Silicon Valley is a force to be reckoned with as names such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey have become synonymous with the tech industry. What Silicon Valley symbolizes is the future, one that is shaped by visionaries that create industries, work, and opportunities despite the seeming modest beginnings of their companies. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are known to have founded Apple Computers in a garage, a company that has become a phenomenon across the world with their various products such as the iPhone, the iPad, and the cultural phenomenon that was the iPod. There are names that did not succeed as in the case of many start-up companies. One such name is Elizabeth Holmes who was even indicted for fraud, despite the seeming promise of her company, Theranos. However, Silicon Valley is more than just a tech hub that innovates, it is also a place that is affected by the political ideologies of the present as well as the economic drivers of modern times. More importantly, it has a social influence that is not only prevalent in the valley but also spills over the world.
Politics affect Silicon Valley through various means, from social issues to current affairs, the tech hub has always offered its insights into things that affect the world. However, there are instances where the social advocacies of the tech world do not coincide with its lofty ideologies. One such example is how sexism pervades Silicon Valley, where female workers are often overlooked in the stead of men. This has been characterized as “nerd masculinity” or the association of the industry with men that are enamoured with technology (Grandall, Brown & McMahon, 2021, p. 845). Sexism in such a case retains its taint on industry despite the philosophy behind most liberal thought that is associated with the tech industry.
Companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook have often been known to voice liberal views associated with the Democratic Party. This is distinguished from the conservative views associated with the Republican Party which often conflicts with the ideologies of the tech giants of America. This is highlighted, especially through the presidency of Donald Trump with views that often necessitated a reaction from tech companies in a volatile world where racial tensions have become more prominent (Tiku, 2020). Arguably, liberal thinking in Silicon Valley has been associated with the generations that have congregated in it. Younger Americans, the millennials, and Gen-Z have been stereotypically associated with liberal views which have made their politics lean towards the democrats, again of the liberal sphere in the political divide (Fisher, 2017, p. 36).
THE TECH INDUSTRY
The tech industry in Silicon Valley is not confined to politics as it is comprised of companies that need a steady influx of growth to sustain themselves in highly competitive industries. This would include the need for some reforms that are associated with politics. Enter the immigrants, a pool of talent that can contribute to the growth of the tech industry. Satya Nadela, the CEO of Microsoft has been ranked as one of the best CEOs in the U.S. (Brown, 2018). Nadela was born and raised in India, he is followed by another CEO from another tech juggernaut, Google. Sundar Pichai was also born in India which puts the thirst for foreign talent in the industry that would provide experience as well as competence in a world that is becoming more competitive.
Immigration is a driving force of the tech industry and Silicone Valley operates based on the need for foreigners to come to their companies and contribute to greater profits. The need for foreign talent made tech giants petition the U.S. Congress to make immigration friendlier as it is argued that these people contribute to the economy in various ways. Furthermore, tech companies view the influx of immigrants as the edge for competition in their respective industries which was also voiced by companies such as Amazon and Microsoft (Zakrzewski, 2021). Foreign CEOs that generate profits for their companies, coupled with the talent that provides growth for the industries are seen to be economic drivers that would consolidate America and its grip on the tech industry through its companies.
The growth of China and its own technology is challenging the U.S. where the latter has an advantage, immigrants. It has been estimated that a total of 71% of tech workers in Silicon Valley are immigrants (Mehta, 2019). What this means is that the challenge to America’s supremacy in technology can only be fuelled by the power of talent that can only be sourced from the various minds that live in the world. This is not only an issue of politics but is also a herald of the economic power of the U.S. which is distinct from its Chinese counterpart. Even Chinese people opt to move to the U.S. to pursue their version of the American Dream. These people, be they Chinese or Indian, or whatever nationality would mind would bolster the power of the U.S. and the influx of money that the industries would bring into their economy.
The social aspect of the conditioning of Silicon Vally’s mind is not confined to politics and economics. It is the striving for the betterment of a company that may ripen into a global phenomenon as in the case of Apple, Google, and Facebook. Silicon Valley operates to provide an inclusive, intersectional community that would help the growth of their respective companies where liberal views are more applicable to their cause (Krishnan, et al., 2021, p. 665).Therefore, adopting rhetoric for immigration and inclusively in the U.S. would translate to the people that are the drivers of growth for the tech industry. The evidence as pointed out in the cases of Nadela and Pichai are a testament to how foreign-born individuals are more than capable of running the largest companies in the U.S. this would also mean that the talent brought into their companies would lead to innovations that would not only transform America but maybe the next cultural icon that the world would go crazy over as in the case of the iPod and its spiritual successor, the iPhone.
Silicon Valley is an odd place where millennial, gen-z, and progressive thinkers have congregated. This is a place driven by the urge to succeed in a competitive world where imagination can lead to profits and ultimately a better life. The motivation of Silicon Valley in its politics, its economic values, and its social views are based on one thing, the need to succeed and the importance of competition. These are factors that lead to the tech industry moving towards liberal ideologies that would help their respective companies become the best among the sea of competitors. Immigration is one such example as the most successful companies has CEOs that were not born in the U.S., rather, they are foreigners that now work for the country and contribute to their respective industries.
The issue of immigration is not confined to the liberal thinking that has been adopted by Silicon Valley, it is also the need to satisfy the workers, the people that give their companies the edge they need to succeed. Liberal views as in the case of Democrats are often thought to be ingrained in the thoughts of the youth and these people are often tech-savvy individuals that may work in Silicon Valley in the future. What this translates to is that Silicon Valley operates based on its self-interest. As in every company that may be outside of the tech hub, what is needed to succeed is a forward-thinking policy that would make the best profits that have been made possible by different minds that house different ideas for their success.
Brown, D. (2018). Microsoft’s Satya Nadella ranked as best CEO in US; Google’s Sundar Pichai, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos make top 10. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2018/12/11/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-ranked-best-leader-us-comparably/2206490002/
Crandall, E. K., Brown, R. H., & McMahon, J. (2021). Magicians of the Twenty-first Century: Enchantment, Domination, and the Politics of Work in Silicon Valley. Theory & Event, 24(3), 841–873. https://doi.org/10.1353/tae.2021.0045
Fisher, P. (2017). A Political Outlier: the Distinct Politics of the Millennial Generation. Society (New Brunswick), 55(1), 35–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-017-0209-7
Krishnan, R., Cook, K. S., Kozhikode, R. K., & Schilke, O. (2021). An Interaction Ritual Theory of Social Resource Exchange: Evidence from a Silicon Valley Accelerator. Administrative Science Quarterly, 66(3), 659–710. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001839220970936
Mehta, S. (2019). We Do Not Come Empty-Handed: The Economic Case for Immigrants. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/5594365/america-immigration-future-economic-growth/
Tiku, N. (2020). In liberal Silicon Valley, a clash over race, political talk. The Washington Post.
Dennis, M.A. (2022) Silicon Valley, Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Silicon-Valley-region-California.
Zakrzewski, C. (2021). The Technology 202: Google and other tech companies defend work visas for spouses of high-tech immigrants. The Washington Post.