Gender Matters, Forget Age?

One of the more obscure features of the recently-announced Durbin-Grassley bill on H-1B/L-1 visa reform is to mandate better data collection on the visa holders, particularly on gender. We really need the gender data, supporters say.

Really? I’m concerned about  gender discrimination in the tech industry, but I’d argue that there is far more pressing data that ought to be collected — say, counts of Americans who apply for jobs that ultimately are filled by H-1Bs.

Collect data on gender of H-1Bs — how Politically Correct! Unfortunately, there is no concern for age discrimination, arguably a much more troubling problem, in that:

  • It affects both genders (women are actually worse victims than men, I believe).
  • Age discrimination in tech has been shown in a number of studies, whereas there is merely speculation in the gender case.
  • Most important, the connection between H-1B and age is quite clear.

Concerning this last bullet: Young workers are cheaper, and the vast majority of H-1Bs are young (there IS data on that). Unless you believe that H-1Bs are hired to remedy labor shortages or because they are especially talented (the data pretty clearly have disproven both notions), the age/H-1B connection is quite clear.

In all the commotion over the SCE and Disney cases, in which Americans were replaced by cheaper, foreign workers, one never hears about WHY the foreign workers were cheaper. Was it because those employers, and their Indian bodyshop agents, were breaking the law? No; the government investigations found nothing illegal. No, the real reason those foreign workers were cheap is that they were YOUNG.

And this is hardly news. At a time when suddenly a lot of folks are discovering that the numbers of women in tech are low (and dwindling), no one seems to realize that the problems of older tech workers were confirmed back in 2001, in a congressionally-commissioned report. Yet the age issue, which I’ve been pressing since the last millenium, just doesn’t seem to get any traction. But gender! Now that’s urgent, it seems we are being told.

So, how did that gender provision get into the bill? I’ve never heard Durbin or Grassley bring up the matter in the past. The likely answer is IEEE-USA, whose Paul Donnelly has been working with D/G, I hear.

Dr. Karen Panetta (daughter of Leon), a Tufts EE professor and IEEE-USA official, has been beating the drums about the lack of gender diversity among the H-1Bs, especially among the Infosyses, a favorite whipping boy of IEEE-USA and the major focus of the D/G bill. But if you actually run the numbers with her data, the bodyshops actually come out looking pretty good.

In fact, my own speculation has been that among the H-1Bs in general, the gender balance is actually better than it is for the general populations in the affected professions.

In fairness to D/G, I should note that the main part of the bill that I praised — in a sea of criticism — is the provision to eliminate the breakdown of H-1B prevailing wage law by experience level (read age). At least I hope that that is what the provision means, as it is a little vague. As I mentioned, this aspect was the first to be jettisoned in earlier D/G bills, and will almost certainly not survive if the bill moves forward, but at least it does address the age issue.

Yes, gender discrimination is a concern, but in this case I say it’s a distraction from the primary issues.




17 thoughts on “Gender Matters, Forget Age?

  1. Bodyshops do have a lot of ladies working in QA. Manual testing… how anyone can justify that we have shortage there. Anyone out of college with a degree can do this. Once you get into automated testing, then you are back in the programming realm. The developers are mostly young males. But culturally Comp Sci is considered a feminine occupation to get into in South Asian culture as it does not require physical activity. You pretty much sit on you fanny all day.


  2. That’s the way you to politics, lots of razzle-dazzle.

    >the real reason those foreign workers were cheap is that they were YOUNG.

    Don’t get distracted, don’t distract yourself, age is just another factor, 80% of the total reasons why they are cheap is because they are foreign, where wages are lower, and they also highly value the ability to come to the US and will take even less therefore.


    • You missed my point, which was to ask how SCE and Disney could legally hire the foreign workers at low wages. The answer is that the workers were at Level I, the lowest of the 4 experience levels defined in the law. Experience in turn is a proxy for age.


      • I can’t see that that matters, there are young Americans, too, but they aren’t getting hired.

        Age is just another pretense. You’ve been razzle-dazzled.


        • I’m sure SCE and Disney do hire young Americans. In fact, when Disney said, Don’t worry about the Indians we hired, because we have more new openings coming up, those were filled by young new graduates, not the old guys who were laid off.

          Josh, you really ought to look into the H-1B process and data. The vast majority of those hired by the Infosyses are at Level I, the lowest of the four experience levels. No razzle dazzle, just plain fact.


  3. If a tech company needs to shift its diversity stats to avoid calling down the wrath of government agencies on the lookout for discrimination, it will help to get rid of older workers who tend to be whiter and male, and hire younger workers who tend to be less-white and/or female. Quite aside from the perceived benefit of paying younger workers a lower salary.


    • Hi…older workers tend to be white and male because females in IT leave every year. I’m an older female and there were many more women in IT when I was younger. Every woman I knew back then left the field.


  4. Several points:
    In my experience in large companies, most H-1Bs are Indian, the great majority are in their 20s or early 30s, many are women, and most are fairly average. In teams comprising business and technical people, close to half are Indian, and most of the tech people are Indian. There is also a myth perpetuated on the business side that the H-1Bs are smart because they understand the tech stuff. Any hint of criticism of the impact on American workers puts one in danger of being labeled a racist from the business side. However, many of the American tech workers are concerned in private conversations.

    Basically, corporations have been able to control the debate so that even discussion of the subject is deemed politically incorrect inside the corporation. They’ve won the battle, internally at least. Employees brainwash themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We currently have no official count of H-1B workers in the labor market. Counting them would fill a major hole in understanding the labor market. While we collect gender, we should also collect their occupations (SOC codes), and wage rates.


    • We do have a count.
      It is the EEO-1 that all businesses that have more than 100 employees must fill out.

      About a year ago when I realized I could not find “tech only” numbers, I decided to look at all jobs, all companies by comparing 2008 against 2013 numbers.

      The results were shocking, yet nobody will look at them in the media or in Washington.

      If you would like to view my research or even take it to the next level, you can view it by clicking on the following link:


    • Part of the reason for not keeping that count, the government may justify as: If laid off, these people can not legally look for work in the US. Their visa is immediately revoked and thus they must apply to remain as a visitor.

      While it’s legal to visit the US for a job interview, it isn’t legal to arrive in the US and search for work – a moot point since most applications are online and skype interviews are common enough.

      One can easily infer the number of H1B workers.
      85000 visas are allotted.
      70% go to Indians. They have a backlog of 11 years and a lot use the EB1-C con to get around that.
      Most get green cards eventually. Of the others, some likely return home but you can bet that about 85000 per year x at least 6 (+ I-140 cases) probably adds up to 800k workers.

      Now let’s look at L1 and B1 fraud.


        • and I’ve been reading stories where they are coming here without a job and a visa by sneaking in from mexico


          At the plea hearing and in related court documents, Umanzor-Lopez admitted that between January 2011 and her arrest in Guatemala on Feb. 4, 2014, she and other conspirators recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay large sums of money to be smuggled into the United States. For their smuggling operations, Umanzor-Lopez and her co-conspirators used a network of facilitators to transport groups of undocumented migrants from India through South America and Central America and then into the United States by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot. Many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the United States via the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen and Laredo, Texas.

          folks, one thing that is definitely different between an american an somebody from india.

          The american has been raised to believe in ethics and things like that.
          The indian seems to look for ways around the rule or they ignore the rule.

          I hate to pigeon hole people like that because I know there are ethical ones like Kumar, but based on the things he has shown me, he is the exception rather than the rule.


    • There is no official count. Possibly this is because of inefficiency, or corruption, or just the general tendency of government agencies to cover up that which may be embarrassing.

      Interestingly, there are three agencies which could possibly be keeping three different counts: DOL, who approve the applications, State, who actually issues the visas, and DHS, who actually process arrivals at the airport. Many people suspect that State is issuing more visas than DOL approved, because the procedure at foreign embassies is different from the procedure for people who are already here.


  6. In my view the gender vs. age issue is more about the trend toward “looksism” these days than anything. As a woman I can dye my hair, wear it in various ways, wear makeup and interesting attractive clothing. Women today are also paying a great deal of attention to health and are generally staying thinner. Finally, women are acceptable at many heights. The short bald chubby guy, or the taller one with various imperfect appearance characteristics has a big problem. Men’s standard business clothing does not work on chubby older men who must tuck in their shirts, revealing the paunch around the middle. Women can wear various outfits that hide their flaws much better; no requirement for belts at all, for example. Few women wear belts and most leave their tops out over their pants, even when we are wearing business suits..

    I look much better than the majority of men near my age. We are now in a very visual culture.


  7. Mary does have a point.

    I watch CNBC all the time and there used to be a lady from Germany on there as she was the “expert” on the german market.

    I never see her anymore, and every channel I look at seems to have those that are less than 30 years of age and handsome/pretty

    Problem is, I thought I knew everything when I was 25 to 30 and now at 58 I have only questions and I suspect it is the same today as it was then which makes me wonder, why are we throwing our wisdom, knowledge and experience away?

    And how do we capitalize on it by hiring those that have been discarded and have a bone to pick with the organizations that have thrown them away.

    One of the things I believe we need to do is hire programmers/analysts in every state of our union to monitor all federal, state, county and community governments so that we can shine a light on the contracts that have been awarded to people or countries who are not Americans.

    After all, we pay our taxes to fund America and to help provide for Americans that can no longer take care of themselves, and when we send their work offshore or import temporary non immigrant visa holders to take their jobs here at home we force them into a corner where they can no longer take care of themselves.

    And it is time that we pooled our resources and put an end to that by exposing these governmental agencies that do not have our backs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s