report highlights that Dalit engineers while applying for a job in technology companies pray that they should be interviewed by a non-Indian executive because Indian engineers often ask questions aimed at finding their caste example: You are vegetarian and therefore discriminate against them.
The prejudices among Indian engineers seem so ingrained that, according to the Washington Post, they pat themselves on the back “to see if (a person) is wearing a sacred thread worn by some Brahmins, the highest caste. “
The report also mentions that caste bias among Indian engineers could be a continuation of the IIT’s alleged campus culture. “Although caste bias is not unique to IITs, it is pervasive on campuses due to the widely shared assumptions among upper caste faculty and students about upper caste merit and lower caste intellectual inferiority,” says the professor of Harvard Ajantha Subramanian to the Washington Post. “Those assumptions were clearly at stake in the Cisco case.”
The 30 engineers in their statement state that it is best to work with non-Indian leaders because their work is evaluated on the basis of merit and not on the basis of their caste. “We need things to change. We are good at our job and we are good engineers. But it is unfair for us to continue in hostile workplaces, without protection from caste discrimination, ”notes the letter.
A few weeks after the State of California filed a lawsuit against Cisco for alleged caste discrimination at the company, an explosive report highlighted that Indian engineers in the United States are still practicing caste bias.
- 30 Dalit women denounce caste discrimination in Silicon Valley companies.
- A new report says caste bias is common among Indian engineers working in tech companies.
- Many Dalit engineers claim to be discriminated against by fellow Indian engineers.