Women Excluded From H-1B Bonanza

CAPS — Feds Tight-Lipped About Shortage of Female Visa Recipients

The debate about H-1B visa hiring has a fascinating secondary dispute. On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for the new fiscal year that begins October 1. What’s known is that despite no American IT shortage, the annual H-1B allotment of 85,000 visas (65,000 new visas, plus 20,000 for those with advanced U.S. college degrees) will be gobbled up immediately, and that about 85 percent will be issued to Indian nationals.

But according to an important Computerworld story, the gender of those applicants will not be revealed – telling, in light of the general absence of women engineers in Silicon Valley. USCIS has, despite Senate and public records requests made by Computerworld and IEEE-USA (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), refused to share this seemingly innocuous information even though its inclusion is mandatory on the visa application.

It’s likely the failure to release gender data is an indicator that the findings would show very few women are granted H-1B visas, and this would raise yet another controversy. IEEE-USA President Peter Eckstein told Computerworld that USCIS “doesn’t want to know how bad” the gender imbalance is. While the USCIS is reluctant to release the hard number, Karen Panetta, Tufts University electrical and computer engineering professor and a IEEE-USA representative, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013 that as many as 85 percent of the visa holders are men.

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