Kristin’s Research Summary: Support organizations and remediating the gender gap in entrepreneurial ecosystems: A case study of St. Louis

This week I was forwarded a research article entitled: Support organizations and re-mediating the gender gap in entrepreneurial ecosystems: A case study of St. Louis.

Having spent the last six months in discussions on the ecosystem in Phoenix and its role in supporting female entrepreneurs, just reading this title made me excited and I wasn’t disappointed. This highly qualified team completed several interviews and focus groups on both women business owners and entrepreneurial support providers.  Their findings are powerful. I have cut the major bullet points from their executive summary below. Having executed many interviews, I know that their findings have value to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. In the coming months, Empowered PhXX will be executing the largest research study ever completed of women business owners in Maricopa County and the entrepreneurial support organizations in our ecosystem. This is completed with the goal to really dig into the unique challenges that face women business owners in our systems and to develop our own recommendations for actions moving forward.

Thank you to Banu Ozkazanc-Pan and her team for this wonderful piece of research!

We identified three major challenges for female entrepreneurs in the St. Louis entrepreneurial

  • Differences in entrepreneurial identity: for instance, women predominantly call
    themselves business owners while support organizations frame resources and programs
    for entrepreneurs.
  • Lack of awareness of support and programs for entrepreneurs in the region, based on a
    mismatch between outreach efforts and intended beneficiaries
  • Persisting gendered occupational norms, perceptions and roles, which impact actual
    levels of engagement in entrepreneurship activities

We also identified three “blind spots”:

  • Support organizations focused primarily on those underrepresented groups without
    significant inquiry into how existing programs and approaches may need to be changed
  • In creating “separate” programming for women entrepreneurs, support and focus is
    directed away from making the “mainstream” entrepreneurial ecosystem more inclusive
  • Inviting diverse speakers and audience members only for special events highlighting


For support organizations, we suggest the following:

  • Consider redesigning programs rather than extending specialized ones to women.
    Recruit female entrepreneurs for leadership, role models, sources of expertise, and
    as mentors.
  • Engage in proactive and directed communication to reach intended beneficiaries.
    Talk with the underrepresented population in your city and in your program.
  • Meet regularly with other support organizations to share best-practices and experiences in
    promoting diversity.
  • Develop workshops and training on inclusion for leadership and staff in existing support
  • Aim for full integration of women instead of separate programming.

For policy makers, we suggest the following:

  • Map support organizations in a particular city in terms of their target entrepreneurs,
    programs offered, and outcomes in order to better tailor policies to promote those
    entrepreneurs who may be the intended recipient of existing support organizations but
    nonetheless disconnected from such organizations
  • Track public expenditures going to entrepreneurial support organizations in order to
    identify any gaps in resources and benefits
  • Coordinate and collaborate among existing support organizations in order to mitigate
    gaps and overlaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Below is a link to the PDF of the full article written by: Karren Watkins: University of Pennsylvania Banu Ozkazanc-Pan: University of Massachusetts, Boston Susan Clark Muntean: University of North Carolina, Asheville Yasuyuki Motoyama: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Watkins Et Al

Link to full abstract: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2685116
Gender Gap In Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

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