On Friday September 13th, 2019, Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship hosted their first event in the Women Business Leaders Breakfasts Series for the 2019-2020 event year. The series highlights regional business leaders and is meant to help both students and working professionals through networking and interactive presentations on topics essential for women in business. The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship also offers free admission to these events for Chatham students! The September breakfast meeting was about innovation leadership and change and was led by Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Bobbi Watt Geer received a BA in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh, a MS in Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, as well as a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Policy from the University of Pittsburgh. I found her very impressive and inspirational; she was the first female President and CEO for United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and gave useful information for those interested not only in nonprofit sectors, but also for-profit business.
Geer’s presentation focused on change within business. She argued that organizations are unable to thrive without change, and pointed out that many individuals are often very resistant to change in their personal life; we eat at the same restaurants every weekend, drink the same coffee every morning, and go on the same vacations every year. So why do we stick to the same routines? Because these routines help us form relationships and remain involved in the community. Businesses, she argued, need to be open and able to change. Change is inevitable and comes rapidly, so it is important for organizations to be able to adapt and make changes. She discussed four key elements in which businesses must ensure in order to meet community need:
- Make it personal. Making it personal means developing deeper connections to one’s work and becoming more involved—not just going to a job every day.
- Know one’s magic and be able to use it. Geer explained this as “having a supernatural power over natural forces.” To me, this means identifying all of the aspects that makes one’s company unique and going out into the community to use that “magic” to make it a better place.
- Partner with diverse groups. The United Way has until recently been a very male dominated company, but they have recently taken steps to hire more women and position women in higher roles, like Geer herself. Another initiative is the Next Generation Group, which empowers young business professionals to become more active in their community and encourages them to have a larger voice with the United Way.
- Innovate, innovate, and innovate. Because so many aspects of business are constantly changing, organizations need to be able to make little tweaks and modifications. Environments are always changing, so it is important to be able to change and stay relevant.
Geer left the audience with a thought-provoking final question; “How can we become better and stronger?”
Networking is also a major component of the Women Business Leaders Breakfasts. I had the pleasure of meeting Rose Peck, a Project Interior Designer at RM Creative Architects and Interior Designers and an adjunct faculty member here in Chatham’s Interior Architecture Program. As a faculty member, Rose was very excited to attend this breakfast series for the first time. When asked why she attended the event, she replied that she was looking forward to hearing about the “topic of change.” She was looking to gain a new perspective on how change is relevant and needed for a business to grow. I also met Gabriella Gomez Rendon, a third semester international MBA student and a Graduate Marketing Assistant for Chatham’s Women’s Business Center. When asked what she hopes women attending this event will gain, she responded with a two-part answer: networking and knowledge of the availability of the Women’s Business Center as a resource. Networking brings new conversations and new opportunities, and guest speakers offer insight into opening or growing a business. She also believes the Women’s Business Center is an amazing resource for anyone and everyone—and it’s free!
Finally, I spoke with Michelle Price, the Student and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. When asked what students could gain from this event, she cited the availability of resources for entrepreneurship. These events, she says, can help students gain new perspectives on starting their own business as well as planning for growth. For those with established businesses, events like these can help owners gain a new perspective or get a fresh pair of eyes on their operation. Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship also helps those interested in selling or dissolving their business.
As a student, I found the first of the Women Business Leaders Breakfasts to be highly informative and extremely useful. It was very encouraging to see so many women from around the area who are business leaders, own their own businesses, or simply offer a different perspective. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended this event and look forward to the many breakfasts to come!
Morgan Beatty is a first semester MBA student with a concentration in Project Management. Her work experience includes being a Supervisor at Tim Hortons back home in Erie, PA and an Intern at Clinton County Economic Partnership. Besides being an MBA student in Project Management, talk to Morgan about painting, Disney World, or studying abroad!