Walking into the One Oxford Center, I could feel the corporate buzz around me. I took note of the white, crystalline marble floors and glanced at my reflection in the spotless windows. Men casually talked with colleagues, often with a briefcase in one hand and a Starbucks cup in the other. This is a place where business happens.
As I told my name to the security guard, a glass barrier retracted, permitting entrance into the Blue Tree Allied Angels meeting. I smiled with my fellow students from Grove City, the four of us thrilled for the opportunity to sit in on an important meeting. Stepping into the conference room, I heard students, investors, and entrepreneurs discussing potential market growth, industry breakthroughs, and innovations in the Pittsburgh area. The conference room was impressive. Microphones hung from the ceilings for conference calls, investors sat around a table talking, and cups of coffee and paper were scattered throughout the space.
The meeting began. Entrepreneurs pitched their well-developed business ideas to the audience. They spoke with ease, confidence, and knowledge. I blushed thinking about how polished their presentations were compared to mine, often filled with nervous stammering, pacing, and “um”ing. As I took note of various market opportunities and general takeaways about pitching, a thought occurred to me. Sitting next to me was Levi Roberts, Cameron Suorsa, and Najib Afghan; all guys. Glancing around, I realized that there were not many females in the room. Of the 19 investors, only 3 were women. There were no female pitchers at the meeting. After the presentations, the investors had the opportunity to ask questions. To my shock, 24 of the 25 questions were asked by men. Only one woman spoke up. I pondered this, unsure if there was a specific reason why the women were not saying anything.
Luckily, I was reassured by the presence of Catherine Mott– she was the only women in the room who was actively participating in the discussion, offering valuable insights. Most of the men spoke only about the numbers, but Catherine had input about the personal side of business. She was well-spoken and delivered her points with professionalism, backed by data. Despite being a little outnumbered, she spoke with confidence.
After the formal meeting, I mustered up the courage to network with these investors and businesspeople. Even though I was a girl, the investors were very interested in what I had to say. Once I stepped outside my comfort zone, I attempted to express my ideas and ask questions. I enjoyed myself so much more than I had anticipated.
I came away from the Blue Angel Investor meeting with a valuable new perspective. Even if we enter a male-dominated occupation—our voices carry value and substance. Expressing ourselves confidently is the only way to be taken seriously and to have our input considered. After leaving the Blue Tree Allied Angels meeting, I would encourage female business students to act like Catherine Mott. You might be a little outnumbered being a female in a world dominated by blue suits, but don’t let that keep you silent. Your insights offer a new perspective and can spark new opportunities. Your voice matters.