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.
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.