How Can Government Leverage Data to Promote Greater Equity in the Workforce?
Blog Co-Author: Joel Gurin, President, Center for Open Data Enterprise
Across many decades, obstacles to gainful employment have limited the ability of Black Americans and other people of color to obtain well-paying jobs that create wealth and contribute to health and well-being. A dearth of opportunity in the job market is related to inequalities in education, bias in hiring, and other forms of systemic inequality in the U.S.
Over time, federal efforts have addressed the need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the government workforce, and promoted similar changes in the broader society. While these efforts have brought progress, they have not been entirely effective. At the same time, federal action has made new kinds of data available—data that can shed light on some of the historic drivers of workforce inequity and help inform solutions to their ongoing impact.
A new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE) -- Leveraging Data to Improve Minority Workforce Opportunity and Equity, by Temilola Afolabi, Senior Research Associate at CODE – addresses these and related issues and makes recommendations for how government can promote opportunities to achieve a more equitable workforce that provides greater opportunities for all.
This report explores a number of current opportunities to strengthen longstanding data-driven tools to address workforce inequity. The report shows how the effects of workforce discrimination and other historic practices are still being felt today. At the same time, it outlines opportunities to apply data to increase equity in many areas related to the workforce gap, including disparities in health and well-being, socioeconomic status, and housing insecurity.
The report identifies three main challenges that have led to inequitable outcomes, and identifies potential paths forward through data and technology, including:
- Unconscious bias in recruitment processes and discriminative job requirements
- Limited access to education and training to qualify for good jobs
- Ineffective communication of employee skills and records of learning
The analysis demonstrates that data can help to improve equity in the workforce, and concludes with specific opportunities for doing so through analytics technologies like machine learning, introduction of new data collection methods, and targeted investment in areas such as learning systems and employment records.
This brief builds on the IBM Center’s recent work addressing how public administration can promote equity, which is one of the Center’s priority research areas. It is the third in a series of projects on Open Data for Racial Equity conducted in partnership with CODE. The first report in that series, Using Data to Advance Racial Equity in Healthcare, was published in August 2022. The second report, Leveraging Data to Improve Racial Equity in Fair Housing, was published in November 2022.
We hope that this report provides helpful perspectives for government leaders and their stakeholders in designing effective strategies and programs that promote more equitable workforce opportunities across government and for all Americans.