A balanced workforce is a business imperative, and today, the digital industrial revolution raises the stakes even higher. "In my 25 years working for GE, I have learned that the best business outcomes are achieved with diverse teams that understand the end customer," GE's Chief Technology Officer Vic Abate writes.
This year, my youngest daughter, Sammi, is applying to college. She’s full of life, is vice president of her class and she wants to be a biomedical engineer. I couldn’t be more proud. She’s excited about working with others and learning how to use technology to make peoples’ lives better.
It has me thinking deeply about the future that awaits her. Will she join a company that excites her, challenges her and gives her the career advancement opportunities she earns along the way? Will she join a workforce that mirrors the diverse customers she will serve one day?
Of the 7.5 billion people on the planet, we have a near perfect balance of men and women. And for all that has been discovered and achieved, we have the opportunity to innovate not only more, but faster. By increasing the number of women representing the nearly eight million scientists and engineers on the front lines of innovation worldwide, we can do this.
As GE’s Chief Technology Officer, it’s my great privilege to lead the company’s innovators in our mission to see, move and create a better future for GE and the world. But how can you see a brighter future if you only look at half the picture? If the world my company serves is half men and half women, shouldn’t we have a team that represents that population?
In my 25 years working for GE, I have learned that the best business outcomes are achieved with diverse teams that understand the end customer. This was especially true with GE’s wind business, where a diverse, enterprising team of men and women, who looked like the world, turned a $250 million investment into a $7 billion business.
Today, the digital industrial revolution raises the stakes even higher. Innovation is moving faster, and success requires the ability to think and operate across different fields of expertise. The jobs of the future in digital foundries and high-tech science labs require more flexibility, creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving than ever before… all things that diverse, more interdisciplinary teams are better at.
Leaning into this opportunity, last year I challenged our team to take a fresh look at our recruitment strategy. We are now turning conventional wisdom on its head and took an important first step with our incoming class of Edison engineers.
The Edison Engineering Development Program is GE’s iconic early career program for top engineering talent out of our colleges and universities. This past year, for the first time in history, our incoming class is comprised of 50 percent men and 50 percent women … representing our world. The women are world-class and elevated the incoming cohort’s average GPA, illustrating GE gets the best of the best.
We’re still early in this journey to transform our company. We know it takes more than attracting and hiring the most qualified talent; it is about keeping the best talent too. At GE, we are setting a goal to create a workforce of 20,000 technical women by 2020 and recruit 50 percent women and 50 percent men into all of our entry level technical leadership programs going forward. In three years, our technical community will be more innovative because of this transformation. For us, this is a business imperative. It’s critical for our sustainable position as a technology leader.
The decisions we make today will have a direct impact on the future that awaits my daughter and the next generation of men and women that define our future. By building a workforce that truly reflects the world, we can achieve more than ever thought possible.
(Top photo: Getty Images.)
Vic Abate is Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer at GE.
All views expressed are those of the author.