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How many H-1B workers are female? U.S. won’t say

Sharon Machlis, Patrick Thibodeau | April 4, 2016
Government resistance to releasing H-1B gender data frustrates advocates.

A Computerworld analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data from 2010 to 2014 showed that overall, 27% of the U.S. tech workforce is female. Among people born in India and working in U.S. tech jobs -- immigrants and green-card holders as well as those on visas -- 27.8% are female, roughly similar. (Want to explore this data yourself? Download the data file as part of our free Insider program.) But more data is needed to complete the picture of H-1B demographics, which may be considerably different than those of foreign-born citizens.

In addition to gender, age is also an issue (although age could be considered a more personally identifiable attribute and thus is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests). When companies turn to offshore outsourcing and bring in H-1B-using IT contractors, the visa holders tend to be much younger than the employees they are replacing. While that hurts both male and female older workers, the unemployment rates for older women in IT are higher than for men. H-1B workers also increase competition for jobs, and that may be hurting those who already have the most difficulty finding jobs as well.

Advocates say census data and court case records are poor substitutes for the actual data from official visa forms, which remain hidden away in government files.

"If people knew the facts, this would be indefensible," said Eckstein at the IEEE. "So not releasing the facts is also indefensible."


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