The April 1 Computerworld article, “How many H-1B workers are female? U.S. won’t say,” is interesting in its pointing out how touchy the federal government has become over the H-1B work visa issue. The feds’ claim that the information would be difficult to retrieve seems fishy.
But the IEEE-USA’s claim the men are overrepresented among H-1Bs compared to among Americans in similar occupations is fishy too. Quoting from the Computerworld piece:
The best source of data for lawmakers on the gender of H-1B workers has been the IEEE-USA. In 2013, Karen Panetta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University who was representing the IEEE-USA, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and told it that as many as 85% of the visa holders are men.
“Best source?” Really? Here is what Panetta (yes, daughter of the Panetta) said in her testimony:
My own experience tells me that the vast majority of H-1B workers are men. Everybody knows this. The IEEE-USA represents more American high tech workers than anybody else, so we have sources. One from inside the industry, looking at the offshoring companies that dominate the H-1B program, is that their global hiring is 70% men. But in the US, where outsourcing companies get more than half the capped H-1B visas, the ratio is more like 85% men.
“Everybody knows this?” A common way of saying, “We don’t really have serious data on this.” “We have sources”? Tell us who. And tell us if that was just the person’s “own experience,” like that Panetta refers to, versus careful data collection and analysis. And what is this “more like 85%”? This is a scientific statement, “more like”? Does Congress really invite “experts” like this to present testimony? Actually, Panetta then admits she really doesn’t know:
As an engineer, I don’t like making decisions without hard data. The IEEE-USA has been trying for months to get the actual data on this from DHS. They have been stonewalling us. It’s a simple question: how many women get H-1B visas?
Again, I am not defending stonewalling, but Computerworld’s statement that Panetta has the best data is unwarranted, and indeed the article’s own data is not bad. The H-1Bs are mainly programmers, i.e. they fall into the two government categories shown in the article’s bar chart, Programmers and Software Developers. (The government shouldn’t have two separate categories, but that’s a different issue.) And in those two categories, women are MORE represented among the “India-born,” Computerworld‘s proxy for H-1B/former H-1B, than among the general population in those occupations. IEEE-USA ought to be praising H-1B for increasing female percentage, not darkly hinting that the government is covering up some sexist cabal.
As I’ve said bluntly before, IEEE-USA has an agenda, which is to punish the “Infosyses,” thus deflecting attention away from their equally-capable allies, the “Intels.” And they have no credibility, given their refusal to back up their ever-present claim, “We represent 227,000 American engineers” by taking a poll of their members on the issue. Once again, my favorite quote from Senator Grassley: “No one should be fooled.”