Marking International Women’s Day, GE Looks to Close the Gender Gap in STEM
Across the region, governments are working to increase female workforce participation across all fields, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as part of broader economic development goals. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, GE is taking bold steps to close the gender gap.
The company’s commitment, both regionally and globally, to this goal is driven by challenges and opportunities that are greater than expected.
The challenges relate to how much needs to be done, as outlined by a recent GE whitepaper on the topic. It finds that globally, women are under-represented in the technology sector, with women comprising only 13-24% of IT and engineering positions globally, and just 17-30% ascending to senior leadership positions.
While women tend to outnumber men in higher education (55% to 45%), women in STEM fields are considerably lower. What’s more, a U.S. study found that 40% of women with engineering degrees either leave the profession or never enter the field.
At the same time, the benefits from closing the gender gap are huge. It could increase GDP by up to 10% by 2030 in OECD countries, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study. Another study showed that more gender diverse companies performed 53% better than lesser ones, including a 34% increase in total returns, and MIT economists found that a gender shift could increase revenue by 41%.
In light of these findings, GE has announced a global commitment for 20,000 women to fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and ensure 50:50 representation for all its technical entry-level development programs.
The initiative will significantly increase the representation of women in its engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management roles at GE – a strategy the company feels is imperative to fully transform into a digital industrial company for the future.
Female employees double in MENAT
In the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) region, GE has already been working to improve the gender balance. Over the past five years, GE MENAT has increased the number of female GE employees; there are over 1,000 women in the MENAT team (excluding the employees at the Riyadh center), with more than 25 in senior leadership positions , in addition to our field engineers, such as these women in Saudi Arabia and this inspiring Algerian engineer and senior project manager.
Since 2011, the organization has gone from 55 women participating in leadership and development training programs to 130, and most significantly, the number of women in senior leadership positions has more than tripled to 30 today. That means that one-third of our total leadership team is comprised of women, a number the company is looking to increase as part of the global commitment.
Several company initiatives help fuel GE’s gender diversity accomplishments, including seven GE Women’s Network hubs across the region, which support professional development by cultivating leadership skills, business practices, personal contacts and career opportunities.
Other internal programs include GROW & GROW Plus, GE’s first all-woman development program, which has held a number graduations honoring dozens of employees. GROW was ranked a top-three leadership and development program in the region by HR Awards Middle East. Another GE program targeting female employees includes “Female Leaders of Tomorrow,” which last year held its first graduation of 15 employees.
As well, some of GE’s most senior executives have been recognized by the broader business community. Dalya Al Muthanna, President & CEO Gulf for GE, was ranked 12th in the Forbe’s list of most powerful Arab Business Women, while Canan Ozsoy, Chief Executive and Country Chairwoman of GE Turkey, was named one of Turkey’s top 50 female CEOs.
A Giant Employer of Saudi Women
One of GE’s most exciting and ambitious projects to boost female employment in the region is the All-Women Business Process and IT Services Centre in Riyadh. A joint initiative of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Saudi Aramco and GE, the three-year-old center employs 1,000 women, including 850 Saudis who provide more than 20 business services to more than 50 GE locations across North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and Turkey. Ultimately, the center will grow to have 3,000 employees.
While GE’s most recent announcement focuses on promoting diversity within GE, the company works with partners across the region to support the skills development of women in both the government and private sectors.
Building the Talent Pool
Examples of this include supporting the Pearl Initiative and a study that looked to provide insights into how to increase the number of female senior executives in the region. Another program focused on the critical industry of renewable energy is “Women in Innovation,” a leadership training program developed in partnership with Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar.
GE has hosted two women’s leadership summits at its Crotonville global leadership institute, including a Saudi Women’s Leadership Summit and a Middle East, North Africa and Turkey Women’s CEO Customer Summit.
Inspiring Young Women
Looking to build the pipeline of female STEM talent in the region, GE supports training and internship opportunities. For example, working with Effat University and King Abdulla University of Science and Technology, GE has provided on-the-job training for female students in the company’s power and water, and oil and gas businesses in the Kingdom. In Turkey, this includes “WomEngineers,” a program designed to introduce young Turkish female engineers to GE Aviation’s technology.
As well, GE organized a month-long Biomedical Engineering Technology Program for 18 Saudi female biomedical engineering students from the University of Dammam (UoD) at the MediSend Biomedical Engineering Technology School in Dallas.
GE even looks to inspire younger girls to consider studies and careers in technology and engineering fields by sponsoring activities, such a four-week robot-building program for girls aged 9-11 that teaches coding and Advanced Manufacturing.