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General Electric Bridges Gender Gap with 50:50 Representation of Women in Male-Dominated Fields

9 August, 2017
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General Electric (GE) is on a mission to achieve 50:50 representation of women in all of its technical entry-level programs in the region, especially in engineering, manufacturing, information technology and product management roles, to drive its transformation as the digital industrial company of the future.

The strategy reflects GE’s global initiative to have 20,000 women fill STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles in the organization by 2020.

GE believes that the commercial and socio-economic imperative, coupled with the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining top female talent in STEM jobs, means business has a critical role to play in accelerating and intensifying efforts across the technology sector, the company said in a statement.

“Our focus has always been to create a truly inclusive culture, fostering a climate that enables women employment and leadership,” said Nabil Habayeb, GE’s President and Chief Executive Officer for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

According to a white paper launched by GE, which highlights the economic opportunities of addressing the gender imbalance across the sector, women are still under-represented in the technology sector with 13-24% represented in 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%), STEM education drops significantly.

“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 businesses to actively address,” stated GE Chief Economist Marco Annunziata.

Out of nearly 850 women in the GE MENAT team, more than 25 are in senior leadership positions.

Among other strategic initiatives to empower women, GE has launched the Women’s Network to promote female talent. The company also launched a dedicated regional development program for women – GROW – the only one-of-its-kind within the organization. GE has also introduced Change Champions who support in recruiting, developing and retaining female talent.

In 2016, GE also launched a pilot program called “Return to Career R2C)”, which enables women to return to jobs after career breaks taken for a number of reasons, including having a family, taking care of one’s parents, relocation to another country and so on.

In the UAE, in addition to hiring female technical talent, GE has also created a tailored program targeting women with up to 10 years of career experience. Through a ten-week program, women work on specific projects and assignments with clearly defined outcomes. They are also offered coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities. The first batch of the program had eight participants; four of them are now employed at GE. 

In 2009, GE had zero women in its team in Saudi Arabia, but that number today is over 100, in addition to over 600 women who work at the all-female business process center opened by GE in association with Saudi Aramco and TCS in Riyadh. The goal is to hire 3,000 women for the center in the coming years.

“We believe that in order to further empower a talent pool of women leaders, our investment must begin early, starting with academia. Our integrated approach begins with working with schools and universities extensively to identify and support the brightest talent. Our innate focus on hiring female talent and building their capacity is also aligned with the goals of regional governments, which have outlined women empowerment as a strategic priority,” concluded Habayeb.

Photo credit: Staff members at the all-female GE business process service center in Riyadh / General Electric.

Tags General Electric Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Middle East women Gender equality jobs