GE is renowned for its Crotonville leadership institute. Pink Petro, CEO, Katie Mehnert was invited last week to attend GE's Leading and Learning. This annual event has brought together senior female executives from prominent companies around the world to discuss global trends, innovation, growth, challenges, and leadership.
On the agenda this year were some insightful and amazing speakers. Here's a recap.
“Know Your Value” — MIKA BRZENSKI
Mika joined us for dinner Monday evening and gave perspective on the current political environment in the U.S. and around the world. She encouraged every woman in the room to embrace their inner strengths & remain resilient during difficult times, key tenets of her Know Your Value campaign – a nationwide effort focused on empowering women in business. Check out more here.
“What difference does it make if you have a seat at the table, but act like everyone else and use your table manners? ” —MAE JEMISON
Echoing Mika’s sentiments, Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to go to space, kicked off day two with a message to all, no matter your sex, ethnicity or background, to work hard towards your “seat at the table” and once achieved, have an opinion and a voice to make sure your thoughts are valued. She also gave us an inspiring look at her history with NASA, the100 Year Starship initiative, and her guest appearance on Star Trek. And finally, she reminded us that space isn’t just for rocket scientists, and that we need to push harder for radical innovation.
“When you're a girl you have to be 3 times better.” — TEMPLE GRANDIN
Temple Grandin does not shy away from a challenge. Diagnosed with autism at an early age, Temple did not let the world around her determine her path. “The world needs all kinds of minds,” she reminds us. Her challenge to everyone in the audience was to be open to and create opportunities for different ways of thinking. Diverse perspectives & alternative paths to solutions provide a potential for great outcomes.
“The more people know about the natural world, the more they feel a part of it" — HOPE JAHREN
“Lab Girl” Hope Jahren gave us a glimpse into her life as a geochemist, geobiologist and professor of science. Her effortless explanation of the manipulation of plant life to understand external pressures such as light & atmosphere make it clear why she is so often described as an inspiration and role model for young girls looking to get involved in science.
“Succeed not despite of who you are, but because of what you are... unapologetically.”—JESSICA O. MATTHEWS
Self-described as the perfect mix of Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beyonce, Jessica blew us away with the capabilities of the renewable energy company she founded at only 22 years old. She talked about building off your struggles to reach success, and the importance of diverse experiences and thought. Learn more about Jessica and Uncharted Play here.
“I saw an opportunity to solve a problem in the food & beverage market & I went for it .” — KARA GOLDIN
Determined to find a healthier solution than soda, Kara started creating Hint Water at home while pregnant with her fourth baby. Since launching in 2005, Kara has been recognized by numerous organizations for her entrepreneurial success. She talked about what’s on the horizon for Hint, including breaking into consumer products for health & wellness, and how she stays inspired to innovate.
“Disability is never the barrier, society and expectations are.”— HABEN GIRMA
Haben Girma, the first Deafblind graduate from Harvard Law School, talked about the importance of inclusion and her lessons learned as a fierce advocate for equal rights for those with disabilities. As Haben explained, for every situation there are alternative solutions – whether that is closed captioning for the hard of hearing or speech-to-braille translations to make attending Harvard Law a possibility – it is all of our responsibilities to create and maintain inclusive environments for every type of person.
“How is it that in a world with so much abundance, so much talent and innovation, so many go without food?" — KOMAL AHMAD
Moved by a single dinner with a homeless veteran, Komal and her company, Copia, strive to solve the world’s dumbest problem: hunger. One of Toyota’s 2016 “Mother of Invention” award winners, Komal wowed us with the inspiration behind her logistical problem-solving to develop technology to solve food excess & hunger. Learn more about Copia and how to get involved here.
“Best advice I ever got was to always take the most adventurous path” — JILL ELLIS
We fan-girled a little over the last speaker of the day, head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. After being named head coach in 2014, just 13 months later she led the U.S. to the championship of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Jill talked about her passion for the game, her team, and equality for women in sports. “I’m learning to have a voice,” Jill says, “and I’m working with young women to help move the needle with them.”
Big thanks to Beth Comstock, Vice Chair, GE, Susan Peters, SVP, Human Resources, GE and Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE.
Immelt spoke of the disruptive times we live in and that GE is making some big bets in the new age of productivity.
On the energy transition, he noted that the notion of going from hydrocarbons to alternatives is hard. While it's obliterated companies in Europe, the chairman recognizes the big plays the company is making in alternatives and in fossils, citing the Baker/GE deal, a tremendous one for the company.
On the future of work, GE is looking at who will work, how they will work, and where they will work. The company is looking at virtual reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence and how the future of work will change organizational design and help them run more digitally with less layers.
On women and diversity, Immelt spoke about the company's "Balance the Equation" initiative with an intense focus on having 20,000 women in technical roles by 2020. To do this, roughly 50% of all new hires will be female.
His 7 pieces of advice to the 300 female executives in the room were simple truths. The hard part is making them happen...
- Know the bus that’s going to hit you. You cannot dabble into too many things and must SAY NO.
- Good idea v good business: Are they investable?
- Good leaders know how to tell between tail wind and management. You learn a lot through bad cycles.
- You should be more worried about things in good cycles and look at people extra hard in the worst times.
- Immelt says some people want to know all of the answers but that we have to be okay with letting the story unfold. We don't know and we don't control much. Wait till Episode 10 says Jeff.