Mar 18 2013
WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hear testimony Monday afternoon arguing that the H-1B visa program, which covers highly skilled temporary foreign workers, often in high-tech fields, discriminates against women.
Karen Panetta, the vice president for communications and public awareness for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the United States of America, will testify that “the vast majority of H-1B workers are men,” according to her prepared remarks.
Ms. Panetta’s testimony points to “a serious gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering and math” as part of the reason that these H-1B visas in high-tech fields skew disproportionately toward men. But she also adds, “If a major immigration program effectively discriminated based on race or national origin, would that be O.K.?”
“The I.E.E.E.-U.S.A. represents more American high-tech workers than anybody else, so we have sources,” Ms. Panetta says in her remarks. “One from inside the industry, looking at the offshoring companies that dominate the H-1B program, is that their global hiring is 70 percent men.” But in the United States, where outsourcing companies get more than half of the limited number of H-1B visas, she says, “the ratio is more like 85 percent men.”
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in an e-mail statement Sunday that the hearing would seek to make sure that women are not being hurt under the H-1B visa program.
“We know the H-1B program is rife with fraud and abuse, so it’s still unclear where exactly these visas are going and what they are being used for,” Mr. Grassley said. “It would be a real shame if the H-1B program was also shutting women out of hi-tech fields and hurting families.”
Ms. Panetta, whose organization has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security to get data on the gender breakdown of H-1B visas, will also accuse the government of agency of “stonewalling” on their request.
“It’s a simple question: how many women get H-1B visas?” she will say, according to the prepared remarks. “When you think about it — why doesn’t D.H.S. already know exactly how many women get H-1B visas?”