Two weeks ago, in this space, I wrote about hiring inequalities at Silicon Valley technology firms—mostly focusing on disparities in employment for African Americans and Latinos.

However, the lack of women in technology jobs is similarly striking. The San Jose Mercury News has been forceful in highlighting the issue. The newspaper conducted an analysis of ten of the Valley's largest companies. Their numbers are from 2005 but they still highlight a disturbing trend. In their analysis of these ten companies (including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco, eBay, and more), women made up just 33 percent of the workforce. This is even down from 1999, when women made up only 37 percent of all employees at these organizations.

Turning specifically to managers, the Mercury News found that "women slipped to 26 percent of managers in 2005, from 28 percent in 2000."

This is despite evidence that women in workforce are clearly beneficial. Wired magazine took a look at the issue a few years ago and cited a study from Catalyst, a nonprofit group that studies women business. The study found that companies with the most women in senior management had a 35 percent higher return on equity than those with the fewest. These companies also paid their shareholders 34 percent more than companies with the fewest women in top management.

The article also quotes Carol Kovac, at IBM, arguing that without women "you'll just end up with just 50 percent of people represented" resulting in technologies that might simply be unappealing or simply not work for women.

Apple might now understand the benefits of women in their workforce after the flak they received for naming their latest product the iPad. All Apple executives are white men.

These older numbers remind us that as we work together to come out of this economic downturn, it's not sufficient to return to where we were before the crisis.

The past few years have seen an economy in turmoil and impaired financial mobility. As research from The Opportunity Agenda shows us, at the end of 2008, different American groups and communities experienced starkly unequal levels of opportunity. Continuing with today's focus, in 2008 women made only 76.8 percent the medan income of men.

The current recovery process is an opportunity to prepare us as a country for the 21st century global economy. Any economic recovery policy should not only jump-start the economy in the short-term, but also invest in lasting opportunity for all—this means that recovery efforts must do more than simply return us to the conditions that existed at the beginning of this economic crisis.

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Originally posted to The Opportunity Agenda on Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 10:21 AM PST.

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