Recently, at an investor conference, I noticed a man following me. At every turn, he was there. As tactfully as I could, I finally asked him why he was stalking me -- to which he said, "Look around the room." Except for me and one other woman, it was filled with a bunch of men in black suits.
"You're only one of two women here," he said. "I want to know the 'unicorns' in the room."
That encounter stuck with me. Seeing my gender as an advantage and understanding how it could help me stand out shifted my perspective with how to approach investors. Because I sell an emotional, female-focused product aimed to battle ovarian cancer, it's often tricky to pitch to men. But instead of masking my message with masculine buzzwords, I decided to stick with what I knew and understood.
I am a woman, and I have a unique perspective to offer.
Approaching Investors Like a Unicorn
The traditional female approach is selfless and quiet; as women, we have been programmed to think of others before ourselves.
This mindset has led us to ignore our needs and, worse, our health. A lack of knowledge hasn't led to the spread of ovarian cancer. The symptoms are not silent. In fact, 93 percent of women with ovarian cancer have a symptom but can't "dial" it in.
We put ourselves last, but those days are coming to an end. We are "unicorns" with unique perspectives of the world, especially the business world -- and it desperately needs that. In the near future, women won't be the minority in the room; we will be part of the pack. I want to be a part of that legacy, but until then, I'm going to push investors to take interest in women's needs.
[Read more: Spark Your Brand: Discover, Define, Design, & Deliver]
Leveraging Your Feminine Power to Get Investor Money
It's normal to shy away from your female strengths, but that doesn't mean you should ever take the backseat. If you're a woman who feels the fire within to promote change, then the following tips are for you:
1. Swing for the fences. "Unicorns" never think small. They are bold and stand out. Create a disruptive product or service, and ask for the money you need to make it happen. Demonstrate your passion, knowledge, and pie-in-the-sky dreams. Don't swing hoping to hit a single or double -- swing for the fences.
Many women seeking investments undervalue themselves. They go small, overthink, and shy away from asking for more money. Studies show a positive correlation between self-confidence and success, so lead with conviction. Investors will take notice of your power and poise.
2. Speak your mind. Sheryl Sandberg talks a great deal about women going the extra mile in her book "Lean In." She encourages women to have the confidence to ask for more money and take on the big accounts. And I couldn't agree more.
As powerful, intelligent women, we cannot deprive the world of our intellect purely because we fear negative appearances and hurt feelings. We have a duty to speak our minds and share our perspectives. Say it loud and proud.
3. Show them what you're made of. You're an agile learner; you've climbed mountains and handled crisis after crisis. Don't make light of your abilities. A woman can successfully lead a company, household, PTA, etc., with the right support system.
Demonstrate your knowledge. Show the projects you've taken from start to finish, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Investors are looking for those who can take what they're given and turn it into something magical. As a unicorn, you have that ability. Show it off.
It's no secret women possess skills and strengths that are underutilized in the business world today. However, this does not have to set the tone for the future. Start leveraging your strengths and wowing investors with your unique power as a woman. The world needs more unicorns.
Valerie Palmieri was appointed president and CEO of Vermillion in January 2015. She joined Vermillion as chief operating officer in October 2014 and brought more than 30 years of experience in the diagnostic laboratory industry, serving in numerous sales, operations, and executive leadership positions for both laboratory service and consulting organizations.Valerie holds a bachelor of science degree in medical technology from Western Connecticut State University.
Ellevate Network is a global women's network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.