Beth Comstock stands in her own lane. She is the first female vice chair of General Electric, and works to drive new growth and market innovation into the tech world with creativity and an opportunist mindset.
During an interview with Lena Dunham, Comstock explores her uncommon career trajectory, issues important to her, and how she has been able to maintain a focus on women helping women thus far in her corporate life.
“I think it’s an obligation. I feel I have to help bring women along,” she states. “In the scheme of things, there aren’t enough women here. That’s my job. To keep bringing in great women and feel nothing more than pride at seeing them go.”
She helps invite more women to the table beginning with hiring. At GE, Comstock has helped double the number of women tech executives over the last 18 months at GE. She also has the goal of bringing their entry level engineering talent to at least 50 percent women.
“I think courage comes down to just believing there’s a better way. I love people who want to do better and be better. It’s really that simple. When I meet founders who are starting out, and they’re so passionate about being better, you just can’t help but want to help them.”
However it’s also about reminding companies just how valuable women are for success and profit. According to multiple studies including a report done by Catalyst, companies with more women in top roles generate 34 percent greater returns to shareholders. Yet currently, women only lead 21 companies within the Fortune 500, a few spots down from the past two years – clearly there is a disconnect.
Mentoring as Comstock has mentioned is a way to produce more female CEOs. Albeit, as not as black and white as other methods, inspiration and leadership among women actually does make an impact on promoting more women in top positions. Campaigns like The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100×25 initiative aim to create 100 female CEOs within the Fortune 500 by 2025.
“In order to develop a pipeline of potential women CEOs,” says Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst, “we must both close the gender gap at the executive leadership level and support women early in their careers with sponsors, access to profit-and-loss roles and the opportunity to serve as an outside director on a corporate board.”
Yes, it’s crucial that companies create inclusive and diverse environments to allow women to move up and succeed, but it’s just as important to help and influence one another up the ladder ourselves.