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.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.