Contract Worker Disparity Project

Closing the Equity Gap in the Tech Workforce

Expanding access to the tech workforce is often seen as a key way to create equity in our economy. Many job seekers who are looking for the stability and opportunity that a tech career creates find an entry point through contract work. But these temps, vendors, and contractors (or TVCs) are locked out of many of the benefits and privileges that working in tech bestows including high compensation, generous time off, career mobility, and empowerment at work. Troublingly, our initial research suggests that TVCs are more likely to come from racial, ethnic, and gender groups that are under-represented in tech, deepening the industry’s equity and inclusion problem. We are shedding light on these disparities and advocating for solutions that will create equity for all tech workers.
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Despite performing a similar job function to other full-time employees at the company, as a TVC I was paid less than half of what my full-time counterparts would be making.  I had little control over my schedule and wasn’t informed if I would be able to spend Christmas with my family until 24 hours before.

– Anonymous Contract Worker

What is the Contract Worker Disparity Project?

We are launching the Contract Worker Disparity Project to shine light on the growing problem of inequality inside of tech workplaces, specifically with contract workers.

We will:

  • Publish original research about, and provide insight into, the working conditions of TVCs at tech companies and the broader practice of employing TVCs in the industry
  • Develop a public policy agenda that will begin to create the necessary protections for these workers
  • Work with our partner companies to develop better corporate practice around using TVCs, including creating better on-ramps from TVC roles to FTE roles at these companies

Share Your Story

  • Not required, only share if you'd like
  • Not required, only share if you'd like
  • Not required, only share if you'd like us to follow up with you
  • Share your experience as a TVC at a tech company, with as little or as much detail as you feel comfortable with.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Why Contract Workers?

Our project takes a deeper look at these workers who are stuck a rung or two above low-wage service workers and are trying to establish and maintain middle-class stability, often for the first time.

What are TVCs?

TVC stands for temporary, vendor, or contractor. These tech workers serve as content moderators, provide customer service, act as receptionists, do event operations and logistics, and perform other key operational roles. They are a class of workers that often work side-by-side with full-time employees (FTEs), fulfilling similar roles to their FTE counterparts for 40+ hours per week, but they often forgo health insurance, paid time off, and other benefits that their FTE counterparts receive. Many workers accept this arrangement, despite the drawbacks, because it is seen as an “in” at a prestigious tech company and a pathway to a more lucrative career.

Why do TVC roles exist?

The practice of utilizing TVCs shifts the accountability of an employer to a third-party staffing or contracting agency. The agency hires the workers, sets the wage rates, determines the benefit package, and is responsible for day-to-day supervision. They also hold responsibility for things like preventing sexual harassment and discrimination, and for job safety, worker compensation, and paid sick leave—absolving the tech companies who contract with the staffing agencies of very little oversight. Contracting out is not a new idea, but in the tech industry it has become a heavily relied-upon strategy for keeping costs down and stock prices high.

Why do we want to understand the disparities between TVCs and FTEs? 

In the coming months, we will shed light on the TVC ecosystem, highlighting the ways in which it perpetuates inequality within the tech workforce. Ultimately, we will develop a set of best practices for companies to implement to ensure their TVCs are protected and provided with real pathways to better careers. And we will articulate and advocate for a public policy agenda that will encode protections across the labor force for this growing set of workers. Centering the experiences of TVCs, our research will interrogate a series of questions around TVC employment, including:

  • Which contractors are getting promoted and/or receiving stable contract work? Which contracts receive full-time employment at the end of a contract?
  • Are contract workers more likely to be members of under-represented groups than their FTE counterparts?
  • What are the major disparities in pay and benefits even when performing comparable roles with their colleagues at tech companies?
  • Do contract workers feel reluctance to advocate for themselves and/or to report workplace safety and abuse issues because of the precariousness of their role?

How can I learn more?

As we move forward, we’ll release research highlights and develop a set of solutions to close the disparity gap amongst contract workers. 

We will also work closely with our tech company partners to gain buy-in for and implement our best practices. We understand that many companies simply don’t understand the ramifications of their practices and we hope that through partnership and awareness-raising they will come to see the value of supporting all of their workers, whether they can list their company’s name on their resume or not.

Ultimately, as a community for tech workers, our goal is to create a more equitable tech workforce, remove artificial disparities between workers, and strive for structural changes to ensure that everyone can benefit from the economic growth that the tech industry is creating. With your help, the Contract Worker Disparity Project can be a critical step to achieving that goal.

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