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.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.