FORBES: A New Report Uses Data To Drive Diversity In STEM Fields
Corporate boardrooms in the worlds of finance and law have made strides in recent years in terms of opening their doors to women and people of color. Yet, as we have seen recently in the news, Silicon Valley and other STEM-related fields like biotechnology remain largely boy’s clubs.
A new report released by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) called “Revolutionizing the STEM Entrepreneurship Ecosystem” seeks to address this issue head-on, using real-world data and actionable advice. The report identifies and addresses three critical points for women and women of color tech and science entrepreneurs: the myth that there is a “pipeline problem;” the fact that traditional accelerator programs are not working for this population; and how investors can fix the funding gap.
While an impressive 45% of U.S. companies are headed by women, according to the report, only a small fraction of those are in STEM-related fields. Women, and in particular women of color, entrepreneurs in these areas continue to encounter bias and roadblocks at every step of the process. Melinda Richter, the AWIS Leadership Award recipient and Global Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, explains, “I see that many women’s voices are often overlooked or not heard because of the package it comes in. It has been a mission of mine to ensure that we’re creating systemic change to make that difference.” To that end, Johnson & Johnson has put metrics behind that change. Richter explains, “In our network, 23% of our CEOs are female-led, as opposed to the industry average, which is less than 1%… We partner with a lot of different women’s organizations to ensure our content helps to lift those women up so that they not only have the skills and the capabilities and the knowledge and the networks to do it, but they get the confidence to do it. They are inspired to have the courage they need to speak up and be sure that they’re heard.”
Diversity not only advances team performance but also improves stockholder value and increases job creation, the report states. Dr. Rachel Haurwitz, the President and CEO of Caribou Biosciences and AWIS Next Generation Award recipient, explains, “The data is clear that diverse teams are more successful across all the metrics, whether it’s early-stage technology, innovation or profitability.”
Why, then, this persistent gap? The first problem is that there is a misperception that there are simply not enough qualified candidates coming through the pipeline. However, the report states that “the ‘pipeline’ problem is a fallacy. Women of color STEM entrepreneurs are ready for advancement and funding.” AWIS suggests five ways companies and organizations can attract more diverse candidates, including intentional outreach and networking and attending new conferences with different populations.