Welcome to St. Petersburg, Florida: home of the badass businesswoman. She’s not the official city symbol (that honor goes to the brown pelican), but perhaps she should be.
Studies continue to laud the area as a boon for female executive advancement. What makes St. Pete a place brimming with possibility for its lady leaders? According to three of its finest, plenty. A high-power St. Pete trio shared how St. Pete nurtures its female execs, hopes for their respective organizations and more.
Dr. Sandra E. Braham
President and CEO
Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services
In St. Petersburg, innovation has no gender – women are pitching their ideas and finding support through investors, many of whom seek to invest in women-owned concepts.
Dr. Sandra E. Braham asserts the above statement as true. As president and CEO of Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, one of Tampa Bay’s largest non-profit, human services agencies, Braham guides a workforce of 530 employees to support more than 37,000 individuals and families of all ages. Though she believes work remains to be done in the equity realm, she sees plentiful business, and networking, opportunities for women in St. Pete.
“The community is an incubator for female entrepreneurs and this attracts more women who have entrepreneurial vision to the community,” she says.
St. Pete has flourished with the help of professional women’s organizations whose sole purpose is to help women leaders, and entrepreneurs, build connections and grow businesses. The circles of women leaders, and organizations, intersect, each offering unique value propositions, Braham says. Consequently, women looking toward advancement should join the St. Pete Area Chamber of Commerce, seek out other organizations that allow for professional networking and collaboration, and explore what the City has to offer to women-owned businesses and related incentives.
A self-described “eternal optimist,” Braham’s hope for the future is for the community to thrive. She also hopes to eliminate the wage gap entirely. Not just among men and women, but along racial lines as well.
“There are so many geniuses waiting for affirmation by a teacher who does not expect less of them due to the color of their skin or perceived abilities,” she says. “I hope others read this and agree.”
Founder and CEO
To Anne Zink, a commitment to technology is a broad answer to the reason for St. Pete’s supportive atmosphere. The sector represents a broad economic impact and women are decidedly part of the movement, thanks to St. Pete’s charge toward becoming a hub. Zink views this focus as beneficial to all entrepreneurs. It also means the ability to create more opportunities for women than a place like Silicon Valley, where networks are established and entrenched.
“It takes a lot more to break into places like that,” she says.
The Economic Development team in St. Pete receives a high-five from Zink, who applauds the group’s constant charge toward supporting growth. There are many women-centric networking groups in the area as well. In general, Zink says, St. Pete supports diversity, which removes many barriers women face.
To fellow female executives hoping to find success in St. Pete, she suggests staying informed of the programs available through economic development initiatives. Synapse is an organization she lauds for connecting entrepreneurs to mentors and services.
During the pandemic, her 100% virtual company found ways to build customer and supplier relationships without traveling to nurture them. Zink looks forward to seeing St. Pete continue to thrive, and grow, as a vibrant hub for entrepreneurship.
“The more new businesses that launch, and succeed, no matter their industry, the better for all of us,” she says.
Founder and CEO
Intrinio Founder and CEO Rachel Carpenter has a message for female executives considering a career in St. Pete: “Do it! You will not regret growing your career alongside this community. You’ll be welcomed with open arms, celebrated and supported. There are countless ways to be involved and it’s a wildly fun place to live.”
On any given day, you might find Carpenter delivering a keynote speech, reviewing machine learning infrastructure or pitching a customer. Strategically, she’s involved with channel partners and more. It’s a thrilling professional ride and one made all the better, she says, because she works alongside the brightest minds in fintech.
Those “bright minds” are attracted to St. Petersburg for a myriad reasons. Notably among them, she believes, is quality of life. She believes this tends to be important for women and St. Pete delivers with its walkability, proximity to the ocean, shopping, fantastic bars and restaurants. And not to be forgotten on the must-have allure list — a support system, which she finds easy to locate.
“Between the Chamber, EDC, Greenhouse, Mayor’s Office and more, there is no shortage of a sense of community, connection and ways to get involved,” she says.
Put all these highlights together and what results is a community that is incredibly accepting, and supportive, of female leaders. St. Pete’s professional makeup is transient, and diverse, with plenty of out-of-towners who have relocated, as well as a colorful array of businesses and backgrounds. What results is a community that is incredibly accepting, and supportive, of female leaders.
Extra credit is due, she says, for 360+ days of sunshine, which statistically has been shown to have positive effects on mental health and overall happiness.
Carpenter looks forward to re-opening after the pandemic and enjoying office life, brewery happy hours and sailing outings with her team. It’s been a fun ride starting Intrinio in St. Pete, she says, and she hopes to continue building, scaling and growing here.
“We’ve already put St. Pete on the tech & startup map, but we plan to be a driving force behind solidifying it even further,” she says.