Kudos To G.E. As It Strives to “Balance the Equation” With Women

By: Amy Epstein Gluck

Though I felt I was scaling mountains in Honors Bio during my sophomore year in high school and during six months of balancing equations, General Electric’s plan to “balance the equation” makes perfect sense to me…and likely to others.

This year, General Electric, the science, technology, and engineering industry giant, revealed clear and dynamic plans to hire more women in executive and technical roles.

When I say more, I mean a lot more, and as G.E. is a science and technology-based company, they’ve aptly named this effort “Balance the Equation.”

G.E.’s Plan

Here’s the plan: by 2020, G.E. aspires to have 20,000 women fill science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) roles, while simultaneously achieving complete gender parity in its technical entry-level programs. Men greatly outnumber women in STEM positions, and G.E. sees an opportunity to vastly shrink that gender gap while recruiting talented female employees.

According to their whitepaper, Engineering the Future: the Socio-Economic Case for Gender Equality, which you can read here, there is a full-blown talent crisis for women in STEM roles. Currently, in this country, only 14% of all engineers and 25% of all IT professionals are women. Though women comprise 55% of all college and graduate students, only 18% of computer science graduates are female, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those are some sad stats.

Indeed, among other matters, G.E.’s white paper highlights the economic opportunity of addressing gender imbalance across the sector:

  • More gender-diverse companies perform 53% better than lesser ones, including a 34% increase in total returns.
  • Nearly 40 percent of women with engineering degrees either leave the profession or never enter the field, according to a widely cited 2014 study.
  • According to the OECD, closing the gender gap could increase GDP by up to 10% by 2030. One study showed that more gender diverse companies performed 53% better than lesser ones, including a 35% increase in return on equity and a 34% increase in total returns, and MIT economists found that a gender shift could increase revenue by 41%.

In fact, G.E.’s leaders have stated that their goal is more than just changing the demographics; increasing the number of women will lead to productivity and performance gains.

G.E. certainly seems motivated and goal-oriented.

How Will G.E. Attract Women?

STEM jobs have been traditionally male-populated by an overwhelming number, so how will G.E. lure women?

According to the company, besides hiring, they will focus on retention, attrition, and raising women up into positions of leadership. G.E. claims it will introduce a Chief Technology Advisory Council to inform future retention strategies, including career advancement and leadership development opportunities, and will continue to benchmark, explore, and implement employee programs and benefits that engender a fair and inclusive culture where all employees can thrive.

G.E. also boasts an expansion of family-friendly benefits like parental leave, work-life balance policies, and affordable childcare. Yes, women sure do like that.

Advice for G.E. and Others Looking to “Balance the Equation”

As we wrote about here, true parity in the workplace can raise productivity and efficiency while enhancing employee satisfaction and increasing revenue. Moreover, a solid anti-discrimination policy and the dismantling of workplace gender discrimination must come from the “top down” or “trickle down,” so if G.E.’s leaders talk the talk, I hope they walk the walk.

Some additional tips for employers from the Women in the Workplace 2016 LeanIn/McKinsey study, which we wrote about last year:

  1. Make a compelling case for gender diversity. Tell your employeeswhy gender diversity is so important and how it benefits the entire company. And, as we’ve said time and time again, senior leaders play a key role. Have open, candid conversations about it, and be transparent about your gender metrics.
  2. Ensure the fairness of hiring, promotions, and reviews. Have a strong policy promoting gender diversity andimplement it, filtering out any inherent bias where you find it. One example suggested by the study is to conduct blind résumé reviews to reduce any chance of gender bias.
  3. Employee training. As I emphasized herehere, and practically everywhere, substantive, hands-on training is critical.
  4. Focus on accountability and results. Use targets to set goals for hiring, promotions, and equal pay.
  5. Ensure the men are involved. Sexual inequality, discrimination, and unequal pay are not just “women’s issues.” Rather, discrimination and inequality create a culture of divisiveness and disrespect, which becomes your entire workplace’s issue.

G.E.’s new television commercials depict a Nobel-prize winning female scientist, and their theme is “What if we treated great women scientists like they were stars?”

What if we did?

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.