The Sex Question

Emily and I were at the theater last night watching Spring Awakening (just so so, not recommending it). The lead actress was being dragged by her mom to some shady doctor who would "fix her baby problem" and ultimately kill her in the process. And I am thinking, "why do women get such a raw deal in this world".

Maybe that was a freudian reaction to reading this comment on one of my Age Question posts during intermission:

I am a first time entrepreneur, I am a mother in my 40s and I have four
children. My business partner, whom I have known and worked with for 20
years is also a mother in her 40s. We are as young, and new and open to
ideas as anyone, without ANYTHING holding us back. We came to be
“founding mothers” of our internet company after years of a combination
of high level corporate America and the motherhood place of infinite
possibility where we are now. I feel like my business partner and I
operate on an exciting, healthy, smart, fresh slate. There is nothing
that will get in our way, except, maybe – from what it sounds like -
the fact that we aren’t guys in our 20s and everyone thinks we should
be.

That hit me hard. I’ve been talking about age a lot in the past couple weeks and this woman’s reading sex into my posts. And why not? Every founder in our portfolio is a man. That was pretty much the case with the Flatiron portfolio too (although I think there may have been one or two women founders in that one).

Here’s my feeling on this one. Age may be a factor in the trajectory of an entrepreneur’s business. I think, after posting, thinking, and reading on this topic for the past week, that young entrepreneurs may have a higher likliehood of home runs and older entrepreneurs have a higher batting average. It makes sense when you think about it.

But sex has nothing to do with how good an entrepreneur is, what kind of entrepreneur they’ll be, and whether they’ll get funded. The sad fact is that less than 5% of all entrepreneurs who walk in our door are women. With the kind of numbers we operate on, that’s going to lead to very few getting funded. We’d have to do at least 20 deals, on average, to generate on funded woman entrepreneur.

I don’t know exactly why that is. But it was the same with my class at MIT. Women were the minority at MIT in 1979 when I showed up on campus. But they were far more than 5% and I’ve heard they are close to 50% of the class now.

So it can’t just be a technology thing. It certainly also has to do with the life decisions women are forced to make. Stop working and raise a family versus give it all to the career and find another way to raise a family, or possibly don’t raise a family at all. These are agonizing choices and I’ve watched the Gotham Gal go through them, a number of times. She’s going through this family and lifestyle versus career thing again right now. I think it’s just one of many burdens a woman must bear. It’s frankly a lot easier to be a man in the business world.

But that doesn’t mean that women can’t be great entrepreneurs. I can think of quite a few that have been. But there should be more. I’d like to fund a woman before we get to twenty companies and are done with this fund. But we are not going to compromise anything to achieve that. We are capitalists and we invest in the very best opportunities we can find. Let’s hope one of them has a woman behind it before too long.