Millie Dresselhaus, 86, the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering is now treated like Kylie Jenner, or Kim Kardashian – as you wish. Kids get dressed like her on Halloween, receiving a Millie Barbie doll on Christmas is the gift one could only dream about. People are running to get her autograph, name their children after Millie…

Does that seem a bit crazy to you? Well, don’t worry, this is just an advertisement by GE, and by far one of the most thought-provoking. The 60-second spot, directed by Nicole Holofcener, addresses the issue of women underrepresentation in the field of engineering and science in general, and is part of GE’s plan to increase the number of female employees in technology roles to 20,000 by 2020. Sounds daring, right?

Millie Dresselhaus, 86. General Electric Ad

“We think that celebrating people, in this case women, who have had great achievements is far more important than celebrating people who are famous for fame’s sake,” – says Linda Boff, GE’s chief marketing officer. The company already employs 15,000 women in technical positions, and apart from aiming at increasing this number by some 36% GE also projects to get an even gender ratio to all its entry-level programs.

The GE’s efforts to attract more women to STEM fields are made for a good reason: according to company’s research, women’s part in the IT and engineering roles globally comprises only 13-24% and just 17-30% move up to senior leadership positions.

Millie Dresselhaus, 86. General Electric Ad

“Most people associate science and math fields with ‘male’ and humanities and arts fields with ‘female,’ ” – states the AAUW research and report. The University of Washington study suggests that there are three main factors driving the disparity – and the most powerful one, the researchers conclude, is a “masculine culture” that makes many women feel like they don’t belong.

Indeed, the numbers show to be quite grievous – only 18% of women receive their undergraduate degree in computer science and 19% in engineering, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project, and 40% of those who do receive those degrees, never enter the field or leave the profession. One study has proved that more gender-diverse companies have a 53% higher level of performance than those who tend to employ men as the majority, while OECD researches say that closing the gender gap could increase GDP by up to 10% by 2030.

Millie Dresselhaus, 86. General Electric Ad

“The industry numbers are a little sobering. The data shows that women are still underrepresented in IT and engineering roles—that’s not a GE number, that’s just global—so the fact that we can help inject any urgency into this conversation, that’s something that we’re super proud to be part of,” – said Linda Boff. In its strive to ensure the positive socio-economic impact in the sector, GE is currently working on expanding the number of colleges and universities, from which they recruit, to add universities that have a more complex gender mix.

“Proud as we are about the ad, it’s able to shine a light on what is a larger company initiative and priority, which is to really make sure that a company like GE with goals of innovation and making the world a better place, is reflected in who we hire,” says Boff. With the advertisement airing online, the company devotes its efforts to basic feminine principle, but the ad description on YouTube says it all: “At GE, we’re not just imagining a world where brilliant women are the stars ― we’re helping create it.”

“GE believes that the commercial imperative, coupled with the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining top female talent in STEM jobs, means organizations must make continued, real investment in closing the gender gap.”

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