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Balancing The Equation; bit by bit

Innovation and leadership

| June 2, 2017, 6:10 PM IST

GE Step Ahead - Balancing The Equation; bit by bit

Despite having a long list of achievements to her name, Anusha Rammohan is a quite an unassuming person.  She’s been a part of GE for over eight years now and leads the data analytics research team for GE’s next generation of flow measurement solutions based out of the verdant campus of John F. Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC) in Bengaluru. Her mandate is to build innovative algorithms for multi-sensor data fusion, data-based models, and diagnostics for the Oil & Gas industry. Confused?

Well, to put it simply, she is the Senior Engineer at GE Global Research, tasked with designing systems and processes that help the Oil & Gas sector to be more efficient with resources, people and investments by reducing the cost of producing oil. This by itself is no small feat. In fact, it is so innovative that Anusha was recently recognised as one of the Top 10 Innovators Under 35 in India by the MIT Technology Review & Mint. Yet, ask Anusha about the award and she will credit it to the enthusiastic work of her peers and the support provided by the company.

In many ways, Anusha is representative of the silent revolution that is taking place in India, of the dynamism and shift towards gender parity at the workplace. The fact that she is working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) space makes it even more interesting. When it comes to gender parity and equal opportunities for women, India has a poor report card, and the gap is constantly widening in STEM.

While a plethora of reasons, ranging from psychological to sociological, try to explain the reasons for the low number of women in STEM roles, the issue of stereotypes is a significant one. A popular misnomer is that men have a genetic advantage over women in mathematics and science. The myth is so widespread that in the latest Kelly Global Workforce Insights (KGWI) survey on Women in STEM, 76% felt that their coworkers held such a bias. Also, traditionally, the manufacturing space or the shop-floor is considered to be a male bastion. According to the arcane view, women are not cut-out for such physical and risky jobs.

GE- BRIDGE THE GENDER GAP

Yet, what seems to escape many people is the fact that our shop-floor has undergone massive changes in the past decades. It is no longer a 'heigh-ho' as in the past, but an automated and digitised space, where much of the labour is tasked to robots and intelligence to the workers. In this new sphere of things, there is just no reason why women cannot function or excel.

The factories of the future, or "Brilliant Factories", are clean, high-tech environments, which resemble a top-notch science lab rather than a 19th-century factory floor. The tasks performed on the Brilliant Factory floor are less arduous, more creative and digitally augmented. It is a working environment well-suited to highly skilled individuals, both women and men. As this new reality becomes more widely recognised, the gender disparity on the shop-floor will steadily vanish.

However, the simple addition of technology itself will not change the status quo. Indian women are often victims of the “double burden syndrome”, managing responsibilities both at home and at the workplace. Change in the STEM fields will heavily depend on a multi-pronged approach by corporates. Flex-times, family friendly policies must be actively engaged and modelled by direct managers and senior leaders.

GE, for instance, is writing the playbook when it comes to balancing the workforce equation. The company has been working ardently towards increasing the representation of women in technical roles and has set a goal of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all technical entry-level programs. The result is there for all to see; women now comprise over 25% of the workforce at its Brilliant Factory in Pune. Anusha Rammohan, it seems, is just the start.

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