Hilarie Gamm Talks: Women in U.S. Tech

Recently on Jim Blasingame’s Small Business Advocate Show, Hilarie Gamm talked about the U.S. tech industry, immigration, and how women professionals have fared in the 21st century.

With 60% of college-educated, white women disapproving of President Trump’s policies, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, Gamm provided some backbackdrop how the current administration can win over this demographic.  President Trump won nearly half this demographic in the 2016 election, but presently his approval ratings, according to Quinnipiac are down to 36%.

Gamm believes the issues most important to our country’s educated female workers center around employment opportunities, or lack thereof.

Today, as researched and explained in Gamm’s book, Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and The Road Map to Change, earning a college degree costs three times as much as it did 25 years ago, after accounting for inflation. Sadly, though, once that degree is in hand, the chances of securing a job and remaining employed until retirement are dwindling rapidly. This is especially true for America’s female professional contingent.

In every state, white collar jobs are vanishing. What started with the exodus of tech jobs in the 1990s has now grown to affect doctors, accountants, graphic designers, engineers, physical therapists, purchasing managers, and recruiters. Pretty much every type of professional career woman, in spite of employment advances in the U.S., has been significantly affected by immigration. In many cases, to satisfy shareholders and profit margins, corporations are outsourcing “back-office” positions and replacing American professionals, particularly women, with cheaper foreign workers brought in on H-1B, F1, OPT, and L1 visas.

One excellent recent example of this phenomena played out earlier this year. In January, insurance behemoth Transamerica entered into a $2 billion contract with Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian offshoring company that secures thousands of H-1B visas annually.  Many U.S. technology workers will be displaced as a result of the deal.  Much of the work will ultimately be shifted to Tata’s offices in India.

The Transamerica technology organization — which had a truly diverse workforce of American women, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, recent college grads and mid-career professionals — will instead be composed of a far less diverse population of workers. The majority will be Indian, male, and under 40.

Women STEM professionals are hurt. As this scenario has played out over and over again across America, female professionals are most often laid off and met with a challenging job landscape. They very often leave the technology field to opt into another profession that pays the bills and offers more job security.

Guest worker programs are partly to blame for the rapid and consistent decline of American women in the technology industry. Over 900,000 foreign H-1B visa holders are currently employed in the United States. Today, fewer than 30% of the technology workers in Silicon Valley were born in America. The computer science sector has a lower percentage of female workers today than it did in the 1980s, with a consistent decline in women in the technology profession since the turn of the century. The lack of diversity between males and females is so acute that today’s programmers are now flippantly referred to as “brogrammers.”

This trend is self-reinforcing. If women can’t achieve a critical mass in white-collar industries, there is no chance for the “cream to rise to the top,” which is needed to promote women and minorities based on merit and accomplishment, and is the best chance for self-perpetuating success among women to move forward.

As foreign labor is consistently substituted for American labor, the cultural and educational conditioning, which should be paving the way for U.S. female professionals to achieve greater success, has been negated. The momentum achieved in the 1980s and 1990s has stalled for American women. The compelling “Rosie the Riveter” images of the early 19th century when tight domestic labor markets brought the images of women to the forefront of once male-dominated professions, is fading from the collective memory of American female workers.

Girls Who Code,” a nonprofit organization aimed at supporting the increase in the number of women in computer science, really should consider “moms who code.”

Positive role models can entice young girls to pursue a variety of careers. But without mothers, aunts, and sisters working in white-collar jobs that pay well and provide a work-life balance, there is little chance the next generation of women will make inroads in the tech sector.

Rather than “leaning in” to get a seat at the table, what women professionals really need is a tighter labor market that allows them to “lean out” so as mothers, daughters, and wives, we are able to use our education, professional experience, and strong worth ethic to maintain careers without sacrificing our role as caregivers.

America’s lack of Data Must Stay Laws is further hollowing out white-collar industries. Every U.S. bank, insurance company, auditing firm, and publishing outfit can bring in less expensive foreign labor to continue to take jobs from U.S. employees, but more importantly, they can send those jobs outside the U.S. for good. In the same way auto manufacturing jobs leave the country when cars are built in foreign lands, the same condition holds true for tech. When data is offshored and sent to foreign lands to be stored, the jobs follow, and typically leave the U.S. for good.

Every American woman who has spent considerable time and money on an education wants a chance to work. If the current administration wants the support of U.S.-educated, professional women, it must focus on enacting some form of “Data Must Stay Laws” and reform the current legal immigration system to ensure white collar professionals are given a chance to land quality employment opportunities within the U.S.

 

Hilarie Gamm has worked in the technology industry for more than two decades. She is the author of Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and the Road Map to Change.

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