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‘Advancing Women Executives’ CEO Shares Advice on Entrepreneurship and Pitching Your Passion

By Jenna Myers

“There needs to be a 30% minority representation for that minority to be heard,” says Meiko Takayama, and the percentage of corporate executives who are women is far lower than that — around 15%. Takayama is the founder and CEO of Advancing Women Executives (AWE), a business service for corporate executives with the mission to increase the number of women in senior management and on boards.

Takayama video-chatted with MSLCE’s marketing/project pitching class last week to share the methods she uses to pitch her company’s mission and services to potential clients. It’s no easy feat, as Takayama and her sales team operate almost entirely by cold calling and emailing leads, and they often schedule upwards of 500 sales calls per year. So does this strategy work? Takayama says that the key is in the follow up.

She herself gets hundreds of cold emails per day and remembers receiving only a handful of follow up calls, so she tries to make AWE stand out. Follow up starts in the subject line of AWE’s emails, where she will often use a phrase like “Scheduling time on April 22 or April 29” rather than a more generic phrase. Even so, the team will sometimes send a client more than a dozen emails before the client agrees to a call. “We are totally relentless,” she says. Once a call is scheduled, it is kept brief and tightly organized from start to finish, while still remaining conversational.

The tenacity of AWE’s methods is typical of Takayama, who also shared lessons she has learned as a female entrepreneur, which is a role many MSLCE students wish to take on after graduating. Takayama believes that women in particular can often have trouble letting go of the reins once they step into a management or entrepreneurial role. She joked that she made an intentional choice not to call her company, “Meiko Takayama and Associates,” and has had to coach herself to remember that her job is to be the best manager that she can be and to serve her team and the company’s mission.

She also shared general advice for women in the workplace, a sensitive topic that is receiving increasing attention in the media. Takayama said that women sometimes become angry at the team at AWE, asking why they are promoting the idea that women should act more like men. Takayama refutes this idea but remains grounded in reality when talking about different the expectations for men and women leaders. “Since 85% of executives are men, we need to think about what society expects in a leader… [Women] need to be very competent, but warm…Unfortunately, that’s not the case for men. Men just need to be competent.” Stay current with all things MSLCE, click here to join our mailing list!