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Congress looks at tech gender gap

The House Science Committee approves legislation to establish a commission on the recruitment, promotion, and retention of women in tech fields.

Congress edged closer today to launching a federal study on gender inequality in the high-tech and science industries.

As the Senate tackles the high-tech sector's professed labor shortage this week, the House Science Committee has approved legislation to establish an 11-member Commission on Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development to explore whether employers recruit, promote, and retain women at the same rate as they do with men.

The proposed commission's recommendations to government, academia, and the corporate sector would attempt to expose where women are underrepresented in the computer and science fields, and why they apparently leave the industries at greater rates than men.

"We need to take action now to ensure that we have a sufficient pool of trained high-tech workers in the United States," Rep. Constance Morella (R-Maryland), who introduced the bill, said today in her opening statement before the committee.

"While women represent nearly 50 percent of all U.S. workers, they comprise roughly 22 percent of the entire science and engineering workforce," she added. "It is clear, however, that the United States will lose its competitive edge and our economy will suffer if the high-tech companies only have the option of drawing from half the overall workforce when filling high-tech jobs."

Morella's bill now goes to the House floor for a full vote.