Is the information technology industry a bastion of white males? A new study released Wednesday says women and most racial minorities are "significantly underrepresented" in the IT workforce.
According to the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), the percentage of women in IT declined by 18.5 percent since 1996 while some minorities are underrepresented in the industry's workforce by more than 50 percent.
"America is competing in the global economy with one hand tied behind her back," ITAA President Harris N. Miller said in a statement released with the report. "With competitors like China, India and Western Europe on our heels, we can ill afford to miss out on anyone with the right aptitude, skills and motivation to succeed in technical fields."
The study says the percentage of women in the IT workforce declined from a high of 41 percent in 1996 to 32.4 percent in 2004. During that same period, the percentage of women in the overall workforce remained largely unchanged, from 46 to 46.5 percent.
The ITAA said the declining representation of women in the IT workforce can largely be pinned on stats that show one out of every three women in the IT workforce fall into administrative job categories that have experienced significant overall declines in recent years.
When those categories are excluded from the analysis, the percentage of women in IT drops from 32.4 percent to 24.9 percent. The figures represent no progress in the numbers of women in the professional or management ranks from the relatively low 25.4 percent mark achieved in 2002.
Hispanics were the most underrepresented racial group in the IT workforce during 2004, with a difference of more than 50 percent. While they made up 12.9 percent of the U.S. workforce, Hispanics were only 6.4 percent of the IT workforce. The figure represents a slight increase from 5.3 percent in 1996.
African-Americans were underrepresented by 22.4 percent, and there are 6.6 percent fewer whites in the IT workforce than in the overall workforce. When compared to their number in the general U.S. workforce, Asians continue to experience significant overrepresentation in the IT workforce, by almost 200 percent.
The ITAA based its study on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Population Surveys. The ITAA report follows similar diversity studies conducted in 1998 and 2003.