Yesterday, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) released its study of diversity in IT employment in the United States, "Untapped Talent: Diversity, Competition, and America's High Tech Future." The conclusions of the report, which present analysis of data from the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, are sobering. The percentage of women in the IT workforce has declined from a high of 41 percent in 1996 to 32.4 percent in 2004, although the percentage of women in the overall workforce has not changed significantly during the same period. Hispanics constitute 13 percent of the entire US workforce and only 6.4 percent of the IT workforce, an underrepresentation in the IT labor pool of close to 50%. Blacks are underrepresented in IT by 22 percent. Whites are underrepresented by 6.6 percent. In contrast, Asians and Asian-Americans are overrepresented in the IT workforce by close to 200 percent. Less dire yet still of concern is the report's finding that the IT workforce is growing older, with the average median age of IT workers adding 2.1 years between 2000 and 2004. The median age of the overall labor force rose 1.1 years in the same period.

The problems that this imbalance creates are real and will have lasting repercussions for the United States. As fewer people are available and qualified to work in IT, the US functions at a distinct disadvantage to countries such as India and China, where colleges and universities produce thousands of graduates in science and engineering each year, in many cases with female graduates equaling male graduates in number. As ITAA President Harris N. Miller said, "America is competing in the global economy with one hand tied behind her back. With competitors like China, India, and Western Europe on our heels, we can ill addord to miss out on anyone with the right aptitude, skills, and motivation to succeed in technical fields. Leaders in industry, education, and government must redouble their efforts to ensure that all Americans, particularly women and minorities, recognize the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering, and math."

                                                                          --Dianne Russell