By Nick Albicocco

For The Diamondback

Jean Case was born and raised in a town called Normal. She aspired to be anything but.

“Really, I’m not kidding, Normal, Illinois,” the philanthropist and investor said at the University of Maryland’s Van Munching Hall on Tuesday night.

Case is the first-ever female chair of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees and CEO of the Case Foundation, a philanthropy organization she co-founded with her husband Steve Case, who helped start the online service provider AOL.

She joined the Dingman Center’s Ladies First initiative for a “Fireside Chat,” where about 50 attendees listened as she discussed the difficulties women entrepreneurs face, such as not receiving equal investments while representing a tiny fraction of venture capital firms.

Case also shared stories about her path to success, which included stints at General Electric, hip-hop magazine The Source and AOL, and promoted her new book, “Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.”

“About seven years ago, we got kind of animated by this question of ‘Why do some people dig deep and find the courage to take forward their ideas, while others don’t?’” she said. “Out of that really was borne the five principles that framed the book.”

Case touched on one of the five principles, which includes advice such as making big bets, taking risks and learning from failure.

“Now’s a great time to try things,” she said. “It’s not the end of the world when you run into a failure.”

Senior finance major Shannon Zhang said she was heartened by Case’s advice to not shy away from taking risks.

“Being bold and taking risks, even if you think your idea is really simple, was really nice to hear,” Zhang said.

[Read more: UMD’s public policy school has a new minor aligned with the Do Good initiative]

Gender imbalance in the workplace was another theme of the discussion.

Sara Herald, the event’s moderator and a graduate from this university’s business school, asked why women entrepreneurs receive only two percent of the total venture capital.

“In the venture capital world, 94 percent of top 100 firms have white males as their lead investment partners,” Case said. “Chances are, with no intention at all, they’re going to their network. They’re going to where they know, and today, this is true in the boardroom and across society.”

Case said that one of the goals of her foundation is to help promote more women entrepreneurs.

“We’re bringing forward both the dire data of how the capital is not flowing to women in other segments, but more importantly the data that is demonstrating that there’s out-performance there,” she said.

Kendall Davis, a senior international business and marketing major, was able to relate to Case’s advice about prioritizing urgency over fear as entrepreneurs.

“A lot of us do have ideas,” Davis said, “but we’re not sure how to attack it and make our ideas possible.”