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Word Power: How “be it, see it” Storytelling Inspires Women to Pursue STEM Roles and Careers

“Yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson. And it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses.”

This was a standout line from Hidden Figures, a recent hit movie about the “unsung hero” women mathematicians who played pivotal roles in accelerating the development of NASA’s space program in the early 1960s, and the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

While their story of breaking through a male-dominated industry took place more than 50 years ago, today in 2017, women are still under-represented in in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields worldwide.

More than 100 women learned about the power, and value, of inspiring storytelling in the workplace.

It’s estimated that women account for less than a third of those employed in STEM jobs around the world today. In the U.S., women are underrepresented in both computer and mathematics roles (24.7%) and engineering and architecture (15.1%).

To enhance diversity, fresh thinking, new approaches, and innovation, many governments and companies are introducing programs to attract more women to train, and apply for STEM jobs.

In that spirit, and to ‘balance the equation,’ GE has set a goal of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles throughout the company by 2020. GE currently employs 14,700 women in engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management roles, about 18% of the technical workforce.

GE also aspires to reach 50:50 (male-female) representation in technical entry-level leadership programs. While solid progress is being made – the 2016 Edison Engineering Development program incoming class for example, was 50% women – a host of campaigns have been rolled out to spread the message consistently and around the world.

People follow people

One of these, the “If You Can See It, You Can Be It” leadership through storytelling global initiative was recently launched in Singapore. Program originator, Cate Gutowski, vice president of Commercial Digital Thread, GE Digital said it is designed to help female leaders learn, and practice the art of strategic storytelling which she defines as the ability to tell the right story, at the right time, at the right place to motivate others to take action.

During her presentation Cate said, “A good story can help influence and inspire others to take action. People follow people, people don’t follow a Powerpoint presentation. If you want people to follow you, you have to connect and inspire, and stories are the best way to do that. It gives women the skills they need to build deeper connections with customers and colleagues. GE believes that diverse teams are the best teams, and keeping women in the workplace through every life stage is critical to helping us do that.”

As well as providing participants with the skills to become compelling strategic storytellers, the program is designed to help them build stronger relationships with customers, colleagues, and other business partners.

GE CEO and President, Jeff Immelt spoke about GE’s STEM initiative at the Singapore and Indonesia events.

A special guest at the Singapore event was GE CEO and President, Jeff Immelt. He shared some of his personal stories, especially ones that resonate with the GE Beliefs, and memorable experiences as CEO with the audience of more than 100 women, including customers, and GE executives.

Jeff was also guest of honor at a “Balance the Equation” luncheon in Jakarta, Indonesia attended by more than 150 women including customers and local GE executives. Other guest speakers included Teri Bresenham, CEO, Sustainable Healthcare, GE Healthcare, and Indonesia’s Finance Minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati who encouraged local companies to implement more women-friendly policies to boost female employees’ contributions at work.

“If you look at the population of women and men, there is a 50/50 [ratio], but when you look at the labor force, especially in the formal sector, the proportion of women drops,” said the Minister.

She ended with a call to action, encouraging everyone in the room to initiate change for the future.

“Parents should encourage their daughters to be curious, and to take their aspirations seriously, especially in the STEM related industries.”

More information – the event was also covered by local media including Elle, toayonline, and thenewsavvy.com

 

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