This post is cross-posted at TechCrunch.

We need to get more guys who are running tech startups to decide instead to be stay-at-home dads.

What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That’s what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.

If you are worried that women don’t feel capable of doing whatever they want, you can stop worrying. Women outperform men in school at such a huge rate that it’s easier to get into college as a male than a female. And women take that to the bank by earning more than men in their 20s. Women would probably continue out-earning men except that when men and women have kids, women choose to downshift way more often than men do.

Clearly, women have a choice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for women if the women would just continue working in their 30s the same way they did in their 20s. So clearly, women don’t want to. Women are choosing children over startups.

So it seems that women are making decisions for themselves just fine. It’s just that they are not the decisions that men make. This should not surprise anyone. Men and women are different. So what?

On top of that there is evidence that the members of the VC community go out of their way to attract women. Of course, this makes sense. VCs look for underserved markets. Women are likely to address different markets than men, and since there are so few women founders compared to men founders, it’s likely that women are addressing an underserved market. So VCs want to talk to women.

So VCs are definitely giving women a fair shake, it’s just that women don’t pitch. And women are definitely feeling that they can do whatever they want, it’s just that women aren’t choosing to create tech startups.

So what?

Let’s look at all the women writing articles saying that we need women to do startups. Here’s an article by Jean Bittingham. She says the world needs women entrepreneurs now more than ever. But what has she done? She’s an author and an academic. Of course. She has no idea what life is like running a startup, so she thinks it’s a good idea to tell other women to do that while she writes books. I’ve done both startups and book writing, and book writing is like a vacation compared to a startup.

Here’s a post by Tara Brown wondering why women don’t comment on VC blogs. Here’s the answer: Because women don’t care. Is that okay? I actually wonder why Tara cares, because she’s a web site producer. I don’t think she has ever raised money for a startup. But I can tell that all three times I’ve done it, raising money for a startup has been hell, so I think we should really be asking why anyone would want to try to convince someone to do it.

TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis has taken on the cause of women in tech. She writes about it a lot: here’s a piece where she rips on how mainstream America identifies with women in tech. But the problem is Tsotsis has never said why women are personally suffering from not being involved in the tech startup life. Really, how is it making any woman’s life better to say that women should be doing startups? And hey, if startup life is so great then how about trading in the writer’s life for a founder’s life? It’s really different. Try that for a few years, and then tell all the other women you know, who are outearning the men they know, or taking care of kids, to trade their life for startup life.

The people trying to give solutions are as lame as the people pointing to a problem.

Whoever started the TED Women’s conference is pathetic. Which would you rather say you spoke at? TED? Or the TED Ghetto?

Fred Wilson says there aren’t enough women running startups. What does this mean, exactly? He acknowledges that women don’t want to do startups in their 30s. And he himself points out that by the time women are 40 and they want to go back to work full-time, these women are not going to relocate to Silicon Valley. But the truth is that if there were really a problem with there not being enough women running startups, then people like Fred would fund startups in suburbia. He’d fund startups that run at half-speed to accommodate carpools. He’d fund startups that have part-time ambitions. He’s not doing that, though. So clearly there is not THAT big a problem that women are not running startups: The market for funding has spoken, and it is still funding mostly men.

Peter Thiel recommends that women start companies from age 20-25 so they have one under their belt before they have kids. But why? Is he noticing that women who are 20- 25 are sad about where their life is going? Peter, here’s some news for you: Women are most happy, in their whole lives, at age 28. So I don’t think you are identifying a problem here. I don’t think women are lamenting at age 28 that they did not found a startup at age 20-25. (Something to think about: Men are most unhappy at age 28. Maybe it is because they are so obsessed with launching a startup.)

Sheryl Sandberg says that women need to “lean into their careers.” Sandberg runs Facebook. She’s doing a great job. She also has two young kids, and a husband who works at a startup. I think you’d be really hard-pressed to find a mom with two young kids who wants Sandberg’s life. Which is why women are not “leaning into their careers” like Sandberg says they need to in order to get to the top.

Pew Research shows that most women who have kids would rather have a part-time job than either work full time or stay at home with kids full time. This sheds a lot of light on why there are so few female founders, doesn’t it?

But now I have an idea: How about giving some respect to women who grew up in the 1970s, with feminist revolution baby boomer moms, and are still brave enough to say “I don’t want to work full time. I can work full time. But I don’t want to. ”

Here is a Blueprint for a Woman’s Life which I published. It is full of recommendations for how to make choices based on what we know women really want for themselves. It does not involve getting VC funding.

Because women are earning more money than men in their 20s and underrepresented in the startup world in their 30s and 40s. And I don’t hear a clamoring of women in the US who are saying “I want to do a startup and no one is letting me!” In fact, women are starting small businesses without VC help, at a very high rate.

For the most part, women are not complaining about the lack of VC funding in the world. They are complaining about the lack of jobs with flexible hours. And I don’t see anyone on TechCrunch addressing that when they address women.

Men could change the world by staying home with their kids and parenting them. Men would provide a totally different perspective as the lunchroom parent. They would ask for totally different after-school programming. Men would hire different babysitters and different SAT tutors. Because men are different than women.

This is the same argument people use for why more women should do startups: They will have a different perspective, think of different models, lend a different sensibility to the industry.

The problem is that people do not need to be told what they should choose. People are pretty good at making choices for themselves. Men can stay home. Women can do startups. The thing is, most don’t want to. And that’s okay.

84 replies
  1. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    You raise some very interesting and valid points here. Women do choose kids 99% of the time. Men do not. It is a pretty simple observation which many people don’t seem to get.

    They think they want a career but the clock starts ticking and that’s it! As you say, by the time they re-enter the work force they are way beyond start ups. Juggling a family and a career. Who would have time for a start up at that point?

  2. Candice L Davis
    Candice L Davis says:

    This post has made me so insanely happy.

    I grew up in the70’s, and my mom is an attorney who has always worked full-time. Good for her!

    But I jumped off my corporate America fast track (and yes, I was headed for a VP office). I quit work to homeschool my daughters, and I’d never trade it. As they’ve gotten older, I started writing and I’m building my career in that field, which will allow me to still work from home and spend time with my kids. Not interested in a tech start-up or the corporate ladder, thanks!

  3. SamIam
    SamIam says:

    i like peach pie when its smoldering hot out…makes me feel like a cake baker and a fruit picker all at the same time…

  4. Molly
    Molly says:

    It is absurd that you’re linking to an article saying that women are happiest at 28. When you read the article it is clear that 1) the study found that women are happiest WITH THEIR APPEARANCE at 28, and 2) the study was conducted by the manufacturer of hair dye. I don’t see how it should bear on my career or family decisions that I will be happiest with my appearance at 28, no matter how much this article tries to convince me that having a good hair day is the same as having a good day at work. Normally I really appreciate your inclusion of positive psychology research results in your blog, but this clearly doesn’t fall into that category. What a ridiculous link.

    • Pen
      Pen says:

      Ha, yeah, I just went and read the linked article. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the premise the post is using it to support.

      Premise in this blog post (as I understand it, but I found it a bit confusing):
      Peter Thiel is recommending that women do startups at age 20-25, but Penelope is countering that women are already happiest at 28, so why should they change anything. This would seem to imply a sort of “core” happiness, that is, happiness with work/social/home life. But then…

      Direct quote from linked article showing that women are happiest at 28 with their *looks* and *body* at 28, but two years later even that is not true:

      “Researchers discovered women feel most confident and happy with their love life and body shape shortly before they reach 30.

      It is also the period in their life when they enjoy the best sex – €“ but the happiness is relatively shortlived.

      Because by the time they have turned 30 they start worrying about growing old and developing grey hair and wrinkles.”

      As you point out, how does that fit in to the paragraph where the link is?

      • Pen
        Pen says:

        I have to correct my snide comment above, and say that after I read further… the article does address more core happiness issues. Sorry about my initial reaction. I guess I tend to get a bit snippy after reading posts about how we all know women and men are.

        I will say that the linked article kind of seems “all over the place” and does seem to be written by a hair-coloring and cosmetics manufacturer (Clairol).

        Even after reading it again I can’t quite figure out what their point is. They start with looks, bounce through a small section on life happiness, and then near the end comes up with the following:

        “Psychologist Corinne Sweet added: “Having a good hair day is essential to success both at work and in love, as many women still feel their hair is their crowning glory

        “Considering it was found that women have six bad hair days a month, anything women can rely on to improve their hair at home, in the minimum of time with guaranteed results can mean a huge lift in well-being, confidence and self-esteem.”

        I guess I’m back to being slightly confused about the appropriateness of the link vis-a-vis the ideas of Peter Thiel.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah, you’re right. It’s not a great link. I remembered it being better. But you know what? I’m positive that women who want kids are most happy at age 28. On average. Because we know that kids make good marriages not good marriages (Dan Gilber’s research at Harvard) and we know that women get less happy as they age and men get more happy as they age (here’s a link to that: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2008/11/18/what-women-can-do-when-theyre-young-to-be-happy-later-on/).

      And we also know that women earn more than men in their 20’s and women do best in their career when they look like they are in their early 30s (women who look younger are not treated as seriously).

      So in terms of both career and personal life, it seems true to me that women are most happy in their late 20s. If they want kids. It’s different if women don’t want kids.

      I don’t need that article to be a good link in order for me to think it’s true.

      Penelope

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        i sincerely hope that 28 years old was not my happiest time of life. at that age:

        -self-destructed and trainwrecked like mad
        -i was in a destructive relationship with an older, wealthy man (who exploited the very thing i was supposed to be happy about — my looks?)
        -realized that for a few reasons, my career growth would be delayed
        -i had a mountain of psychological issues that i would probably need to fix in order to experience contentment

        i feel sorry for any woman who believes they were happiest at 28 when they were at their “prettiest” because obviously they didn’t accomplish much in their lives.

  5. redrock
    redrock says:

    I disagree. Not with the facts are indeed that women drop out of the career whichever one they chose in their twenties, but that we as society as a whole are not able to give more women the opportunity to succeed in their careers. The problem is not what a woman decides to do (or a man) but that if a woman decides to continue in her career she has it a lot more difficult to succeed. A lot of this has to do with a general bias that women are not as good in their profession just because they are women (this does not apply to all professions but to many). Staying single does not necessarily help to weaken this bias: one is then considered as weird. Again this does not apply to all kinds of jobs, but to many where the workforce is male-oriented (or dominated in terms of numbers). In summary: it is not solely the decision of an individual woman (or man) which is important but also the environment we create.
    In case you are interested in a more depth analysis of women’s lifes as scientists I highly recommend the “The Madame Curie complex”, a little lengthy but definitely worth reading. It illustrates the eternal conflict between the fascination and superb ability to perform high level research and having a family. And it shows that it is often not up to the woman to make the decision, it is decided by the environment for her, and her success often depends critically on her choice of husband. Interestingly even extremely bright women made the experience that their brilliant research was due to their collaboration with men (often their husbands). Some of the examples are fortunately a little outdated, but many aspects of women’s lifes described in the book are still valid and can be observed today.
    And, but the way: while I often disagree with posts, and offer a diverging opinion I am still allowed to post :-) I accidentally ended up on a forum of conservative knitters, and offered the explanation that “free healthcare” does not mean that the doctor is not paid for his work. I was blocked from commenting any further after being ridiculed for my comment.

  6. Pen
    Pen says:

    Why does it make sense to prescribe anything “women” or “men” (which, used in that sense essentially means “all as a group”), should do? Why not just speak to humans, or individuals?

    Such as “I hope anyone who wants to do a start-up is feels able to try it.” or “It’s great that young people who want to be parents have the option to work part time or not at all.”

    Wouldn’t that be preferable to pointing out certain generalizations as being stupid, and then just replacing them with others?

    Also:

    “We need to get more guys who are running tech startups to decide instead to be stay-at-home dads.

    What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That's what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.”

    That makes you sound good, but it isn’t really parallel.

    Pen

    • AM
      AM says:

      Pen,
      I agree with Trunk’s post, but I still believe that people should be treated as individuals. The distinction of sex, at the individual level, is irrelevant. I imagine Trunk feels the same way. If a woman wants to do startups, fine.

      The problem arises when the diversity bean counters start bleating that you’re obviously sexist because you’re workforce is 90% male, when the pool of qualified people is also 90% male. The problem is that a lot of people actually *don’t* want people to be treated as individuals, if that means aggregate organic differences between the sexes.

      • Whitney
        Whitney says:

        It is not humanly possible to treat someone as an individual. Gender is SO major that no one will ever look past it. Think about how many times someone has leaned over to you and asked you if an androgynous stranger is a man or a woman.

        We are less harsh when we get to know each other better, but gender is always the top thing on people’s minds when they make judgments about each other.

    • ariana jalfen
      ariana jalfen says:

      As a woman who has founded businesses in the past and is in the process of grooming a new business that may seek funding, and who has three very young children I toss my two cents into the bouillabaisse and say this:

      I love it when women step forward to steer their professional course including starting businesses.

      I cringe when I hear how unrealistic many women starting their businesses are about the time they will have, the freedom they believe they are going to attain, and the sense of balance they foolhardily state they can achieve. I wholly agree with Penelope about what hell it can be.

      Where my thinking veers a little is in that beyond not wanting to, I think that it doesn’t enter the consciousness of many women to start their business for the purpose of changing the world, much less a more realistic endeavor. I think most awaken to the idea of working for ourselves because we think it’ll give us a chance to earn, create, and connect in a way that either reminds us of a life before kids or because we hope it allows us to have both a family and a career.

      If as a woman with children you’d like to launch a startup, do yourself a great service and steady yourself for a totally unbalanced, riveting, at times gut wrenching all the while exhilarating experience.

  7. redrock
    redrock says:

    The typo-devil caught up with me:
    “Interestingly even extremely bright women made the experience that their brilliant research was due to their collaboration with men (often their husbands).”

    Should read:

    “Interestingly even extremely bright women made the experience that their brilliant research was ATTRIBUTED AS BEING due to their collaboration with men (often their husbands).

  8. redrock
    redrock says:

    … and to the question “why should women do that? WHy would they spend their whole energy and waking hours to do science?” [you can substitute the favored being entrepreneur and having a start-up easily – it is similarly time consuming to be a high level scientist]
    The answer is simple: They have the mind to do it – they love the challenge – the intellectual challenge, they cannot imagine to do anything else with their lives – they are endlessly fascinated by their work – they would feel as if their hearts are ripped out when told they should never do science again.

    • Amy Parmenter
      Amy Parmenter says:

      oops. hit post before I meant to. typos and all. can’t really communicate this sentiment without seeming like a man hater…which I’m not. But, it’s not just that VCs aren’t investing in women-led startups…most of the VCs are men too, so it’s really just about the company they keep – pun intended I guess.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hahaha! But there’s truth to that. The bottom line for women is that most women who have kids start their own businesses in order to have control over their lives — corporate America does not really permit personal control over one’s day in the same way that working for oneself does. But if you take money from VCs, you do, literally, work for them. Which defeats the original purpose (for most women with kids) for starting their own business.

      Penelope

      • Kerry
        Kerry says:

        YES. Starting a business selling stuff on Etsy is not the same as starting a business where you are a slave to venture capitalists. The former is the sort of thing that allows for balance. The latter will put you in a position where you work for the worst boss you ever had. You’re better off working in a factory.

  9. Whitney
    Whitney says:

    Hard to think of these large-scale issues when I couldn’t pay someone to hire me…even though I’m absurdly smart, determined, and work in a field that could double a startup’s earnings almost immediately.

    Stop distracting people with gender stuff. I know it exists, but it’s hard for me to hear “women make more than men in their 20s” when I’m horribly unemployed.

    Not that it’s all about me. Just sayin’.

  10. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    I’m not sure I agree with your whole post — I think there are post-childrearing-age women who would be good candidates to do startups — but thanks for calling out the TED Ghetto. I hate that.

    • Helen Wolwyn
      Helen Wolwyn says:

      That’s me! I started my business this year at the age of 42, my son being 15 and not really needing me as much as he used to (well, he likes the short order cook part!). Finally had enough of corporate life and left when I had a bit of breathing room after an inheritence. I sell women’s accessories online and at home parties, etc. I am continually asked why I didn’t just become a Tupperware or Stella and Dot rep. Why these people think this is running a business I have no idea….

      • GingerR
        GingerR says:

        I agree. Women whose families are grown are the ones who’re best prepared to be developing start-ups. If they’ve worked part-time while their children were small they’ve maintained their skills and connections.

  11. Southern Man
    Southern Man says:

    I don’t see much fuss about fields that are predominately female. How many male elementary-school teachers do you know? My sister, an executive in the state DHS, manages an office of 120. I’ll give you one guess as to how many of her employees are men. My university HR department is also 100% female (as are all of the administrative assistants university-wide), observations that were brought up in a faculty meeting recently when the president demanded more “diversity” in hiring. Apparently the observation that “men won’t apply for those positions” was sufficient justification for his hiring practices, but not good enough for ours.

    If they can, people go where their skills and desires and aptitudes take them. Misguided attempts at social engineering won’t change that. And the observations that not many men want to be social workers or that not many women would find life as a physics professor rewarding do not bother me at all.

    • Whitney
      Whitney says:

      Yes, most fields that are primarily male or female are like that because it doesn’t interest the opposite sex (except for the rare exceptions).

      But, the reason why less of a fuss is made about predominantly female workplaces is because men (historically, and currently) are less discriminated against. When I wanted to work as a carpenter, every interview I went on there was a huge question-mark on the face of the boss. Yet, men in female-dominated areas are (often, but not always) encouraged and celebrated, like how they do for male nurses. There is data that shows men in female-dominated businesses rise faster, but women in male-dominated businesses do not.

      • Southern Man
        Southern Man says:

        In my little corner of the world (university) we are under constant pressure to get more women into STEM and offer every incentive and scholarship imaginable, to the point where any girl who has halfway-decent high school grades can have her physics degree pretty much paid for. And we get a few. But not many.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      The problem is that it is not the desire to be in social work or physics decides, but that there are many other factors which will dis-incentivize women from taking the physics professor path. Comparing current numbers in a profession does not reliably reflect the innate desires of women to follow one or the other path.

      • Laurie
        Laurie says:

        Actually, research shows that elementary and high schools are doing their part: girls are interested in STEM fields and are getting the preparation they need. They are also getting into college level STEM programs. The reason there are fewer women in STEM professions is that they leave the college STEM programs due to social pressures and competition/backbiting they encounter there. It wasn’t my research, so I would have to look again to be able to remember whether the main issue was rejection from fellow females in the field or from the males.

      • Laurie
        Laurie says:

        Sorry, I don’t think I made it clear that I am backing up what you were saying, not disputing it.

        Funny how I can manage to have the wrong tone, even when typing :)

  12. Priya Florence Shah
    Priya Florence Shah says:

    Most women like me who run their own business do it in order to be close to our kids. We work from home, believe in bootstrapping (not VC funding) and prefer to take the long, slow road rather than fast track. It makes for a much happier, joyful and full life.

    • Erika
      Erika says:

      My gut agrees with you on this, and it would be interesting to see if there is more data on women and bootstrapping.

      I’m not an entrepreneur, but do freelance work for a female entrepreneur with a highly successful/growing online company that is entirely bootstrapped and continues to grow. The owner is a former consultant who wanted to control her lifestyle more, and now she can and does.

      I won’t get into too much detail about her life, but she has 5 kids and is highly involved in their lives, so has set up her own job to accommodate that. She is also active in the local technology, entrepreneurship and bootstrapping communities.

  13. Pavlos Papageorgiou
    Pavlos Papageorgiou says:

    It wouldn’t matter if women only had women’s kids. As it happens these are also the men’s kids. Men and women get the same offspring, men get more career. It’s the core problem of feminism that the costs of reproduction fall unequally on the women.

    Your solution is either to specialize (marry someone and let him do the pressuring career) or to say that women derive fulfilment from the raising of kids that’s otherwise a cost. These may be good solutions for some.

    There is a problem with a work system that rewards non-parents far higher than parents, and by non-parents I mean people who don’t spend the time parenting. Running a startup is perhaps the extreme of that, but it’s a continuum from tech jobs with heroically long or inflexible hours.

  14. Liobov
    Liobov says:

    What’s wrong with advocating for more men to be stay-at-home dads? I think it equally important as encouraging more women doing startups.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Because most dad’s don’t want to. Among Gen-Y, women make more money than men, so logically, all those dad’s would stay home with kids since the woman is the better one to support the family. But the men (and women) obviously don’t want it that way.

      Most people — men and women — want jobs that allow them to do interesting work and be home with their kids. But corporate America makes you choose. And, if we have to choose, men choose work and women choose kids. It’s not good for anyone, but it’s reality.

      Penelope

  15. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    This advice from all of these people about how women should do start-ups is the same as advice to women about how they should get married and have babies. It’s the “shoulds” that make women unhappy.

    I’m a grown woman. I know all by myself what I want. I don’t need someone to tell me what I should do based entirely on my gender.

    I’ve been happiest when I’ve stopped listening to those people and done whatever the hell I want.

  16. Guest
    Guest says:

    More men should be stay at home dads.

    Men today want to be more involved in their children’s lives and are more involved then 50 years ago – their biology didn’t change but their preferences did. And are still changing.

    All the women I know who want kids and do not want to be primary caregivers (and I know a number) run into the problem that their husbands don’t want to do more than 50% of the child raising (either because that’s just how men are – or as has been proved by the existence of different cultures and change – because of the culture) so the best these women can hope for is 50% of responsibility. That’s not what they really want but they settle for it – even as all their family and friends and coworkers and bloggers subtly push for that 50/50 to end up 70/30 not in her favor. If more men were open to being stay at home dads more women could both be mothers and run start ups.

  17. Dave
    Dave says:

    Penelope, I think that given your experiences you should take a look into why anyone would decide to do a technology startup in the first place. Based on my experiences in working at several startus, the likely payouts for founders & employees given success rates of startups and the amount of stock allocated to founders & especially employees work out to be not a great return for the time & effort.

    Might be time to rethink likely paths to fund new businesses?

  18. Corissa McClay
    Corissa McClay says:

    I totally agree with the TED Ghetto comment. It made me so irritated when I saw them do that.

    I do want to add to the ‘women can but don’t’ ideas here. It’s a little more complex, simply because of how our culture works. Women are expected to take care of the children. I know women who were treated terribly because they didn’t decide to stay home with the kids. And men don’t, on the whole, pick up the slack. There are plenty of studies showing that even now men do less than half the housecleaning and childcare that full time working women do.

    I’m a 24 year old woman with a tech startup, and I am thankful every day that I don’t have kids. Because I couldn’t do it. There isn’t enough money for daycare and my husband works at his job and on our startup, so there’s no way he’d be picking up the slack. So even though I’m CEO the choice would be me turning down the hours I do. And I know a lot of women in similar situations. Because of our culture it seems absurd for a man to take time off for the kids, so the only option is for the women to do it. It holds us back. But there’s no easy answer for that, so it’s hard to know what to do with it.

    • Holly
      Holly says:

      It isn’t absurd for men to stay home to be primary caregivers.My husband did it, and he would not trade that time for anything.

      At the time, one of our children had a medical problem that could not be managed with both parents working full time. My husband and I had commensurate jobs and incomes, but I was much more satisfied with my position. So it made a great deal of sense for him to be the one to leave his job. (FWIW, it was one of the best times of my life to… he’s a much better housefrau than I, so I only had to worry about my job. It was like being Ward Cleaver, if June had been bigger and hairier.)

      I know a number of other families with fathers as primary caregivers, either by choice or necessity.

    • Sandy
      Sandy says:

      ha, yes. when i read that statement, i though, hell yes, and then was confused when i went on to read the next sentence about it being a stupid proposal. more stay-at-home dads would do a lot more for gender equality than more women in the workforce.

  19. becca
    becca says:

    i love how it’s “brave” for women to choose not to work full time. it’s a luxury afforded them by someone else, not being brave.

  20. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I agree with a lot of points in this post including, fundamentally, the points that women are different than men and that women don’t want what men want, careerwise. I’m going to offer a comment that may be non-responsive, because I speak from the perspective of somebody in the legal field, not as somebody who has done a startup, and I don’t know how possible it is to analogize between the two fields. You take issue with people who tell more women to do startups. This makes me think you might also take issue with people who tell women to break into other male-dominated fields that aren’t compatible with raising kids and doing other things women want to do. But here’s the thing. I am an attorney at a big firm and my job presents some hellish choices for women who want families. But I still tell women to become attorneys. And not just to become attorneys, but to work at large, demanding firms. Because I think it’s possible for us to shape this part of the industry into a more female friendly shape, but that’s only going to happen if we enter the industry in the first place (although I do recognize that women can reshape the legal industry by avoiding Big Law jobs altogether and taking other steps. And I think that not only do women have a lot to contribute to this particular part of the legal industry, but I think that we can geta lot out of it, too. I like my job! I would like it more if it were more family friendly. Rather than dropping out, I’d rather encourage women to join up and change things. It’s a lot to ask of women to sacrifice their own work-life balance so that future women can have it, but it’s not an absurd proposal. And perhaps enough of this logic can be translated to the realm of startups to recognize that it’s not totally crazy to encourage women to do them. (Although I share your bewilderment at women who have not done startups encouraging other women to do something they know nothing about the realities of.) Also, I’ve read all your posts about not going to law school (and largely agree with them, except when I’m talking about myself, because there’s nothing almost nothing I love more than legal advocacy and, hey, I got a job), so I hope that’s not part of your response, should you choose to reply to this comment.

    • Jeff
      Jeff says:

      Sandy,

      You seem to believe that there is a “team women.” This is a failure on your part to understand the world as it is. There is no “team white,” “team black,” “team men,” nor “team women.” We are all unique individuals who face our own problems and opportunities and no one else gives a rat’s ass as to our situation. You seem to suggest that it is worthwhile for some women to sacrifice in order to blaze a trail for other women. To what end? The sad truth is that you are framing your own desires as some sort of moral endeavor to justify your choices. Surely, two seconds of thinking will reveal the following:

      1. female suffrage has resulted in a massive government that is unsustainable and diametric to women who desire maximal freedom. So where is “team women” with regards to women who desire liberty? Answer: it’s not there, because there is no such thing as “team women.” Women don’t care about you and you sure as all hell don’t care about them, unless they agree with you.
      2. when a woman cheats with a married man, where is “team women.” Answer: not there because “team women” does not exist.
      3. when a woman suffers setbacks, identical to those of man, but chooses to claim sexism, how is this woman promoting “team women.” Answer: she isn’t because she doesn’t care jack about some non-existent “team women.” Instead she is trying to apportion her hardships to an external force beyond her control.

      There is no “team women.” Blaze a trail for women, in your own mind, if you will, but really you are not doing anything for other women. They don’t need you, nor do they want you, nor do they care about you. We are alone, or if we are lucky, we have our families. That’s it.

      And to those women who claim they want stay-at-home Beta men: make sure you stay on the pill because the moment you come off the pill you are going to jump on the first alpha you can. Men seek women who are sexually loyal, attractive and gracile, and generally complimentary. I have never met an alpha male who cared one bit about a woman’s career; maybe her intelligence, but that is separate from career. Women on the other hand, very highly value social standing among men, as determined by wealth, disposition and career. An ovulating woman is going to despise her stay-at-home husband because her genetically-induced desires are to mate with high standing males. For anyone to write anything that fails to incorporate this basic knowledge, is to reveal a profound level of ignorance about how people have evolved.

      And since it is such a femalesque thing to turn to credentialism, here is a great study showing women to be less happy outside of traditional marriages:
      http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/peopleofsociology/wilcoxpapers/Wilcox%20Nock%20marriage.pdf

      And the original poster of the study: http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/alert-the-media-women-happier-as-women/

      • Sandy
        Sandy says:

        Jeff,

        I can see we disagree fundamentally about the nature of people, but I’d like to correct a few incorrect assumptions you drew about me from what I wrote

        1) I don’t want more women in my workplace because I think they’d be on this bizarre “team women” you speak of. I just think men and women have different needs (along with plenty of the same needs!) and my female specific needs (e.g., decent maternity leave) have a better chance of being met if more women are around pressing for the same things. Believe it or not, we (women) do want some of the same things.

        2) My career is not a moral quest. I work in the field I do for way more selfish reasons than that (basically, money, and because I find the work personally satisfying). I just wish more women would make it their moral quest, so I could get better maternity leave and all. Credit where credit is due though; you are right to point out that won’t happen because most (all?) people act out of self interest most (all?) of the time.

        3) I was on team Angelina back in the day.
        Brad Pitt can certainly suck it, though. (There, you caught me. I guess I do believe in team women.)

        3) I was on the pill or any hormonal birth control when I met my husband, nor am I now and yet, I don’t despise him. I do find that super alpha men irk me when they assume all women want to sleep with them. Weird.

        Finally, I am not qualified to address a study that I did not read, or any sociological study, but I do suspect that if women are less happy in nontraditional marriages, it has less to do with the fact that such marriages are fundamentally unable to meet their needs and more to do with the fact that these marriages don’t mesh well with institutions that have been built up around marriages that function differently than theirs.

      • Jeff
        Jeff says:

        Sandy,

        Re: your comments below.

        You are suggesting that if more women entered the workforce that superior maternity leave would be more common. Through which enterprise would you have more maternity leave: government fiat or private, voluntary mutual exchange? If the latter, then nothing is preventing that now and it does happen for some people. If you wish for the former, then you are, at the most basic level, a violent person. You just wish for state sanctioned violence, or the threat thereof, to enforce your objectives. If you seek government assistance, then you have to deal with the fact that to improve your own lot in life, but not necessarily that of your offspring, you are willing to hurt other women and men. You would be willing to hurt a woman who relies upon the success of her endeavors or her husband’s endeavors or her parent’s endeavors. You wouldn’t mind that you are now burdening others with new costs that negatively impact their lives. So in that regard, you would turn your nose at those such women, in pursuit of your own selfish interests; you would just be doing so under the lie of pretending to help other women.

        The simple reason that maternity leave, of an extended or compensated variety is not more common is simple: it is expensive and we will live in a world where so much is already so expensive. Calculate the opportunity costs, say five levels deep, of giving a woman maternity leave as you believe fair. Now ask yourself, why anyone man or woman would agree to such. Economics dictate these choices. Changing the sex ratio at work will do nothing to change the costs. If expensive rules are introduced then profits will go down. As profits decline relative to risk, then capital will move elsewhere and the enterprise will no longer be capable of offering the very benefits you demand. This is not difficult to calculate.

        If you want to test it: create a business with an all female staff (or whatever you believe the mix should be), then implement your rule. See if you can maintain it for 25 years. Good luck to you. It would be great to see.

  21. fred doe
    fred doe says:

    you need to do what all women fall back on and sit down and have your self a good CRY. boo whoo whoo i want to have it all. it’s all about marketing end of story. all women today should thank the women of the 70’s for the women’s movement. they fought the good fight. they didn’t just free women they freed men too. use to be men died way before women (because they wanted to) now the field is closing in. when there’s total equality, women will register for selective service but wait! we have women coming home in body bags and missing limbs and DSS from the wars now as their male counter parts while some men sit in college and play MORTAL COMBAT on their computers. go figure. maybe men should have more time with their kids and how their raised then maybe we wouldn’t have as many mamby pamby’s out there. or how about this maybe we need a 30 hour work week and more job share? instead of buying fuckin books on 4 hour work weeks. i know,”don’t start talkin that crazy commie shit. i have to go and put on my tin foil hat and wait for the mother ship to contact me.

  22. Monica Bryant
    Monica Bryant says:

    I’m 28 and I am pretty happy with my life. I’m a full-time college student and part-time worker at the mall. I’m majoring in theatre and I’ll be transferring to a University next fall.

    I’m interested in starting a business, a production company to be exact. I’ve read lots of blogs about people who started businesses and what pisses me off the most is people who started a business about telling other people to start businesses.

    I think to myself, what are these people doing exactly? Are they getting paid to motivate others? Really? I don’t get it.

    • Wojtek
      Wojtek says:

      Similar to writing self-help, GTD and motivational books, blogs of internet marketing gurus who mastered marketing their “become master of marketing” courses.

      Nowadays I cherish those precious gems from people who actually did something useful, like: http://37signals.com/rework/

      I believe it’s actually better to master a sport discipline with a trainer rather than an experienced sportsman. I doubt it’s the same with entrepreneurship.

      • kathleen
        kathleen says:

        Actually, it is the same with entrepreneurship. I have worked for people who thought all they needed was to be intelligent, hard-working, and have a great idea and next step: PROFIT! In my experience, not usually. There are time-tested methodologies to starting a business that most entrepreneurs won’t figure out intuitively.

  23. Wishful thinking
    Wishful thinking says:

    I am a 28-year-old female who would love to both be a mother and start my own business. However, I am currently NOT at the happiest point in my life because I cannot do either of those things.

    Almost a year of trying to conceive has left me with 1 miscarriage and no baby. I’ve been working at a VC start-up for the past 1.5 years and have decided I would never, ever want to go this route due to the pressure and high level of fiscal committment to outside parties involved.

    Having gone through both these experiences, I think the best advice is that the road to hell is paved with best-laid plans and good intentions, so if you want something, just go for it because there is no right time for anything.

  24. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Unfortunately, I only read half of this post.

    I think the main issue our society faces by and large is that we make HUGE generalizations of people groups that just make more and more stereotypes by sex, race, genreation, city, what color socks one wears….

    Regardless of what a certain statistic of men or woman are doing career-wise I’m going to stick to the goals I have set my mind to. And I really don’t need to know what every other woman on the planet is doing.

    • kathleen
      kathleen says:

      Actually, you do need to know what every other woman on the planet is doing. You need to understand your competitive landscape and the rate of success of the people doing what you want to be doing, as well as why they succeed. It’s basic market research.

      To say otherwise is like saying 99% of people who jump out of planes without parachutes die on impact, but I won’t because I believe in myself.

  25. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    Age 27-30 is when people go through their Saturn return, so cyclically it’s a time when people are challenged regarding the structures they’ve built in their life–when they are tested. If you can stay true to yourself during that time and rid those structures of the dross of belief systems that don’t serve you, you will likely be happier in your 30s. If you just grit your teeth and get through it without changing anything, it’s probably all downhill until life forces you to take another look at your structures, in the 2nd Saturn return–around age 58 or so.

  26. Rachelle
    Rachelle says:

    I started my own company and became pregnant about one second after.

    My husband does stay home, our son is 4 and takes care of him.

    I do have a very flexible schedule, but flexible means I can work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 90% of weekends.

    I just wouldn’t be able to do this without my husband at all. He’s awesome and it’s unfortunate because lots of people look down at him, like my parents because “he should be out supporting his family”

    He is always there taking care of me, making sure I eat, taking great care of our son while I work. No daycare in our area is even open the hours that I work including weekends.

    You’re right Penelope, if we want more women to do start ups then more men need to stay home. In the meantime, I am so grateful for all the work my husband does behind the scenes to keep me going. I wouldn’t even have underwear if it wasn’t for him :) Do you know how weird it looks when a 6’4″ guy is going through the not very well organized stack of underwear looking for a certain size? We had a giggle about that…

  27. Richard
    Richard says:

    I used to work for a large mutual fund company that was so proud of their investing guide for women. The font was soft, the colors were light pastels. There were pictures of models wearing glasses so they looked smart.

    I sent a note to the marketing department asking if they really thought investing advice required a penis/vagina perspective to it.

    The whole idea that we need more or less women or men anywhere is absurd. What is left out of these arguments is that getting funding is hard, working with VC’s is hard, running a start-up is hard. Frankly, there aren’t many men doing them either. Almost nobody does. They are exclusive jobs that 99.9% of people are just not up to doing, regardless of gender.

  28. CTS
    CTS says:

    This is off topic and not really a comment.

    I subscribed to your RSS feed in Google Reader, and unsubscribed to your email. Your blog is right on my home page now. Sooo much easier.

  29. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    i think u said it all: women make different decisions. if we really want to run startups or be CEO’s, there’s nothing stopping us . . . but our values. and obviously “career” and “money” aren’t at the top of the list for the majority of women. you have to sacrifice too much.

    • Guest
      Guest says:

      They’re not at the top of the list for the majority of men either. Most men have nothing whatsoever to do with start ups or CEOing.

  30. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    u said it all: women make different decisions. if we really want to run startups or be CEO’s, there’s nothing stopping us . . . but our values. and obviously “career” and “money” aren’t at the top of the list for the majority of women. you have to sacrifice too much.

  31. CTS
    CTS says:

    I’m a woman, and I knew at a very young age that the choice for me would either be children or a career. Not both. I knew I wouldn’t be as effective at either if I chose both. I was honest with myself. So I chose career.

    Men know that they can’t do both effectively either, so most men choose career and leave the child-rearing to the moms.

    I think what’s happening is some full-time moms are finally realizing that choosing to be stay-at-home moms isn’t the better choice. It’s much more fun to have a job or a career. It’s easier and it’s fulfilling to have a career. A career gives you power and freedom.

    So women want to do both, which is great, but you can’t do both as effectively. So you won’t get paid the same if you’re juggling and calling out every time your kids are sick, or you take maternity leave and this is your 3rd child in 4 years.

    Men know all this, so they keep choosing their careers instead of being full-time dads.

    A start-up is the same thing as having a baby. All your attention and love goes into it, and if you juggle too much, you’ll hate it.

    Whether you’re male or female, thinking you can “do it all” is just shooting yourself in the foot. Pick one thing, and do it well. When that phase is over, pick something else and do it well.

  32. SoVeryVienna
    SoVeryVienna says:

    I love that you deconstruct who is making the recommendations about how women “should” live. It’s important that men AND women not tell women what the model life is.

    It would be great to take the ideas a step further to explore how public policies support women’s choices in such a way that makes it easier for women to create the life they want – i.e., providing more vacation time so women can decompress and think about creating they life they want, whether that’s through a startup or something else; strong education so parents don’t feel they have to supplement so much – or rely on afterschool programs for childcare; and similarly, having quality and affordable childcare.

  33. Mary
    Mary says:

    Thank you for mentioning The TED Ghetto!! TED gets criticism for not having more women presenting at it, so they create THAT to make up for it? When I discovered the existence of TED Women (or whatever), I wrote a furious email to the TED organizers. I don’t think they heard me.

  34. Liz
    Liz says:

    I don’t agree at all. As a young woman, I’d really like to live the start up life. It looks exciting and profitable. Instead, from an early age I realized that if I ever wanted to have kids and a marriage in America, I would have to have lower my career aspirations. Be more practical.

    If more men were willing to take a backseat to a woman’s career, I might have felt otherwise and gone for a start up. If I was expected to be the breadwinner, I might have gone for a start up.

    I don’t feel like I’m making a real choice. I feel like I’m making the role I’m supposed to play. Yes, that’s partly my own fault for putting up with the social stereotype. But social pressure is extremely powerful. So please don’t tell me that I just don’t want to be involved in start-ups.

  35. Merry
    Merry says:

    While I completely agree with the rationale with this blog post, under the assumption for women who want children, it’s still risky to take the message into a larger political agenda – that women “eventually” won’t be putting so much time into startups, therefore the financial flow for startups don’t have to tailor to women.

    It’s risky because I’m sure there are women who envision the perfect life to be 1. Not to be stranded by children 2. Nor stranded by being dumbed down by the corporate world. If a perfectly capable women is neither shedding off energy in child-rearing, nor wasting time jogging on the corporate treadmill, I truly think there will be a hell lot more creativity in the world turned into feasible ventures, going full steam ahead, despite the hardships.

    I personally believe at the end of the day it’s still better to take gender out of the equation in the dynamics of funding a startup.

    Women who do not want children seem to be dragged down there are too many statements about women associated child-rearing. That’s why feminism is stuck for decades – the women who don’t want children are assumed as women who want children. Women are still feared in hiring processes that “they would eventually go have babies and abandon the business anytime.” And that’s certainly not true as demonstrated by the low birthrates in most developed countries. Remember – these average birthrates are averages, it doesn’t mean each women would really have 1.2 baby in her lifetime – it means a percentage doesn’t have any babies at all while some has more than average.

    I truly believe the percentage of women who do not want children is expanding (do I really need to research on that?) – on top of that, women who are done with raising young children can certainly concentrate on their own businesses. Why should women be passively categorized into only 2 tracks – the mommy track or the corporate track? This is such an old cliched question, but still worthwhile to ask. I would like to hear your opinion on women who don’t want children, Penelope – because I find it difficult to believe that women who neither want children nor the corporate ladder cannot be productive members of the society.

  36. delinda
    delinda says:

    After reading Ms Trunk’s posts about how she blames herself for being abused by her husband, I understand why she posts the things she posts regarding woman and career. Ms Trunk needs to get some help and advice on self-esteem.

  37. Katy
    Katy says:

    I know this post is old news but I’ll comment anyway.
    I had kids in my 20’s and now I’m back in engineering. I am already sick of it after 2 years and want to work parttime so I can be with my kids more.
    “Do a startup” sounds like the last thing on earth I want to be doing. I want to homeschool and start my own business. Not do a f*ing startup. Cripes.
    Plus even though I’m in a technical field, I find it boring as hell right now too.
    (Although I’m an ISTP, so I find just about everything boring after a while.
    conundrum. :/)

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