Tag Archives: startups

Baby and startup? Big deal! Or, perhaps, a big deal?

Years back I read Paul Graham’s How to Start a Startup essay, which includes this footnote:

One advantage startups have over established companies is that there are no discrimination laws about starting businesses. For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon.

Which, well, OK, I’m not in the business of forcing Paul Graham to start businesses with people he doesn’t want to start businesses with. But it bugged me for the obvious reasons, not least because, well, you know, men have small children too sometimes. Thank goodness they don’t have to put any work into them. Phew. Lucky escape there, men. Better make sure we keep that labour division in place.

Anyway, in the last few days, Tara Brown wrote this, in response to a few posts by men about having kids and doing a startup.

I am 35 years old, I have an 8 month old child that I breastfeed full-time and I am doing a startup. Big deal. Who isn’t?

Many women start businesses after having a kid, usually because they want to stay home and have an income. This was what I wanted to do after I had Ripley. I decided I wanted to look after him exclusively for his first year and then get a job as a consultant or something where I could continue staying at home with him. My husband and I took off with Ripley to Singapore and France and during that time somehow I ended up a co-founder of Noot.

I have a 9 month old baby (breastfed a fair bit as it happens, although you should have seen him get stuck into ciabatta bread today), and… I’m not doing a startup. I wouldn’t have been a great business partner or core employee for a while after birth, because it made me sick. I wouldn’t be a great partner or employee right now either, in fact, because he brings home illnesses from daycare and so we’re sick and exhausted constantly. (Not that I’m keen to encourage Paul Graham to add to the people he won’t start businesses with, but my husband gets these too, funnily enough.) I did recover our main fileserver when he was 12 days old. Pro tip: if you have any suspicion your hard drive is failing, replace it prior to the birth of your baby. (But then, I had to do the same thing the other week. Pro tip: mobile 9 month olds get in the way of hard drive replacements more than 2 week olds. Wait, that wasn’t a tip. Sorry. Pro tip: don’t have hard drives that fail.) I work various part-time and casual things now to afford the daycare to finish my PhD.

But Tara Brown isn’t telling everyone’s story: she’s telling hers, and she acknowledges that she has some advantages:

Honestly, I never expected to write this blog post because I just figured this is what every other woman that is working and has a baby must do, not something to make a big deal out of. But when I saw that email from Jason Calacanis and Jason Roberts, I just had to speak up so that more women can tell these guys that what they are doing is not extraordinary by any means. I mean come on, Jason Calacanis is rich, his wife stays at home and they have a night nanny. Not exactly a tough situation. What’s tough is single mothers and fathers trying to raise their kids by themselves. Me and the “Jasons” have supportive spouses who are at home for big chunks of time.

So moms dads out there that are doing a startup, tell the world YOUR story. Please! I need to meet more of you for the support and inspiration.

Starting, running and managing businesses, especially small ones, has been women’s work for a long long time, and that means mothers have done it. Mothers have done it a lot. But at the same time, I’m not keen to uncritically contribute to a superwoman culture: get back behind the desk woman! Sickness, disability, parenting and family and education and money demands and life preferences, these all vary a lot more than I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children allows for. Sometimes women need to work with small children. Sometimes they need to not. Often it’s in between.

What’s your experience, if you’ve worked as a mother young children? If you’ve been an entrepreneur or business owner, do you think that that was uniformly harder than being an employee, or in some ways easier, or generally easier?

The linkspam your mothers marched in the street for (10th June, 2010)

  • Get ready to PITCH: Women 2.0 Startup Competition: it’s open to entrants around the world, and entries close October 1.
  • Lisa Crispin writes What Gender Diversity Means to Me: Jon Bach asked me a good question… The group was nicely balanced with as many women as men. Jon asked me what advantages I felt this gave the conference. He found my reply helpful and encouraged me to share it here.
  • Penny Arcade Expo fans come out against booth babes: … 60 percent of respondents either lik[ed] or lov[ed] the ban on booth babes. Only 12 percent of respondents hated the ban, putting public opinion firmly in the anti-babe area. The major addition to the policy stipulates that the models need to be educated about the product, and partial nudity has been banned. Models can dress up like characters from games and wear revealing clothing, as long as it’s true to the original character.
  • cme writes In which everything takes rather longer than I thought: When I get to this point, people often say that the Open Source movement has a history of being hostile to all new people (true), so it’s not a big deal and certainly doesn’t mean they are anti-woman (false)… it *does* mean that their attitude has the effect of being anti-woman (really, it has the effect of being anti-everyone-who’s-not-a-white-straight-cis-ablebodied-man). Because any barrier will affect people more who have more barriers to hurdle. The less privilege you have, the more any particular barrier will set you back.
  • Alana Kumbier analyses Jessica Floeh’s line of insulin pump accessories: Insulin-Pump Accessories And Cyborg Embodiment
  • Kamvar, Schiavoni: Techies with a Cause: [Sep] Kamvar and his wife, Angie Schiavoni, recently launched CodeEd, a pilot program to introduce fifth-grade girls to computer science. Funded with $20,000 donated by the couple, it’s the only such program in the U.S. geared to underprivileged preteen girls.
  • In Mary Anne Mohanraj’s WisCon 34 Guest of Honor Speech she issues a call: I’m asking you to take up that flaming sword, because it is here; I am standing on your doorstep, and I am calling you. You can be brave enough, you can be a hero.
  • Jill Psmith is a radical feminist who doesn’t think science is bad: The argument has been made that intuition is superior to science because it is somehow free of the oppressive misogynist entanglements that encumber its dude-dominated counterpart. A spin-off of this argument says that, because academia has traditionally given (and continues to give) women the stink-eyed bum’s rush, science is antifeminist and, presumably, must be shunned in favor of this women-centric intuition dealio… Unfortunately, it is not possible for any concept, process, person, or cognitive function to exist outside of patriarchy. (See also PZ Myers, Stereotyping women right out of science)
  • Standard Operating Procedure: tech vendor VersionOne is using gender stereotypes in their promotions. But it’s a joke! Nothing to see here!

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Wanted: aggressive people with no lives

Sarah Mei just tweeted:

Whenever anyone asks why there aren’t more female developers at startups, I’m going to send them this job post. http://bit.ly/6Lsr1F

The link goes to this job ad for Mahalo:

If you’re looking for a 9-5 gig where you can keep your head down and collect a pay check don’t apply—we don’t want you. Seriously, I don’t care if you wrote the book on Python or MySQL… if you’re not a hardworking maniac who is hungry as hell you’re of no use to us. We need killers. So, if you’re a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.

Their benefits include:

We’ll clean your car for you and do your laundry—literally. Seriously, we don’t want you thinking about doing your laundry, cleaning your car or what you’re doing to eat—let alone spending time on that non-sense.

Who is this aimed at? Young single people, for starters. People who can move cross-country for a job. People without kids. People whose partners care for the kids. People who are aggressive. People who like working with other aggressive people, including the boss. People who are pushy enough to deal with a self-described meritocracy, or be fired. People who can identify with a long list of male names, representing people who previously enjoyed working this way.

Sound appealing to you? If not, how would you write that ad to make it more appealing?

The Discreet Charm of the Link Roundup (15th September, 2009)