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GE has announced goals of having 20,000 women to fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all technical entry-level programmes. The programme will significantly increase the representation of women in its engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management roles ­- a strategy necessary to inject urgency into addressing on-going gender imbalance in technical fields and fully transform into a digital industrial company.

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While efforts have been made across the sector, through education, funded initiatives and the emergence of non-profit discussion, progress has been slow on this issue. Technical and engineering sectors are still male dominated and the pipeline for future talent is currently insufficient to meet future needs.

In a white paper, GE outlines the talent crisis for women in STEM roles. In the US today, only 14% of all engineers and 25% of all IT professionals are women. Though women make up 55% of all college and graduate students overall, only 18% of computer science graduates are female, according to the US Bureau of Statistics.

GE’s white paper highlights the economic opportunity of addressing gender imbalance across the sector:

  • Among the major tech giants, women are still under-represented, making up 13-24% of the tech-related jobs, and 17-30% ascending to leadership positions.
  • While women tend to outnumber men overall in higher education (55% to 45%), the share is much smaller for STEM education.
  • Nearly 40% 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 ROE and a 34% increase in total returns, and MIT economists found that a gender shift could increase revenue by 41%.
  • Business has a critical role to play in the recruitment and retention of women in the technology sector, supported by Government, Academia and NGOs. The increased involvement of women in the sector will have real and positive socio-economic impact.

Commenting on the study, GE Chief Economist Marco Annunziata said

Unless we bring more women into technology and manufacturing, there will be a significant negative economic impact on the sector. This is a problem for business to actively address.

GE believes that the commercial imperative, coupled with the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining top female talent in STEM jobs, means organisations must make continued, real investment in closing the gender gap.

GE’s holistic approach outlines clear actions, including the re-examination of its executive school portfolio to more clearly align with the company’s focus on digital industrial capabilities, and the introduction of a Chief Technology Advisory Council to inform future retention strategies, including career advancement and leadership development opportunities. GE will also continue to benchmark, explore and implement employee programs and benefits that foster a fair and inclusive culture where all employees can thrive.

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