Well Balanced Business Women
Why do women need help to have both a career and a family? On one hand, they would like to have equal opportunities in their career to make it to the top; on the other hand they have to find a way to have a family as well. And manage both. The challenges they face are the ‘double burden syndrome’, as well as the ‘anytime, anywhere performance’, as highlighted in a recent McKinsey survey.
According to the survey, current numbers show that women definitely need support, as they are underrepresented on corporate boards (32% in Norway, while 5% in India) and executive committees of corporations (Norway 12%, India 2%). While the EU is loud with a debate on how and when to implement quotas to finally make a change, GE opts for organic improvement and puts a best practice, the GE Women’s Network, in place to help increase a talent pipeline. It was set up some 15 years ago as a volunteer organization with a mission to develop, retain and attract talented women, while driving a cultural change.
The GE Women’s Network does not replace any HR processes; it rather supports them as managing the Network means practicing leadership skills in a non-threatening environment. Regular participants also benefit from the Network by meeting role models, attending training sessions and sharing best practices. The Network helps its members work on all three elements of a successful career: performance, image and exposure.
According to the McKinsey survey, a company needs two things in order to make a difference regarding women in top positions: CEO support and female development programs. GE has both. On one hand, women have to have the drive, should dare to speak up for themselves and for others, attend events, as those two hours they steal from work and from family can make a difference in their career. But women alone cannot make a change happen. They need the support of men, their colleagues, managers and their partner. You need a CEO who is dedicated to diversity, a culture in which no manager can ask a female not to get involved in the Network and in which it is not polite to turn down a speaker invitation either.
The Network is operated like a business and has its yearly EMEA summit. This year it took place in Berlin, for the second time in a row. Our geographic region consists of two Network sub-regions. One of them is led by Boguslawa Mikucka, Senior Manager of Marketing at GE Capital, Bank BPH in Poland and the other one by Eszter Szabó, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Leader for CEE. Some ten ladies represented our two regions at the conference and our achievements were noticed in Berlin and beyond, as the Polish hub received a global recognition, while the Hungarian one won the best hub award for “Coaching for Success” in 2004 and the Lighting Hub received the “Most Improved Hub 2009” GE Women’s Network Global Award in 2010.
Boguslawa Mikucka, Network sub-region leader in Poland, believes in “out of the box” initiatives that are not directly related to the daily job. “I love to support others, especially young women, coach them and help them choose the right way to follow and develop” – she added. “In Berlin I really liked the change in the way we measure hub effectiveness: quality weights more than quantity.”
Carmen Neagu, Regional Sales Executive at GE Energy and co-chair of the GE Women’s Network Romanian and Bulgarian hub, is very enthusiastic in supporting the huge, but geographically dispersed resource of talented women in the South East European region in order to retain and help them to grow in career and ultimately get promoted in the organization. She highlighted an interesting statement that Jeff Immelt, GE CEO, made at the Berlin conference, as it could be a headline for the program: “Leadership is a journey on yourself.”