Federal agencies need to improve how they collect tech diversity data, report says

Given the lack of diversity and reports of hostility and discrimination, Congressperson Bobby Scott called on the Government Accountability Office to conduct a report that examines diversity, inclusion, hiring and discrimination in the tech industry. The GAO’s takeaway is that federal agencies need to improve their oversight of tech companies and diversity data collection methods.

At a high level, the 76-page report found there was no overall growth for female and black worker representation from 2005 to 2015.

“There is bias in the recruitment, hiring and retention” of black, Latinx and women in tech, Congressperson Scott said on a media call this morning. He then added, “the situation has not improved in over a decade.”

Some key findings from the report reinforce much of the data and ideas that are out there. For example, black and Latinx people, respectively, hold seven percent and 10 percent of Bachelors and Masters in technology degrees but only represent five percent or less of the professionals and mid-level managers at technology companies, according to the GAO report.

“We’re not going to tolerate the data we continue to see,” Congressperson G.K. Butterfield said on a press call.

In light of its findings, the GAO has made six recommendations; one to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and five to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Some of those recommendations entail having the EEOC develop a timeline to improve its data collection method, and ensuring the OFCCP take steps to require tech companies with government contracts have specific diversity hiring goals in place and disaggregate data to include racial diversity.

If these trends continue, Congressperson Barbara Lee said on the call, “African-Americans will be continued to be locked out of opportunities.”

The OFCCP currently only requires contractors to set broad goals for minorities as a group, rather than for specific racial groups. While all companies are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and so forth, companies with federal contracts are required to take affirmative action to ensure all applicants and employees are treated fairly.

That’s why the GAO is recommending the OFCCP and EEOC to take additional steps to ensure they’re holding tech companies accountable. Although the EEOC has not taken an official stance on the GAO’s recommendations, EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang said the agency is committed to collecting more accurate data.

“I do believe it’s important for the EEOC to adopt the timeline to ensure the work is completed in an expeditious manner,” Yang said on the call. She went on to say that the agency’s hope is to invest in technologies that can automate some of the data collection processes and build a better database to analyze trends.

When tech companies with federal contracts don’t comply with the OFCCP and EEOC, they put themselves at risk of losing their contracts. Last September, for example, the Department of Labor sued Palantir for alleged racial discrimination against Asian people in its hiring and selection process. The lawsuit came following a compliance review by the OFCCP that determined Palantir violated Executive Order 11246, which details equal employment opportunities and non-discriminatory practices.