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Highlights

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.

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Recommendations

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.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 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)
Open
As part of an effort to overhaul its IMS data system, EEOC has begun developing an Employer Master List that will provide a source of employer information, including industry codes, but EEOC told us that it has not yet completed this effort. It anticipates this system will be more fully developed by spring 2020. It is important for EEOC to collect sufficient information through its Employer Master List and use it to analyze charge data by industry.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 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)
Closed - Implemented
OFFCP took steps to understand the cause of delays in enforcement cases. Specifically, the agency reviewed cases that had been ongoing for more than 2 years without being referred for further enforcement action. They identified several specific bottlenecks, such as delays in conciliation due to limited explanation of evidence collected and analyses performed, a former protocol that lengthened the amount of time it took to complete reviews, and contractors' lack of incentive to resolve compliance findings prior to enforcement action. In addition, OFCCP issued DIR 2020-02, Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations, which included operational initiatives to keep the number of cases that are "aged" (i.e., compliance reviews unresolved two years from the issuance of the scheduling letter) below 15 percent of total caseload. As OFCCP moves forward, it will be important to evaluate these efficiencies in concert with information on case enforcement; steps that appear dilatory may in fact result in higher rates of enforcement. Nevertheless, the agency has taken sufficient action to address this recommendation.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 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)
Closed - Implemented
In fiscal year 2019, OFCCP provided guidance to contractors regarding disaggregating demographic data for the purpose of setting placement goals in the AAP. The guidance clarified when contractors are required to set disaggregated goals for particular minority groups. Also, even if separate goals for different race and ethnic groups have not been required based on the results of an OFCCP review, the guidance states that OFCCP recommends, as a best practice, that contractors set disaggregated placement goals for job groups when specific minority groups are underutilized.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 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)
Closed - Implemented
OFCCP has continued to conduct internal review of its efforts to improve the focus of its enforcement efforts while meeting neutral selection standards. To identify contractors at greatest risk of noncompliance, the agency made changes in 2008, 2017, and in 2020 to use 2-digit NAICS codes, identifying Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Wholesale Trade sectors for additional focus. OFCCP reports that it is committed to exploring alternative methods for identifying likely violators and is identifying specific options in collaboration with the Department of Labor's Chief Evaluation Office. Efforts to improve the 2019 scheduling protocol based on 2-digit NAICs codes are a step forward; we encourage the agency's continued efforts.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 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)
Open
OFCCP determined that modifications are needed to its current approach to ensure that subcontractors are included in its current efforts to identify entities for compliance review. The agency proposed modifications to OMB to support inclusion of subcontractors in its oversight efforts; specifically, a protocol that would ask prime contractors to identify their three largest subcontractors. OMB declined to approve the changes that included this proposal. The comments on OFCCP's proposal included an observation that federal contractors are required to identify subcontractors under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting Act by submitting data through a government portal. We encourage OFCCP to review the potential utllity of this resource as it continues its efforts to include federal subcontractors in its oversight. We will close this recommendation when OFCCP has completed its efforts. The agency's response did not indicate whether it has concluded modifications to its approach to identifying entities for compliance review are needed to reflect current workplace structures and locations, such as the increased use of remote work in the wake of the pandemic.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 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)
Open
As of mid-2020, OFCCP had taken steps to encourage contractors to use the FAAP program and to identify changes that could encourage contractor participation. Evaluating the FAAP could help OFCCP improve its ability to achieve its objectives and may provide broader insight for OFCCP's overall enforcement approach. We will close this recommendation once OFCCP has had additional opportunity to assess the FAAP's utility as an alternative to the establishment-based program..

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