Diversity Gap Dialogue in Kansas City Hits Ideas out of the Park

By Becky Greenwald, Region 7 Advocate

Even though the 2015 World Series champion-Kansas City Royals were on the road, there were still plenty of home runs in Kansas City.  In September, twenty-eight greater Kansas City science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leaders and entrepreneurs gathered at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County sharing insights and suggestions to help shrink the STEM diversity gap in Missouri and Kansas.

This diverse group of  brain stormers included STEM business founders, key STEM influencers from organizations and academia such as BioKansas, Iowa State University’s Food Science and Human Nutrition program, Garmin, Kansas University-Medical Center, KCSourceLink, KC STEM Alliance, the Kauffman Foundation, PrepKC, University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center, Women’s Business Center, and Women’s Capital Connection.

My Office of Advocacy colleagues, New England Regional Advocate Lynn Bromley and Pacific Northwest Regional Advocate Jennifer Clark joined me in Kansas City to share perspectives from their regions and help facilitate the conversation.

Key findings and recommendations from recent Office of Advocacy STEM studies provided the basis for the discussion. Participants shared their thoughts on:

  • What is currently working?
  • What needs help?
  • What are some new ideas to help shrink the diversity gap?

The discussion was lively and fruitful. Participants organized their suggestions into one of six domains illustrated in the National Women’s Business Council’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.  The largest number of suggestions were in the categories of human capital, culture, and policy, receiving more than 20 suggestions each, followed by the topics of finance and markets.


(From Left to Right) Regional Advocates Lynn Bromley, Becky Greenwald, and Jenn Clark organize ideas from the group in Kansas City. 

Emerging themes included:

  • the importance of sharing successes;
  • making role model/mentor connections;
  • feeding K-16 STEM education; and
  • challenges connecting classroom teachers with industry/applied science professionals.

Kansas City’s engagement gave us a clear appreciation of the region’s focus and commitment to entrepreneurial excellence. Another takeaway was establishing the support network to make Kansas City the U.S.’s most entrepreneurial city.  We will share key discoveries as we take the conversation to Boston and Seattle with a goal of decreasing the STEM diversity gap. We know there is room in the game of the business of STEM for everyone.

Greenwald is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. She can be reached at rebecca.greenwald@sba.gov.


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