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How to Hold Court as The Only Woman at The Table

Here’s how female founders get on their game faces to pitch a room full of men. Plus get their tried-and-true tips on how to make yourself heard

Leading or launching a company when you’re the only woman, either at the top or at all, can be challenging. In fact only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. But this doesn’t stop our Tennessee trailblazers from succeeding again and again.

Hear their inspiring stories on being the lone woman at the table, and what they do to make their voices heard in a room full of men–whether they’re pitching investors, customers or entertaining a TV crew with an ad hoc dance party!

How do you prep for pitching or taking an important meeting when you’re the solo woman?

“We listen to music! As they say, it is an outburst of the soul. When we were waiting with the crew before our negotiations on A+E’s “Rooster & Butch,” we had a dance party with the crew in a field in the sweltering heat in West Texas. We’ve learned you have to approach these conversations lighthearted but with a razor focus on the value proposition of the product you are bringing to the table. Instead of going into these meeting with the mindset of pleading for funding, we tell a story and articulate the mistake the investor is making if he chooses to pass on Mixtroz.”

 

 Ashlee Ammons & Kerry Schrader, Mixtroz 

“In healthcare and medical device, quite often I am the only woman pitching! I have so much adrenaline before I pitch and if I went on stage with that much energy, I would talk fast and pace. So right before I go on, I do small exercises (I keep them light because I’m in a suit!) to release some energy. Once I’m relaxed, I feel confident in the delivery of my message, and I’m excited to bring listeners along the SweetBio journey. One thing I know is that, as a woman, I can deliver a story. So if I manage my nerves, I can focus on my delivery and that will grab attention.”

 


 
Kayla Graff, SweetBio 

“I listen to music! Current favorite songs are “Whatever it Takes” (Imagine Dragons), “Champion” (Carrie Underwood) and “Hold On” (Judah and the Lion).”

— Jessica Harthcock, Utilize Health 

“In recent years I’ve found that I take pride in being the only woman at the table. I recognize I have a unique opportunity to represent myself, MomSource and female entrepreneurs. (I also like to listen to the Eminem and Sia song, “Guts Over Fear to get myself pumped!)”


 
Courtney Jones, MomSource Network 

“Being the only woman at the table for a pitch gives me a lot of motivation in and of itself. It is a great opportunity to help represent female entrepreneurs and hopefully inspire others.”

 Sinead Miller, PATH EX

“I do not second guess myself as the only woman in the room, in fact it gives me more power! I am a disruptor by nature and love to challenge bias and encourage people to broaden their thinking. But you must be prepared! Know what points you need to convey and have backup to prove your thesis. Changing minds does not always happen on the first pass, but the more you show up and prove them wrong, the more opportunity there is for inclusive dialogue.”

 

— Kristina Montague, The JumpFund 

“Real truth: I never think about whether I am the only woman at the table. I do my research or homework prior to the meeting, know the subject matter and feel confident about my ability to listen, distill information and parlay any knowledge appropriately. When I have the opportunity to do so, I bring other women to the conversation.”


— Van Tucker, Nashville Fashion Alliance
 

How do you make your voice heard when you’re speaking to someone who may not recognize or acknowledge your expertise, whether that’s with male or female clients, partners, investors, etc.?

“We know who we are. There is no one-size-fits-all with people. In any circumstance, whether making connections above, below or across, we are ourselves and we go into conversations wanting to tell our story, and more importantly, wanting to listen and grow from the interaction.”


 Ashlee Ammons & 
Kerry Schrader, Mixtroz 

“When I establish myself as an expert on a topic, that usually helps grab attention when I am at the bottom of the power dynamic. While our partners know more about their specific area of expertise than I do (as they should since we are partnering with them…), I know more about my business than they do. I am an expert in my company and as such, I have a right to be at the table and to share my opinion. I am not afraid to share my opinion if I believe it will move the conversation or goal forward.”

 

 Kayla Graff, SweetBio 

“I am patient in the moment, wait to speak and when I do I try to ensure my contribution is thoughtful and well crafted for the moment.”

— Jessica Harthcock, Utilize Health 

“I think the best way to make your voice heard is to make sure that you hear the voices of others. I try to show up prepared, ask smart questions and offer opportunities that can be viewed as a win from their perspective.”

 Courtney Jones, MomSource Network 

“Having self-confidence is important in making your voice heard, especially as a female. I’ve found that with an increasing sense of self-confidence comes an increasing sense of competence. Increasing my self-confidence has not only helped me make my voice heard, but it has also given me the ability to ask questions.”


 Sinead Miller, PATH EX

“I like to approach all relationships, regardless of power dynamics, with the simple premise that we are all human and all have value. There is always a way to relate to others, even if our “stature” or viewpoints differ widely. I try my best to make others feel comfortable and welcome in every situation, as you never know what important new thinking someone could bring to a conversation. At the JumpFund, we like to see ourselves as a “dolphin tank” vs. a Shark Tank — encouraging, supporting, mentoring, and yes, challenging those who present to us to be their best, regardless of whether we invest.”

 

 

 Kristina Montague, The JumpFund 

“I love Diane Von Furstenberg’s quote: “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” In any situation, everyone has some sort of power. It’s how you own your power that matters.”

— Van Tucker, Nashville Fashion Alliance 

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