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Meeting of July 1, 2015 - EEOC at 50: Progress and Continuing Challenges in Eradicating Employment Discrimination

Written Testimony of Ron Edwards
Office of Research, Information and Planning
Director Program Research and Surveys Division

Thank you for the privilege of speaking before the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and to mark its 50th anniversary. I represent the Office of Research, Information and Planning, which as one of its functions has been working on the collections of the EEO-1 since the very beginning of the Commission. The EEO-1 collects workforce information from private sector employers indicating the race, ethnicity and gender of their employees by major job groups. The EEO-1 data offers an excellent insight into how the diversity of the workforce has changed since EEOC opened its doors. In my presentation I will provide a relatively simple description of how our national private sector workforce has changed over the past 50 years. It is not an attempt to establish that the Commission specifically caused these changes, but it is certainly a picture of increased work force diversity with even greater diversity within that diversity. Let me explain that. Being researchers at EEOC, when we were asked to take a look at changes in the workforce over the past 50 years we decided to recognize the 1977 EEOC study Black Experiences versus Black Expectations by Dr. Melvin Humphrey. The study, as far as we know, was the first look at our EEO-1 data over a time series. Dr. Humphrey's report focuses on the penetration and occupational position of African Americans in the EEO-1 universe from 1969 to 1974. It seems like it was the first time that an EEOC research publication took a more analytic approach. In preparing our reexamination, it was striking that the 1977 report had focused on African Americans, and now, 50 years later, that focus does not fully capture changes in the American workforce.

Our current look at the data focuses on nine time points from 1966 to 2013 and is organized for this presentation by the EEO-1 job groups. The most recent EEO-1 data available is from 2013, but the 2014 survey will be closed shortly.

The data tell an interesting story about how our workforce has become increasingly more diverse over the past 50 years.

Perhaps the most important job group to examine is Officials and Managers, as they are typically the highest paid jobs and are often responsible for hiring decisions.

In this area, the story is dramatic:

  • In 1966, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and American Indians/Alaskan Natives made up less than one percent of the Officials and Managers job category. The participation rates for all four groups have increased by five to seven times over the last 50 years with the exception of American Indians/Alaskan Natives increasing by about three times. The percentage of women Officials and Managers increased from less than 10 percent to nearly 40 percent. So 50 years ago, your chance of working for an African American manager was less than 1 in 100.
  • In the Professional job category, these groups also increased by approximately the same amount, that is, five to seven times. The exceptions are Asian Americans by 10 percentage points and women by about 40 percentage points.
  • In fact, the participation rate for women Professionals skyrocketed from roughly 14 percent in 1966 to 53.23 percent in 2013, comprising the highest percentage point increase across the period examined from any demographic group in any job category.
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian American, and Hispanic participation rates show positive increases in all job categories examined from data reported in 1966 to 2013.
  • Participation rates for Technicians changed in the same way as Managers and Professionals. African Americans increased from 4.1 percent of all Technicians to 13.3 percent in 2013. Hispanics increased from 1.4 percent in 1966 to slightly over 10 percent in 2013. Similarly, women increased by almost 18.2 percentage points to represent about half of all Technicians.
  • Non-whites were also poorly represented as Sales Workers in 1966. African Americans made up 2.4 percent of employment in this job group, Asian Americans 0.4 percent, Hispanics 1.4 percent and women 38.8 percent. So if you bought something in 1966, you probably bought it from someone who was White. By 2013 this shifts to 14.1 percent for African Americans, 4 percent for Asian Americans, 13.7 percent for Hispanics and women increase from about one-third of all sales workers to more than half at 56 percent.
  • The employment of Office and Clerical Workers, which still continues to be dominated by women, suggests an interesting story. In 1966, women made up 72.4 percent of this job category and, during this time we know women were expanding their role in the workforce, the percent of women Office and Clerical Workers increases from 78.3 percent in 1972 to 80.3 percent in 2002, but then drops to 75.6 percent in 2013.

Blue collar jobs seem to display a very consistent story as Hispanics employment in these jobs shows a dramatic increase from very marginal to significant.

  • The participation rate for Craft Workers increased dramatically for Hispanics, who had higher rates than all of the other non-White demographic categories. Over this time period Hispanic employment increased from less than 2 percent to 15.9 percent. While Hispanic employment increased dramatically over the past 50 years, the story for African Americans and women is more complex. African Americans increased from a low of 3.6 percent in 1966 to a high of 9.6 percent in 2002 and decreased from there to 8.8 percent in 2013. The exclusion of African Americans from the Crafts appears to be so pervasive that in this nontraditional job for women, women made up a larger part of this job group at 6.3 percent in 1966. That increased to 12.8 percent in 2002 but dropped to 7.3 percent in 2013.
  • The story for Operatives is somewhat similar. Hispanics displayed a dramatic increase from 3.1 percent in 1966 to 17.5 percent in 2013. African Americans also showed a mostly steady but less dramatic increase from 10.8 percent in 1966 to 17.1 percent in 2013. Women on the other hand decreased from 27.6 percent in 1966 to 22.4 percent in 2013 but peaked at 34.2 percent in 1990.
  • Like the other blue collar job groups, Hispanics' employment as Laborers showed a major increase from 6.1 percent in 1966 to 29.2 percent in 2013. Participation rates for Asian American Laborers also increased but not as dramatically (0.5 percent to 4.2 percent). Participation in the Laborer category for American Indians/Alaskan Natives and African Americans fluctuated across the years but remained at relatively the same percentage, less than one percent, for Asian Americans and around 20 percent for African Americans. For women, the rate increased until 1984 and has fluctuated since.
  • Service Workers, like blue collar jobs, showed a dramatic increase in Hispanic employment from 4 percent in 1966 to 20.5 percent in 2013. Women also displayed a relatively steady increase in their participation in this job group from 43.3 percent to 59.8 percent. African American employment in these jobs is practically constant over this time, at about 23 percent.