The Vice President of Equity and Inclusion is a full-time, salaried position with benefits responsible for catalyzing institutional change in Cortex related to equity and inclusion.




The Vice President of Equity and Inclusion is a full-time, salaried position with benefits responsible for catalyzing institutional change in Cortex related to equity and inclusion. As Vice President, you will lead the development and management of strategic initiatives to further Cortex’s equity and inclusion goals – as well as reshape and challenge those goals when necessary. In this role, you will work closely with staff, leadership, and various partners to advance inclusion and equity in Cortex by creating and assessing internal and external programs, policies, and practices. You will also staff the Inclusion Committee of the Board in cooperation with its Chair. With support from the Committee, you will lead organization-wide efforts for change.



Cortex is a nonprofit economic development organization that manages the Cortex Innovation Community, a 200-acre innovation district located in St. Louis’ Central West End and Forest Park Southeast neighborhoods. Founded through a collaborative effort of Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, BJC Healthcare, and the Missouri Botanical Garden, with strong support from the City of St. Louis, Cortex is an anchor in the growing regional ecosystem of small businesses and startups.


Cortex catalyzes economic development in St. Louis through, and in support of, entrepreneurship and innovation. We believe that entrepreneurship is an avenue to financial and personal empowerment and that support of entrepreneurs and new ventures is key to economic health and growth in our region. We seek to establish St. Louis as a nationally and internationally recognized hub of business and entrepreneurial opportunity by providing places and programs in support of startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs as well as large and established companies. Our ambition is to become the most inclusive innovation hub in the country – a place where any person can start or develop a business, where companies of all sizes can innovate and grow, and where our communities can connect, discuss, and work toward change.


We also know we have much to do before that ambition is realized. St. Louis has a long history of policy- and practice-driven racial segregation in homeownership, business opportunities, schooling, health, and community space which has barred Black, Indigenous, and Latinx St. Louisans from opportunities of health and wealth. On a larger scale, entrepreneurship communities – particularly those that prioritize tech – are frequently exclusionary to women, people of color, people without familial wealth, and other people of marginalized identities. We have not always constructed or safeguarded equitable and inclusive access to Cortex’s places, programs, and networks.


As Cortex moves past its 20th year in operation, we (and our St. Louis region) are at an inflection point that demands committed, intentional action to abolish barriers to success for populations made vulnerable by systemic discrimination. This inaugural position will lead Cortex through a necessary process of institutional change with strong support from the Board and President and CEO. Currently, we are engaged in a strategic planning process to guide future planning and development. The VP of Equity and Inclusion will play a critical role in the creation and enactment of that plan and ensuring that the plan contains strategies for Cortex to foster a community in which the benefits of new company formation, capital investment, job creation, and wealth generation extend to all.


You can read more about our work thus far on our website.



Reports to: President and CEO

Collaborates with: All staff; Board; Inclusion Committee of the Board; partner organizations; consultant and training organizations; regional collectives and member organizations.



All candidates should be able to demonstrate excellent project leadership skills, comfort with public engagement and speaking, and practice in strategic thinking about an institution’s various roles within a diverse array of stakeholder communities. For Cortex, these communities include the St. Louis metropolitan area, our founding partners, our program partners, the regional entrepreneurship/startup ecosystem, and our near-in neighborhoods. You should also be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of how individual identities (age, socioeconomic background, culture, ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and others) shape experiences and outcomes.


In this role, you will:

Lead equity and inclusion strategy:

  • Be a champion for equity and inclusion in the development and implementation of Cortex’s strategic plan;
  • Manage equity audits of Cortex’s internal and external policies, practices, and programs;
  • Establish strategic, measurable goals for equity, inclusion, and diversity at Cortex; develop processes for monitoring progress towards these goals; 
  • Source – or, when necessary, develop and maintain – toolkits, guidelines, and other resources that enable staff, leadership, and partners to develop and assess programs and policies through equity lenses;
  • Oversee and develop guidelines for investing in equity- and inclusion-related initiatives in keeping with Cortex’s mission, and instituting measures of accountability and reporting for recipients;


Grow and manage partnerships that can scale and develop Cortex’ diversity, equity, and inclusion goals:


Lead internal organizational capacity building around DEI:

  • Organize, create proposals for, and assess potential providers of anti-bias, anti-racism, trauma-informed, cultural competency, and other training for staff, leadership, and Cortex tenants;
  • Determine a strategy for ongoing training and capacity building;


Manage interactions with President and Board:

  • Staff, develop content, and draft agendas for the Inclusion Committee of the Board and existing subcommittees, in collaboration with its Chair;
  • Provide periodic written updates to the President on weekly progress, the contents of which will be included in the President’s Board communique;
  • Other duties as may be assigned by the President of Cortex.



  • Excellent skills in project leadership, analysis, and strategic and systems thinking in equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, and/or anti-bias work;
  • Comfort with public speaking in community engagements and within all levels of the organization;
  • Experience with leading meetings, setting agendas, and using them to build coalitions for action;
  • Experience applying a systems lens to diversity, equity, and inclusion work;
  • Commitment to honesty, transparency, and trust-building across communities;
  • An understanding of, or willingness to learn about, new and best practices for growing businesses with underrepresented leadership;
  • Advanced communication skills, and especially excellent writing skills for grants, memoranda, analyses, and reports;
  • Some experience with qualitative and/or quantitative analysis techniques to track and interpret program- or policy-related data;
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Office;
  • An eagerness to learn;
  • A passion for an impactful mission; and
  • A sense of humor.



  • Five to seven years of leadership experience in diversity, inclusion, and/or equity work;
  • Experience with data management (qualitative and/or quantitative) and/or program evaluation;
  • Experience in tech, startups, innovation districts, university administration, and/or nonprofit organizations.



While various staff has been engaged in equity and inclusion work for several years, this role is new for Cortex. We open this position with an understanding that equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are constant and whole-organization pursuits that are not the sole purview of any one staff member. We recognize that this work requires strong personal and organizational support from staff and leadership, but it also requires institutional policy change. We are committed to that process of evolution, and to being held accountable as we engage in it.

Cortex actively seeks to increase the diversity of its workforce. Cortex is an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, veteran status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status or disability (in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act) with respect to employment opportunities.




We commit to pay equity: the salary for this position is commensurate with other Vice President positions at Cortex.



Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Áine O’Connor (she/her/hers) at resumes@cortexstl.com.


Please submit your letter and resume by September 1, 2020.