Five successful entrepreneurs, board directors, and investors convened in San Francisco Friday to offer something that, quite frankly, you don't hear about every day in Silicon Valley. And that is a businesswoman's perspective on things.

One engineer spent four decades working in the aerospace, defense, and security industries. Another was a lawyer who has sat on company boards in North America, Europe, and Asia. And the others have led successful businesses in the recycling, retail, and tech industries. C200, an invitation-only 400 member organization of women entrepreneurs and executives who collectively generate more than $1.4 trillion in annual revenues, sponsored the session.

Read on for some of the highlights from the discussion, including how to encourage innovation in the workplace, increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) talent, and land startup funding.   

How to Fill the Talent Gap? Capture Kids' Imaginations

Linda Parker Hudson, former CEO of BAE Systems

I am an engineer. I grew up in central Florida in the heyday of the space program. From a very young age I was just captivated with anything that flew. I desperately wanted to be a pilot, and then an astronaut. I spent 41 years after I graduated [college] working in aerospace, defense, and security. 

What concerns me today is we seem to be lacking the magic of something like the space program that caught my imagination as a young girl that made me want to do what it took in order to become an engineer. 

If you don't catch any young girl--or young boy for that matter--early in their educational career where they take the right classes in math and science, you don't have a prayer of catching them later on. 

How do you capture their hearts and minds? I've spent a lot of time working with middle school kids trying to crack that formula. I haven't quite figured it all out yet.

How to Shake Things Up for More Workplace Innovation

Noel Harwerth, former Chief Operating Officer of Citibank International

I used to manage large groups of people, and one way that you could foster innovation is to move people out of their comfort zones. I was notorious for moving people to different jobs. Jobs that they had not done before. Jobs that they may not have been completely qualified for, and they had to step up to the plate.

It creates an opportunity for innovation when a fresh pair of eyes comes into a job. And I've found that some of the best ideas we got occurred when people were moved about in an environment. It was safe. If they weren't up to it, if they failed, we'd pull them out. No harm done, and they went to do something else. 

But they were willing to go that extra mile because they were being stretched, and I think that brings a lot of innovation into the workplace.  

What Has to Happen to Get More Funding to Women and Minorities

Shellye Archambeau, CEO of software company MetricStream

If you're trying to get a business started, the good news today is there are more--and I'm not saying tons--but there are more angel-focused organizations that actually have a specific focus on women. I can think of probably half a dozen. Trust me, 15 years ago that didn't exist. 

But the challenge is, people who invest in companies--especially in the Valley--tend to do it based upon pattern recognition. And when they do it based on pattern recognition, Shellye Archambeau doesn't fit the pattern. And other people don't fit the pattern. 

So it's important to have folks who are actually looking at it very differently to help. Once you see the tides turning, where there are more women at the table, the pattern will change.  

Published on: Sep 19, 2014