Changing the face of innovation | MUSC

When you hear the word entrepreneur, the first thing that might come to mind is billionaires who send rockets into space – be it Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson.

What do these entrepreneurs, who have almost become household names, have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re all men, the world they live in seems to be steeped in showmanship, competitiveness and over-the-top confidence.

Perhaps the perception that innovation is a male-dominated domain has discouraged women from fully engaging in entrepreneurship. Studies have shown that only 11.8% of US inventors are women. The same discrepancy is also evident in the sciences. Women make up just 7% to 13% of recipients of small business grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Women who decide to become entrepreneurs face major challenges. They start companies with 50% less money and raise 66% less capital than their male counterparts, said Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D., MUSC’s chief innovation officer.

“Entrepreneurship is an engine to turn something from a simple great idea into a product or business that has a positive impact. (…) Considering that half the population of this country is women, if women are not full are involved, we miss important opportunities.”

— Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D.

A new MUSC initiative – STEM-Coaching and Resources for Entrepreneurial Women (CREW) – will begin to address gender inequality in entrepreneurship with funding from a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. With this funding, STEM-CREW will provide mentoring, coaching and training opportunities to increase the number of women, particularly underserved minority women, who not only become entrepreneurs but remain entrepreneurs throughout their careers.

The initiative is led by Carol Feghali-Bostwick, Ph.D., Kitty Trask Holt Endowed Chair in Scleroderma Research and Director of the Advancement, Recruitment and Retention of Women (ARROW) program at MUSC, which aims to advance the careers of women scientists. Feghali-Bostwick is an entrepreneur herself and has identified an anti-fibrotic peptide that has been licensed by a company.

“Women don’t usually advance themselves and their science as much as men do. And some may lack mentors. If they don’t see other women as role models and mentors in the world of entrepreneurship, they may think it’s not feasible for them to get there. We need more women there as role models to show them that it can be done.”

— Carol Feghali-Bostwick, Ph.D.

In addition to Goodwin, other STEM CREW investigators include Angela Passarelli, Ph.D., Tammy Loucks, DrPHand Jillian Harvey, Ph.D. Passarelli, Associate Professor of Management at the College of Charleston School of Business and research director at Institute for Coaching at McLean/Harvard Medical School, will serve as Director of Coaching. Loucks, the science development officer for the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research in South Carolina at MUSC, will be the communications director. Harvey, a professor at the MUSC College of Health Professions, will oversee program evaluation. Rachel Simmons will be the program coordinator.

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Do we all pay a price for injustice?

MUSC is one of the few institutions that records the number of women involved in entrepreneurial activities, and the figures reflect the disparities observed at the national level. Of the more than 800 inventors at MUSC, only 33% are women and 23% are scientists.

“Entrepreneurship is a driver of turning something from a simple great idea into a product or business that has a positive impact,” Goodwin said. Those impacts include not only improved health outcomes, but also the growth of the knowledge economy and the creation of high-paying STEM jobs, she added.

Gender inequality could hamper the knowledge-based economy, Goodwin explained. “Considering that half the population of this country is women, we are missing out on significant opportunities if women don’t fully participate,” she said.

Why aren’t more women becoming entrepreneurs?

Some women, unfamiliar with the details of turning an idea into a product, fear the perceived risk. However, other factors likely play a role in discouraging women from becoming entrepreneurs, Feghali-Bostwick said.

“Maybe it’s risk aversion or because a lot of women don’t like competition at that level,” she said. “Women don’t usually advance themselves and their science as much as men do. And some may lack mentors. If they don’t see other women as role models and mentors in the world of entrepreneurship, they may think it’s not feasible for them to get there. We need more women there as role models to show them that it can be done.”

How will STEM-CREW increase the number of women entrepreneurs?

Because women often lack entrepreneurial role models, STEM-CREW matches trainees with successful biomedical entrepreneurs. These mentors will share the knowledge they have gained while making the transition from researcher to inventor and starting their own businesses. They will familiarize them with the procedural aspects of the innovation path and help to reduce any fear of perceived risk.

“Coaching offers an intimate relationship, dedicated time and a skilled thinking partner to help aspiring entrepreneurs step away from their day-to-day responsibilities to discover what they most want to achieve, who they are, what gets in their way and how to navigate a way to achieve their goals.”

–Angela Passarelli, Ph.D.

But STEM-CREW will then go one step further and match trainees with professional executive coaches for regular individual sessions. Executive coaching is widely used in the corporate world, where it helps leaders build their effectiveness and resilience, but is underutilized in the academic world.

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Feghali-Bostwick believes coaching is one of the most innovative aspects of the initiative and is grateful to have Passarelli, a leading provider of coaching, on board.

“Coaching makes training four times more effective,” says Feghali-Bostwick. “In mentoring you have role models who have done it and show you the way, but they mostly show you how they did it. In contrast, coaching guides you to find your own answers on how to do it. It promotes self-efficacy.”

It was Passarelli’s idea to strengthen the grant application by increasing mentoring through coaching, knowing that this offered added value for aspiring women entrepreneurs.

“Coaching offers an intimate relationship, dedicated time and a skilled thinking partner to help aspiring entrepreneurs step away from their day-to-day responsibilities to discover what they most want to achieve, who they are, what gets in their way and how to navigate a way to achieve their goals,” Passarelli said.

Coaching is particularly important when “the life experience of the mentors differs from that of their protégés,” she explained.

“Honestly, what works for a man doesn’t always work for a woman,” she said.

In addition to regular meetings with their coaches and mentors, trainees complete an online entrepreneurship education course recently launched by the College of Graduate Studies and receive lay communication training to help them conduct effective sales pitches with potential investors. STEM-CREW will also host a quarterly lecture series featuring successful entrepreneurs from the state and beyond, and hold an annual conference in Charleston.

Who is eligible for STEM-CREW?

Each year, STEM-CREW will accept 20 high-level postdocs or junior faculty into the program. Applications are encouraged at all South Carolina institutions as most activities and offerings can be completed online. Because one of STEM-CREW’s goals is to increase the number of underrepresented minority women entrepreneurs, applications from historically black colleges and universities are particularly welcome. As the program matures, applicants will also be accepted by institutions in other states in the region who are eligible for Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) due to their low history of receiving NIH funding.

“Having this in South Carolina and making it available to other IDeA states I think speaks to the whole approach that MUSC has to innovation, impact and impact. It fits well with the overall mission we have as an institution and really speaks to the role we have for the state.”

– Tammy Loucks, DrPH

“Having this in South Carolina and making it available to other IDeA states I think speaks to the whole approach that MUSC has to innovation, impact and impact,” Loucks said. “It fits well with this overarching mission that we have as an institution and really speaks to the role we have for the state.”

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To pay in advance

From the third year, STEM-CREW selects five trainees each year, who are themselves trained as trainers. These women can then “pass it on” to other women in their own institutions, helping to increase the number of women who benefit from the program.

“I want prospective applicants to know that not only are they receiving training and an entrepreneurial mindset to support their career development, but that they now have the opportunity to turn around and become mentors and coaches themselves,” said Feghali-Bostwick .

This is Goodwin’s favorite part of the program.

“Besides the fact that this program was developed by women for women, I love that it aims to support a cohort of women on this journey, which in turn will create a set of role models for future female entrepreneurs,” she said .

How do I apply for STEM-CREW?

The STEM CREW program is accepting applications until November 30th. To apply, please visit https://redcap.link/crewprogram. Please direct all inquiries to [email protected] Those accepted into the program will be notified by December and participation will begin in January 2023.

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