The diversity of the workforce has become commonplace due to the extensive wave of globalization, which has reduced differences between regions, religions, sex, race, and ethnicity. General Electronics (GE) being one of the largest companies in the world has a highly diversified employee base. The company spreads from the U.S. to China and therefore employs people from all these regions. Thereby, it has created a culture of inclusion of people from different ages, races, sexes, and ethnic backgrounds. This paper is a study of the diversified demographic patterns observable in the GE employee pool. Research on the employees of GE shows that the people have four distinct demographic characters on which a division is probable. They are age, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Given these factors, the paper will try to ascertain the nature of diversity depending on the above-mentioned variables and show how these results in a problem for management to take decisions.
GE is a company, which has one of the largest employee bases globally with a workforce strength of 323000 in 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Overall, the total employee strength of the company has increased by 4.19% from 2001 to 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Among these, the total percentage of employees who were the U.S. nationals declined from 51% in 2001 to 47% in 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). The employee strength of non-US citizens increased from 49% of the total GE employee in 2001 to 53% in 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). There are overall terms, it is understandable that the employee diversity in GE has been increasing as the number of non-U.S. employees in the organization has increased as opposed to the U.S. citizens.
A gender-based division of the employee present in GE since 2006 shows that the percentage of employees working for GE has remained constant (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). The percent of female employees working in the organization as a percentage of the total number of employees has remained almost constant over the years. In 2006, the percentage of female employees in the company was 35% and it remained so for the next three years until 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Consequently, the percentage of male employees in the organization too remained the same. A region-wise difference in the regional composition of female employees shows that the percentage of female employees is highest in Europe where the percentage of female employees to the total employee strength in the region is 42% in 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Moreover, the lowest percentage of female employees is in the Middle East, Africa, and Others. This is where the gender divide is highest as per Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1981). Therefore, gender discrimination according to the diversity and equal opportunity policy of the company is absent; however, data suggests that the organization’s gender ratio skews towards male employees. Thus, the perceived gender gap became more apparent from the lawsuits of GE employees who claimed that the company discriminated against female employees in terms of pay package and promotions (Malone, 2007). Thus, gender-based discrimination problems may be considered as one problem that may arise in a diversified company.
The second demographic factor selected is age. GE has an employee in different geographical locations. According to the demographic segregation of GE employees, it is observable that in the emerging markets, the demographic character in terms of age is different from the European and U.S.-based employees. As in the case of Asia, the percentage of young employees who have less experience with GE is more. Another interesting observation is that employees from Asia have an average age of 35 years, with an average experience of 6 years with GE (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). They show that majority of the employees have less than 5 years of experience at GE. Thus, this poses a unique challenge as the training and development needs of the employees differ with age. Further, there arises a generation gap between such diversified workforces as employees in the U.S. belong to a different cohort as compared to the employees from Asia. Thus, the gender gap is often explicitly observable.
The third factor discussed in the paper is the ethnic diversity at GE. The citizenship report shows the percentage of employees based on their racial/ethnic background from 2001 to 2008 (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). The data suggest that at the Executive level, which is 15% of the total employee strength, 0.1% are American Indian or Alaska Native, 6.2% are Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, 4.6 are African Americans, 4% Hispanics, and 0.1% Others in 2008 data (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). At the professional level, the highest representations are from Asian ethnic groups and then are Hispanics in 2008. In other ranks, the highest percentage of employees belongs to African American ethnic background. Given this diversified ethnic background of GE employees, it is of interest if non-discrimination prevails at GE. In overall terms, 24% of the employees are from an ethnic background other than White employees (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). Among them, the highest ratio is of African Americans and then Asians.
The fourth factor discussed in terms of demographic difference is sexual orientation. GE provides equal employment opportunities to all the employees irrespective of their sexual orientation. Thus, GE embraces all employees irrespective of their inclinations (GE Citizenship Report, 2008).
GE is one of the most diversified and staunch practitioners of equal employment opportunity (Purcell, 1974). However, in its own reported fair employment practice index, GE shows that the index has fallen in 2008 since 2007 through it have increased from 2001 index (GE Citizenship Report, 2008). As shown in figure 2, the index first rises from 2001 through 2006, and since 2007 through 2008; there was a minor and then a major decline in the index. However, GE is had increased its minority hiring by 57% in 1974 (Purcell, 1974).
Thus, the rise in minority hiring has increased in the seventies and has seized to rise any further. Apart from this, there are many instances when the company has been accused of discriminatory practices based on gender (Malone, 2007; Marquez, 2007), race (Deutsch, 2005), and age (New York Times, 1991). This shows that the discrimination problem and issues that arose are due to the perception of the employees that the company discriminated against them because they are older or female or an ethnic minority. Thus, there exists discrimination of employees and problems arising due to this factor.
The study shows that GE is a diversified company with employees from the different demographical backgrounds. The problem that arises due to this extensive diversity is the concern of discriminatory attitude on part of the employees or the managers while taking decisions as one decision may be favorable to one group and perceived to be unfavorable to the other. Therefore, GE conducts an annual review of managerial performance tied to reward/punishment on establishing equal employment opportunity for all. The above steps recommend ways to manage a diversified employee pool.
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