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Jack Welch Gives Women Advice And They Don’t Like It


Source | Effenus Henderson

I read with interest the thoughts and comments made by Jack Welch in a session with Women recently as written in this column. His remarks seemed to strike a nerve among those attending. In reviewing the themes of his remarks I can certainly understand why.

The GE that exists today does not appear to be the one that existed when Mr. Welch led the company, or at least the commitment to diversity and inclusion seems inconsistent with his remarks to the women’s group in a review of their corporate website..

First of all, GE has a very strong commitment to diversity and inclusion as evidenced by information on its website. The current leadership appears to strongly support employee resource groups with six such groups highlighted on the website ( I believe that “Affinity groups” are passé for sure as many such groups have evolved to become “business diversity resource groups” to help their companies shape the value proposition addressing issues such as work culture, community outreach, employee engagement, talent acquisition, development and mentoring, among a number of other “bottom-line” levers.

Demographic changes in various stakeholder groups (employees, investors, customers, regulators, suppliers, communities) make it imperative to consider market segmentation and cultural competence as a business imperative. Employee Resource Groups are a useful resource to aid in problem-solving and innovation. To quote information from the GE Women’s Network webpage: Their group was “created to accelerate the advancement of women working at GE. By sharing information, best practices, education, and experience, we help one another develop the leadership skills and career advancing opportunities needed to drive GE’s success.” (See: )

Mr. Welch’s leadership occurred during a time when the focus of diversity, EEO, and compliance efforts was on workforce representation, regulatory compliance, and affirmative action planning. Affinity groups were the first iteration of what is now more sophisticated, inclusive employee networks which are chartered, sponsored by progressive senior leaders and which focus on business issues well beyond workforce utilization and representation.

The context for career development has changed dramatically in the last few years with social media growing in influence, as positions have become less secure, and as organizations are having to be more adaptive to change and capable to flex to meet such market conditions; often shrinking the employee base. Long term careers with one company are increasingly rare as young Millennials seek varied and diverse work experiences and organizational cultures.

Most employees fully understand that getting and keeping great jobs is a matter of getting a good education, performing well, and staying attentive to performance goals and expectations. Yet many also understand that in today’s contentious market place that even that is not enough. They do get that. They understand that connecting and maintaining a network of advocates and coaches will grow in importance as companies compete in the global market place.

Mr. Welch misses a great point about change — this new generation of talent is not as naïve as you may think.

About the Author:

Effenus Henderson is an internationally recognized global diversity thought leader and has been invited by numerous companies and organizations to share his expertise. He has addressed members of the General Assembly of the United Nations on intercultural and interreligious diversity, and also addressed a high level panel of the Alliance of Civilizations in Madrid, Spain in 2008,Istanbul Turkey in 2009 and in Doha, Qatar in 2011. He also participated in a high level dialogue sponsored by the High Commissioner on Human Rights in preparation for the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Universal Declaration of human rights. He was part of a special panel on diversity at the VII Annual Inter-American Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility held in Punta del Este, Uruguay in December 2009.

He has advised members of the United Nation’s Alliance of Civilization and Global Compact offices on emerging issues. Additionally, he has advised leaders of Club de Madrid’s Shared Societies Project on cross-cultural inclusion. He is co-chair of Society of Human Resorce Management’s (SHRM) National Diversity and Inclusion Standards Taskforce.

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