“Sometimes, when it feels right, you just gotta go for it,” said Rebecca Harris, director of Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at her presentation “Assessing Women and Risk” in the ATS Auditorium on March 28.
The event began at 5 p.m. with a reception in the lobby outside the auditorium. AVI Foodsystems catered the affair, and the tables were set with a buffet-style selection of appetizers, including chicken tenders, various vegetables, hummus dip and small finger sandwiches.
Those in attendance included the president of Slippery Rock University, Cheryl Norton, assistant to the provost and co-chair of the President’s Commission for Women, Mary Hennessey and associate professor and assistant chair of the school of business, Dr. Frances Amatucci, as well as a number of students.
When deciding to invite Harris to come to Slippery Rock to speak, both Hennessey and Amatucci agreed that having someone from the western Pennsylvania region would be more likely to inspire the talent on campus. It’s also very likely, Hennessey and Amatucci said, that Chatham University and Slippery Rock University will be collaborating in the future.
“Chatham University has been named a women’s business center, which is funded through the Small Business Administration, which is great news for women entrepreneurs,” Amatucci said. “Moreover, there will be ample opportunities for collaboration between Slippery Rock University and Chatham thanks to the formation of the Women’s Solar Business Center.”
Harris and Hennessey both mentioned that a big part of success is to be willing to risk being wrong, and women tend to be afraid of failing more than men are, especially concerning finances. This leads to a significant lack of female-owned businesses and therefore a significant lack of female voices in the executive world.
Women make up half of the world’s population but only about 36 percent of all business executives. Hennessey said that it just doesn’t make sense to not be hearing the voice of half the world.
Harris said when women are willing to take risks, great things happen. For example, Harris started her own newspaper for parents and made a profit from it. Katelin McCallan and Cheyanne Crevar, both graduate students in the MBA program here at Slippery Rock University, recently formed the Women’s Solar Business Center to encourage more women to take more calculated risks and to succeed in a business setting.
Hennessey said women’s college years are the best times for them to take chances and have new experiences, notably here at Slippery Rock; there are a wealth of opportunities for risk-taking and chances to expand their resumes and make connections. Students can study abroad and join commissions and clubs that open up possibilities to associate with many different people, both students and faculty.
“Think about what your resume is going to look like,” Hennessey said. “And take risks, because you’ll always regret what you didn’t do.”
While discussing women and risks in business, Amatucci mentioned a saying: “You can only go to the well once.” In saying this, she sees that women tend to undervalue themselves, and their ventures can suffer serious consequences in the future when they find they didn’t ask for enough.
“My recommendation to female students today is to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone to enjoy and learn from new experiences,” Amatucci said. “Travel the world and never stop learning.”
Harris, Hennessey and Amatucci all agreed that womens’ absence in business is a men’s issue as well.
According to Forbes Magazine, women drive more than 70 percent of all consumer purchasing, and women’s impact on the economy is growing every year. Without women in the higher-up positions in the executive world, businesses are losing out on important perspectives, therefore losing out on consumers.
“Diversity in business is so important,” Amatucci said. “And it’s really an issue for everyone.”
Rebecca Harris’s presentation was sponsored by Slippery Rock’s College of Business, the President’s Commission for Women, Alpha Kappa Psi and the Women’s Solar Business Center.