Monday, 23 October 2017

GE sets sights on adding women in tech push – Albany Times Union


Niskayuna

General Electric has a message for women who are currently pursuing technical degrees: After you graduate, we want to give you a long career.

On Friday, the female researchers at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna were front-and-center to show off some of the company’s newest projects, from mini-robots that someday could repair machinery from the inside to a sensor patch for people that can measure physiology from sweat.


This year, the company announced plans to have 20,000 women working in technical jobs by 2020, up from the current level of about 14,700, said Danielle Merfeld, general manager for the Niskayuna lab.

“Today, we are showcasing not just the technology that GE is driving,” she said. “We are also highlighting our women researchers who are driving it.”

Merfeld said the initiative has three goals: recruitment of more technically trained women, the retention of those women after hiring, and the promotion of women into higher management positions. While GE’s effort is “altruistic and fair-minded,” she said, there is also an economic benefit — more diverse enterprises tend to be more profitable.

GE is competing for a relatively scarce supply of female tech graduates; While women make up 55 percent of all college and graduate students, they represent just 18 percent of computer science graduates, and 14 percent of current engineers of all categories, according to a February 2017 report by two GE economists.

Merfeld said that hiring more female technical workers has to be joined with an effort to make the company a place where they want to stay. “If we cannot keep women after hiring, it will be difficult to reach our goal,” she said. “It’s about the culture.”

A 2014 study found that 40 percent of women with engineering degrees either left the profession or never entered in the first place.

Demonstrations offered at the research lab highlighted a number of areas, including:

Health care: With a virtual reality viewer that could allow a health care worker using an ultrasound wand to actually “see” a patient’s internal organs in real time during an examination.

Manufacturing: How three-dimensional printers can make precision metal parts for almost any purpose.

Equipment: The creation of digital “virtual twins” for machinery like turbines, where maintenance workers can run simulations on the digital version rather than the “real” machine — to better understand when the device requires maintenance or might be operated in a way to make it more efficient.

bnearing@timesunion.com518-454-5094@Bnearing10



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