BOSTON — Executives at GE have set a goal to position 20,000 women in science, technology, engineering, and math-related jobs throughout their company by 2020. Company executives are also aiming for a 50:50-mix of men and women in entry-level technical leadership development programs. Both initiatives would affect the hiring and retention practices at each of GE's business units, including the world's largest locomotive maker, GE Transportation.
In a news release, GE officials say it’s time to bring more women into the male-dominated industry because there are simply not enough people to meet the growing demand for science and technology-related jobs at the company and across the economy.
In a position statement published by GE, it notes that only 14 percent of engineers and 25 percent of all information technology professionals are women, even though women make up 55 percent of all college graduates.
“Unless we bring more women into technology and manufacturing, there will be a significant negative economic impact on the sector,” says GE Chief Economist Marco Annunziata. “This is a problem for business to actively address.”
If successful, GE would be bucking a trend within the rail industry that is still very male dominated. According to the Association of American Railroads, woman make up an incredibly small portion of railroad employees. At BNSF Railway, 7 percent of the workforce is female; at Union Pacific woman make up 6 percent of the workforce; and at CSX they make up 7 percent of the workforce.
The League of Railway Industry Women, an industry group established in 1997 to promote women within the industry, says GE’s decision to hire more women is a step in the right direction. League President and Sales and Marketing Coordinator for the Whiting Corporation Jodi Heldt says she hopes more companies within the industry follows GE’s lead.
"The League of Railroad Industry Women applauds GE’s initiative to increase the number of women in STEM roles and address gender imbalance in technical fields,” Heldt tells Trains News Wire. “For 20 years, LRIW has been providing leadership and support for the personal and professional growth of women at every level in railroading and railway-related businesses, through efforts including our Outstanding Woman of the Year award, which highlights the achievements, skills and expertise of women in the rail industry.”
Kaleigh Reyes, commercial leader for GE Transportation Digital Solutions, echoes Heldt and says that initiatives like the one launched at GE will only make the industry better.
"There has never been a more exciting time to work in the transportation industry and I am immensely proud to do so within an organization that is supportive and proactive in its efforts to be an inclusive, diverse place to work,” she says.
UPDATE: Lead paragraph updated to reflect information from GE. Feb. 21, 2017, 3:23 p.m. Central time.