Diversity in the Technology Sector:

Federal Agencies Could Improve Oversight of Equal Employment Opportunity Requirements

GAO-18-69: Published: Nov 16, 2017. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The estimated percentage of minority technology workers increased from 2005 to 2015, but GAO found that no growth occurred for female and Black workers, whereas Asian and Hispanic workers made statistically significant increases (see figure). Further, female, Black, and Hispanic workers remain a smaller proportion of the technology workforce—mathematics, computing, and engineering occupations—compared to their representation in the general workforce. These groups have also been less represented among technology workers inside the technology sector than outside it. In contrast, Asian workers were more represented in these occupations than in the general workforce. Stakeholders and researchers GAO interviewed identified several factors that may have contributed to the lower representation of certain groups, such as fewer women and minorities graduating with technical degrees and company hiring and retention practices.

Estimated Percentage of Technology Workers by Gender and Race/Ethnicity, 2005-2015

Estimated Percentage of Technology Workers by Gender and Race/Ethnicity, 2005-2015

Note: Changes from 2005 to 2015 were statistically significant at p-value <0.05 except for changes for female, male, and Black workers. All population estimates have Relative Standard Errors of less than 7 percent. “Other” includes American Indian or Alaskan Native, and “Two or More Races”. White, Black, Asian, and “Other” categories include only non-Hispanic members.

Both the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) have taken steps to enforce equal employment and affirmative action requirements in the technology sector, but face limitations. While EEOC has identified barriers to recruitment and hiring in the technology sector as a strategic priority, when EEOC conducts investigations, it does not systematically record the type of industry, therefore limiting sector-related analyses to help focus its efforts. EEOC has plans to determine how to add missing industry codes but has not set a timeframe to do this. In addition, OFCCP's regulations may hinder its ability to enforce contractors' compliance because OFCCP directs contractors to set placement goals for all minorities as a group rather than for specific racial/ethnic groups. OFCCP also has not made changes to its establishment-based approach to selecting entities for review in decades, even though changes have occurred in how workplaces are structured. Without taking steps to address these issues, OFCCP may miss opportunities to hold contractors responsible for complying with affirmative action and nondiscrimination requirements.

Why GAO Did This Study

Technology companies are a major source of high-paying U.S. jobs, but some have questioned the sector's commitment to equal employment opportunity. EEOC provides federal oversight of nondiscrimination requirements by investigating charges of discrimination, and OFCCP enforces federal contractors' compliance with affirmative action requirements. GAO was asked to review workforce trends in the technology sector and federal oversight.

This report examines (1) trends in the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of the technology sector workforce; and (2) EEOC and OFCCP oversight of technology companies' compliance with equal employment and affirmative action requirements. GAO analyzed workforce data from the American Community Survey for 2005-2015 and EEOC Employer Information Reports for 2007-2015, the latest data available during our analysis. GAO analyzed OFCCP data on compliance evaluations for fiscal years 2011-2016. GAO interviewed agency officials, researchers, and workforce, industry, and company representatives.

What GAO Recommends

GAO makes 6 recommendations, including that EEOC develop a timeline to improve industry data collection and OFCCP take steps toward requiring more specific minority placement goals by contractors and assess key aspects of its selection approach. EEOC neither agreed nor disagreed with its recommendation, and OFCCP stated the need for regulatory change to alter placement goal requirements. GAO continues to believe actions are needed, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: EEOC neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation but stated that it was taking some actions to enhance these data. We maintain a timeline should be developed to complete this review, which is needed for the commission to conduct industry sector analysis that could be used to more effectively focus its limited resources and outreach activities. EEOC also emphasized the importance of systemic investigations, noting that while outreach may be somewhat useful in generating charges, individual charges are unlikely to make a substantial impact on a systemic practice affecting an entire employment sector. We believe that the ability to analyze IMS data by industry could help the agency focus its resource use, including for systemic investigations.

    Recommendation: The Chair of the EEOC should develop a timeline to complete the planned effort to clean Integrated Mission System data for a one-year period and add missing industry code data. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed with this recommendation and identified steps it plans to take to implement it. We will monitor the agency's progress and consider closing it when the agency provides documentation that these efforts are complete.

    Recommendation: The Director of OFCCP should analyze internal process data from closed evaluations to better understand the cause of delays that occur during compliance evaluations and make changes accordingly. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOL neither agreed nor disagreed, with this recommendation. The department said this would require a regulatory change with little immediate benefit as contractors are already required to collect demographic data on each employee and applicant, and must conduct in depth analyses of their total employment processes to identify where impediments to equal opportunity exist. While we acknowledge these data collection requirements for federal contractors, we remain concerned that without requiring contractors to also establish placement goals to address any underrepresentation for specific minority groups, contractors may not develop objectives or targets to make affirmative action efforts work. We maintain, therefore, that DOL should take steps toward requiring contractors to develop placement goals disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

    Recommendation: The Director of OFCCP should take steps toward requiring contractors to disaggregate demographic data for the purpose of setting placement goals in the affirmative action program (AAP) rather than setting a single goal for all minorities, incorporating any appropriate accommodation for company size. For example, OFCCP could provide guidance to contractors to include more specific goals in their AAP or assess the feasibility of amending their regulations to require them to do so. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed with this recommendation and identified steps it plans to take to implement it. We will monitor the agency's progress and consider closing it when the agency provides documentation that these efforts are complete.

    Recommendation: The Director of OFCCP should assess the quality of the methods used by OFCCP to incorporate consideration of disparities by industry into its process for selecting contractor establishments for compliance evaluation. It should use the results of this assessment in finalizing its procedures for identifying contractor establishments at greatest risk of noncompliance. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed with this recommendation and identified steps it plans to take to implement it. We will monitor the agency's progress and consider closing it when the agency provides documentation that these efforts are complete.

    Recommendation: The Director of OFCCP should evaluate the current approach used for identifying entities for compliance review and determine whether modifications are needed to reflect current workplace structures and locations or to ensure that subcontractors are included. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed with this recommendation and identified steps it plans to take to implement it. We will monitor the agency's progress and consider closing it when the agency provides documentation that these efforts are complete.

    Recommendation: The Director of OFCCP should evaluate the Functional Affirmative Action Program to assess its usefulness as an effective alternative to an establishment-based program, and determine what improvements, if any, could be made to better encourage contractor participation. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs

 

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