In an unprecedented and enormous move towards gender equality in the workplace, General Electric has promised to implement programs to push the hiring of females — pledging 20,000 jobs — so that by 2020, the company's in-house gender ratio will be 50:50.
GE proposes that decreasing the gender gap will increase GDP and consequently economic activity, improving living standards, and of course living morale. An equal society, as much of a dream that it may seem like, is feasible, and GE is currently in the process of assembling boards that will preside over future hiring and encourage hiring in particular schools to increase the likelihood of that proposed 50:50 ratio.
“MIT economists have discovered that a gender shift could increase company revenue by 41%."
- Statement from GE
20,000 women in technical roles by 2020.
We're not just imagining a world where brilliant women are the stars–we're helping create it. pic.twitter.com/yNWduOgO3n
— General Electric (@generalelectric) February 8, 2017
The mission, one that aligns very singularly with SWAAY's own, is one that develops the relationship between women and business, women and technology, and pushes toward that future that has appeared very distant since the election. Coupled with the constant reminders that women are not nearly on par with their male counterparts when it comes to CEO status or career advancement, the gender disparity in business has been long reporter. While there have been pushes forward for more inclusivity, the simple fact is, it's a slow and tiresome process that most companies have neither the time nor the resources to devote themselves to.
"GE is expanding its 'Leading without Bias' training and are arming GE businesses with tools and tactics to implement its teachings day-to-day for the benefit of their entire employee population." - GE statement
GE's plan does not however merely center on hiring females, but rather it will focus on the retention of females in the tech and engineering workplace. Their figures show that a measly 17 to 30 percent of women rise to levels of seniority in these jobs. Of course there is at least one very natural and good explanation for this — motherhood — but should that really push women off the executive ladder? To counteract the trend of mothers simply leaving their jobs after giving birth, GE is introducing more incentives and aids to help new parents make the transition back into the workplace . These include working flexibility, pregnancy benefits and parental leave - all contributing to the normalization of the working mom rather than marginalizing her from the working world, which will soon be tackled by the government.
Rockstar scientist Millie Dresselhaus appears in the company's new ad, which was directed by Nicole Holofcener, as the type of celebrity GE want to celebrate and promote in this push for gender equality. She was the first woman to win the US National Medal of Science and Engineering, and at an impressive 86 years old, definitely goes against what most people would consider a 'typical' celebrity brand ambassador. Suffice to say, it's a beautiful tear-jerker.
The campaign GE is executing is exactly the type needed to explore the boundaries of stereotype and challenge the types of people who, today, are being recognized as idols. Celebrity status was something people have taunted ever since the election, given the enormous backing Sen. Clinton had from Hollywood and the celebrity world, and of course our President's background in the television spotlight. GE's advert is a welcome addition to a campaign for equality, which has admittedly become a bit repetitive in the last few months.
In a move that reminds us of Audi's recent Super Bowl ad for pay equality, the 60 second GE video is certainly touching on a hot button issue. While the critics say these messages dusted with feminism may just be smart marketing tricks designed to play off the country's renewed sense of activism, the end just may justify the means. Much like affirmative action has had its critics, it cannot be denied that putting more women into roles where they can bring their creativity, intuition, and unique problem solving abilities to the workplace can only be good for our country, and help us possibly move the needle, and become leaders in the push towards a more equal world.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.