(CNSNews.com) – General Electric (GE) plans to employ 20,000 women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs by 2020 because the “male dominated” sectors are suffering from a “talent crisis for women,” the company said in a Feb. 8 announcement.
The goal is to obtain a “50:50” gender representation for all “technical entry-level programs,” a strategy GE claims is “necessary to inject urgency into addressing ongoing gender imbalance in technical fields.”
The announcement states that only 14% of engineers and 25% of IT professionals are women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. The company expects that a continued lack of women in such fields will affect productivity and diminish “the potential of digital and other new technologies.”
GE’s announcement coincides with their release of a white paper entitled Engineering the Future: The Socio-Economic Case for Gender Equality.
The paper blames the gender imbalance in STEM jobs on the “vicious cycle of expectations” in education, as well as the “lack of role models” women have in STEM industries.
Female employees of GE in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
(AP and GE Annual Report, 2013)
“The low percentage of women” holding STEM jobs “implies that female students are less likely to consider those sectors,” reads the paper, “and they have fewer female role models to inspire them to choose a career in tech.”
A failure to address this, GE wrote, “is like leaving money on the table – it creates a substantial economic cost.” To rectify the situation, “companies, governments, and other organizations” must “work together to put the right system of incentives and support mechanisms in place.”
GE’s “holistic approach” to bridging the gender gap includes expanding the pool of universities from which GE recruits talent, “with more focus on institutions that have a contemporary gender mix.” GE will also offer “benefits that foster an inclusive culture,” including parental leave and childcare.
Simply attracting women to STEM careers is not enough, however. “Retaining and promoting female workers in a so far male-dominated field is the next step in addressing this issue,” says GE.
Successfully incentivizing women to pursue a STEM education and maintain STEM employment “could help solve many lingering challenges and boost economic performance at both the business and national level,” says the company.
These economic benefits will result from a “more diverse workforce,” as “diverse teams are better at problem solving and think more creatively,” according to GE.
“Closing the gender gap and building more diverse teams is essential to realize the promise of the digital-industrial revolution that requires a wide range of skills…a more gender-equal playing field could lead to significant productivity and performance gains,” the paper concluded.