By Lindsey Harrison for The St. Louis American
St. Louis recently has been cited as one of the top startup cities in the country. Medical and plant sciences, in particular, are thriving in St. Louis, but for continued industry growth and success, the region needs contributions from a diverse community of innovators, who have equitable access to resources.
BioSTL understands the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as a growth strategy. BioSTL’s STEM Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative, along with regional partners, has made intentional efforts to attract and develop women and minority entrepreneurs in St. Louis’ bioscience innovation community. Entrepreneurship for underrepresented communities provides individuals the chance to transform their careers and wealth potential.
“Entrepreneurship is a pathway to wealth creation, especially for minority and women populations,” said Cheryl Watkins-Moore, director of BioSTL’s STEM Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative.
“For example, the median wealth for an African-American household is about one-tenth that of whites. Private business ownership is one of the best ways to close the existing wealth gap between the minority population and the majority population.”
BioGenerator President Eric Gulve shared similar sentiments on entrepreneurship as a means to capital gains.
“Entrepreneurship enables individuals to build businesses that meet needs of communities while enabling economic empowerment for founders and employees of growing companies,” Gulve said.
Building innovation in the region not only creates economic opportunity for individuals, but it generates growth for the entire region.
“Large corporations represent an invaluable source of employment for our region. But studies have demonstrated that most new job growth comes from new businesses,” Gulve said.
Building innovation and growth in St. Louis is a community effort. BioSTL is the backbone organization that helped launch the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, bringing partner organizations, entrepreneurs, and investors together to transform the bioscience ecosystem. The collective is a regional group of individuals across 75 organizations collaborating to convene actors across the ecosystem to develop strategies to reach a vision, that in the St. Louis region, an entrepreneur’s success will not be pre-determined by their race or gender.
Historically, the entrepreneurs in STEM creating, networking, and receiving investments have been white males. The collective’s goal is to bring about equitable change to the ecosystem within which entrepreneurs reside and work. Execution of the vision is made possible through four Action Teams: access to resources, measuring and sharing data, diversifying networks, and ecosystem navigation.
To better support diversity, equity and inclusion for entrepreneurs and the bioscience community, BioSTL is participating in a pilot program, National Racial Equity Community of Practice, through Propeller to understand ways to transform their internal organizational structure to embed diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the business. Propeller is a 501c3 nonprofit that works to create a powerful community of diverse entrepreneurs and stakeholders working together for a more equitable future where everyone can lead healthy, fulfilling lives free of racism, poverty, and other systems of oppression.
Through the pilot program, Propeller is helping BioSTL explore organizational history, mission and processes to build a more racially equitable institution.
“It’s important to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are in our organizations because it provides opportunity to create strong programming and partnerships to ensure entrepreneurship is attainable for all groups,” Watkins-Moore said.
“With an equitable organization, it is with real intention that diversity is reflected at all levels of leadership. This provides opportunities, at varying levels of leadership, to explore and embrace differences and learn how to incorporate these differences so they drive positive impact for the organization internally as well as the community it serves.”
A diverse and equitable region will not exist without change. If you want to be catalyst in the community and within your organization, consider connecting with peers, coaches, and resources at the upcoming innovation inclusion conference, Vision 2019. The 5th Annual Symposium will be Friday, October 18 at MOTO Museum. Register at www.VisionSymposium2019.eventbrite.com.