One growing concern with the overhaul of immigration opportunities for highly skilled workers is the current gender gap of recipients of H-1B visas. The Silicon Valley Mercury News just reported that at least 70% of the recipients of these special visas were men. Legislators and advocates have begun to wonder if the current U.S. visa policy is discriminative.
The source of the issue is multi-faceted, with some blaming the imbalance on everything from outright discrimination in hiring practices to outdated visa policies to discrimination in the immigrants’ home countries to all of the above. The disparity seems especially disconcerting because women now outnumber men in the professional workforce, though not in engineering. “More men are coming simply because companies prefer to hire the men over the women,” said Karen Panetta, a professor of computer engineering at Tufts University.
The Bay Area News Group specifically requested the data from the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics and found 347,087 male H-1B visa holders in 2011 to 137,522 females. Further, 67,000 immigrant men versus 39,000 women earned green cards. Overall, the US allows more foreign women than men to stay in the US, but many are banned from working due to the restrictions on their visas. The H-4 “dependent” visa for spouses, for example, prohibits employment and many advocates think it is also reflective of a much larger imbalance in the immigration policies of highly skilled workers.