The research brief, which was unveiled this week as part of Detroit’s Startup Week, draws on interviews with more than 75 entrepreneurship, incubator and accelerator program managers to identify barriers to inclusivity and present potential strategies that could increase the participation rates of women and minority entrepreneur.
The research brief suggests that there are several key barriers for women and minorities that inhibit their involvement in high-tech incubators and accelerators. The recruitment of women and minority entrepreneurs can be hindered by the limited networks of incubator and accelerator managers, according to ICIC.
Those entrepreneurs with family obligations in particular are negatively impacted by things such as strict on-site location requirements, limited operation hours, or evening-scheduled programming that are found in many incubator and accelerator programs.
While some organizations interviewed indicated that the relatively low numbers of women and minorities in tech professions hinders inclusivity, ICIC contends there is sufficient evidence to counter the argument that this is a fundamental barrier. Instead, ICIC recommends four strategies to help increase the participation rates of women and minority entrepreneurs in high-tech incubators and accelerators:
- Expand recruitment networks through diverse leaders and partners: incubator and accelerator managers should be more intentional about developing management teams, partnering with organizations that serve women and minority entrepreneurs, and building pipelines with universities and cities with higher minority populations;
- Create diverse selection committees and adjust the selection process: incubator and accelerator programs should streamline and adjust the criteria they use for the application process to make it more inclusive;
- Design programs for women and minority entrepreneurs: incubator and accelerator programs should deliberately tailor their activities to women and minorities through actions such as targeted curriculum and resources, flexible training time, and including diverse mentors; and,
- Create an inclusive culture: incubator and accelerator programs should be more active in their engagement of inclusive programs and be intentional about how they talk about diversity, use their own entrepreneurs as a way to inspire others, and foster new partnerships.
The research brief mentions two federal economic development initiatives that have been helpful in supporting inclusive incubator and accelerator programs, both of which have upcoming solicitations:
- Applications for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Program, which will commit up to $3.95 million for accelerators and other entrepreneurial ecosystem models to compete for monetary prizes of $50,000 each, are due on June 3, 2016.
- Applications for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program, which will distribute $15 million in funding awards, are due on June 24, 2016.
A free webinar for prospective RIS applicants can be found in SSTI’s Webinar Library.
Read Creating Inclusive High-Tech Incubators and Accelerators: Strategies to Increase Participation Rates of Women and Minority Entrepreneurs: http://icic.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ICIC_JPMC_Incubators_post.pdf?58f619