BY DAWN KAWAMOTO | JUN 25, 2013
Immigration reform proposals are circulating at a furious pace on Capital Hill, but it’s unlikely they will lead to a sea change in a rarely thought of area of the guest worker debate: The number of women in IT who work in this country under an H-1B visa.
Even though the percentage of women in IT is higher in many of the home countries of H-1B workers, currently, the vast majority of IT H-1Bs are men. And there’s nothing in the bill now making its way through the Senate that aims to realign the ratio of women-to-men guest workers to align more closely with that of the domestic workforce.
... While hard figures are difficult to come by on the number of H-1B visas awarded to women, some estimates put the number at just 15 percent, says Karen Panetta, Vice President of Communications and Public Awareness for IEEE and an Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at Tufts University.
From Medill Reports last June:
Karen Panetta is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. She also is editor-in-chief of the award-winning Women In Engineering magazine, which is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers trade association. ...
And Panetta believes that the H-1B is a contributing factor to the disparity in the male-to-female ratio.
In written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 18, she described the gender imbalance.
“The IEEE-USA represents more American high tech workers than anybody else, so we have sources,” Panetta said. “One from inside the industry, looking at the off shoring companies that dominate the H-1B program, is that their global hiring is 70 percent men. But in the U.S., where outsourcing companies get more than half the capped H-1B visas, the ratio is more like 85 percent men. That's outrageous.”
Panetta believes that this trend creates work environments that may be unfavorable to women, based on a set of imported cultural values that don’t emphasize the importance of gender equality at work.
“They have a negative effect, not only on the H-1B process for women, but for American women who have to then work in these environments, with these individuals who come from cultures where women are not treated equally and women are not respected in the workplace,” Panetta argues. “That’s a huge issue and American women won’t tolerate it. They’ll just quit. After the age of 35 the drop off and attrition of women in STEM fields essentially falls to the floor. People think it’s because they go off and have families, it’s not.”
My wife's friend A. is a programmer in the Midwest. It was a good work environment until the big corporation she worked for started importing lots of Pakistani men, with predictable consequences for blonde American women.
... Panetta understands she needs data to back up her assertions. The problem is that these numbers are not available to the public.
Despite the fact that gender is a data point on the required I-129 visa application form, neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services tracks the number of men and women being awarded these visas.
Bill Wright, spokesperson for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, confirmed that the government has the information but is not capturing it.
“There is a space for gender on Part 3 of the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129),” Wright said. “However, that particular category is not electronically captured in a manner that we can readily provide. You could certainly request this information via the Freedom of Information Act; that would require a manual check of each petition filed and I can’t estimate how long that would take.”
Since nobody in America can figure out how to program a computer to count the sex ratio of H1-B tech visas, that just proves that Zuckerberg and Gates are right and deserve lots more H1-Bs. Maybe someday we'll import enough H1-Bs to figure out how to count H1-Bs.
In fact, multiple parties have made FOIA requests. Because the form is electronic it should be relatively easy to pull out the data.
“I can get them a freshman in college from Tufts University to show them how to use it,” Panetta said. “They have the data; it’s a matter of them running a query and then tallying it up.”
American workers: -8