May 19, 2024

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Updated: December 23, 2022 @ 10:48 am
The women who will lead the STEM-Coaching and Resources for Entrepreneurial Women program at Medical University of South Carolina and College of Charleston. From left: Rachel Simmons; Dr. Angela M. Passarelli; Dr. Carol Feghali-Bostwick; MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin; and Dr. Tammy L. Loucks. Sarah Pack/Provided

The women who will lead the STEM-Coaching and Resources for Entrepreneurial Women program at Medical University of South Carolina and College of Charleston. From left: Rachel Simmons; Dr. Angela M. Passarelli; Dr. Carol Feghali-Bostwick; MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin; and Dr. Tammy L. Loucks. Sarah Pack/Provided
With a breakthrough idea of how to treat fibrous tissue that can form in organs and disrupt their function, Dr. Carol Feghali-Bostwick was ready to seek a patent and build on her idea.
It was then that she faced a confusing process especially forbidding to women entrepreneurs.
“It’s not a topic you are taught in graduate school or medical school,” Feghali-Bostwick said. “It’s sort of a Black Box for a lot of researchers, for a lot of investigators, for women especially.”
Feghali-Bostwick, a researcher and director of the Advancement, Recruitment and Retention of Women program at the Medical University of South Carolina, will help lead the STEM-Coaching and Resources for Entrepreneurial Women program that seeks to help grow the number of women entrepreneurs in South Carolina. It is funded by a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to MUSC and the College of Charleston. Dr. Angela Passarelli, an associate professor of management at the College of Charleston and director of research at the Institute of Coaching at McLean/Harvard Medical School, will provide coaching as part of the program.
There is a tremendous gender gap between men and women entrepreneurs, research shows. Of all new businesses in California and Massachusetts registered between 1995 and 2011, women accounted for only 21 percent of startup companies and only 10 percent of the companies that had crucial venture capital backing, according to a 2019 study in ScienceDirect. Women make up over half of the educated population in the United States but account for only 12 percent of patent holders, said Dr. Jesse Goodwin, chief innovation officer at MUSC, who will be part of the program.
“We’re missing out on some significant opportunities here,” she said. “That’s just an astounding fact to me that so many women just don’t even get started.”
Part of it is the money — 39 percent of all private businesses are owned by women but only 3 percent of investment capital goes to women-owned businesses, according to a study in Research Outreach. Most of venture capital is in firms headed by men.
“Part of it I think is implicit bias that the venture capital has,” Goodwin said. “I think we’d be naive to think that wasn’t it. People were interested in funding people who look like themselves, quite frankly.”
Part of it may be in how prospects present themselves, where research shows men are more comfortable speaking in grandiose terms and women may be more adverse to potentially overselling ideas, she said.
Research shows investors also respond to those pitches differently based on gender, Passarelli said.
“Women get asked questions that are prevention-oriented, how could your idea fail?” she said. “(Whereas) men get asked questions that are promotion-oriented, what are the payoffs if this succeeds? So they are having two different conversations.” Part of the program will be to help them prepare for that, Passarelli said.
The one-year program of mentoring and coaching will help in educating them and making them feel more comfortable with the process, Goodwin said.
“How do you get women to see themselves in this type of role?” she said. “How do you give them the structure that allows them to accept a little more risk in this capacity? How can we help them elevate their pitch so that they feel comfortable selling a vision rather than selling the here-and-now facts of things to make themselves more appealing to investors?”
That coaching aspect will help set the program apart, Feghali-Bostwick said. Part of what they want the women in the program to do is to identify what they would consider their “ideal self,” Passarelli said.
It involves envisioning “who is it that I want to be and what is it that I want to do in the future in a way that releases them from the constraints that society imposes upon them about what they should do with their career,” she said.
It should take in all aspects of their lives, being an entrepreneur in a way “which also allows you to be a wife and a mother and a community member, various roles that are important to women,” Passarelli said.
The program would ideally target women researchers who are just finishing up their postdoctoral training and are heading into a faculty position, or junior faculty who are just getting started, Feghali-Bostwick said. But it would not be limited just to those at MUSC or CofC but include other institutions in South Carolina. 
“We’re also hoping to show them how to become mentors and coaches and have them go back to their own institutions and departments and mentor/coach the next generation and the next group of people to try and amplify our effort without cloning ourselves,” Feghali-Bostwick said.
That could create a powerful new connection, Passarelli said.
It’s exciting “thinking about the network of relationships we are going to create, across the state and beyond, of women and entrepreneurs who are engaged in these kinds of things, who are facing the same kinds of issues, who now have a network of people that they can draw on when they need them to get them through whatever obstacle they are facing,” she said.
That is good not only for them but for everyone, Feghali-Bostwick said. Any program that enhances entrepreneurship in a region tends to enhance economic development in that area, she said.
“So ultimately for South Carolina, this hopefully will contribute to more economic growth for us,” Feghali-Bostwick said. 
Jobs in those fields are high-paying as well, Goodwin said.
“This can be a catalyst for the region in terms of starting some additional life science positions and looking at what that can do for the region,” she said.

Reach Tom Corwin at 843-214-6584. Follow him on Twitter at @AUG_SciMed.
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