GAO: Feds Aren’t Doing Enough for Minority Tech Workers


Equal employment agencies could be doing more, such as looking at which universities they recruit from.

Female, black and Hispanic employees are underrepresented in the technology sector compared to the general workforce, and federal agencies could be doing more about it, a watchdog report concludes.

As of 2015, about 33 percent of technology professionals were minorities, compared to about 26 percent in 2005, according to a Government Accountability Office’s analysis. And while the percentage of Asian workers has increased slightly, the share of the workforce belonging to black and Hispanic employees has remained the same.

In 2015, female workers make up the same percentage of the tech workforce—22 percent—as they did in 2015.

GAO defined the technology workforce to include jobs requiring skills related to math, computing and engineering.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both are tasked with promoting equal employment and affirmative action within the technology sector, but they face significant challenges, GAO concluded. For instance, EEOC doesn’t record the type of industry it’s analyzing during investigations of individual complaints, so it’s difficult to do cross-sector comparisons. OFCCP requires federal contractors to set certain hiring goals for all minorities instead of focusing on specific racial or ethnic groups, according to GAO.

The underrepresentation means minority group may not be accessing higher-paying jobs. GAO reported that in 2015, tech workers earned an estimated median income of $89,000, compared to $78,000 in the general workforce.

GAO recommended EEOC create a timeline for improving its data collection, and that OFCCP require more specific hiring goals from contractors. EEOC didn’t agree or disagree with their recommendation, and OFCCP said that specific placement goals would require regulatory changes.

Cindy Brown Barnes, GAO’s Director of GAO's Education Workforce and Income division, said during a GAO podcast that hiring pipelines could explain the underrepresentation of minorities in tech fields—those groups may not be pursuing technology degrees as much as they do other disciplines. In 2014, for instance, women earned 58 percent of degrees overall, but only 24 percent of tech-related certifications.

Other factors could limit the pool of applicants, including companies’ recruitment practices or the universities they’re likely to hire from,  she added.