Change The Ratio Discussion

The Change The Ratio group met last night at Hunch's offices down the street. I sat with #changetheratio founder Rachel Sklar and talked about the "women in tech" discussion.

Here's a link to the entire video. It's long but for those who have an interest in this topic, well worth watching. For those who just want to get a taste of the conversation, here is a ten minute section that was in the middle of the discussion.  

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Steve Poland

    That same woman got hammered by other women on the TC Disrupt panel last month.

    1. rachelsklar

      Eh, I thought she held her own. :)Both conversations move the ball forward. Awesome to have Fred’s wisdom and perspective last night though, no question. Really enlightening and, I think, proactive conversation. The crowd seemed very pumped.

      1. Tereza

        Thanks for doing it, Rachel!

      2. Donna Brewington White

        That was great, Rachel. Only half way through the video so far, but loving it. Thanks for what you do!

  2. BI War Room

    Hi Fred,I enjoyed hearing your thoughts last night. I meant to introduce myself, but you were surrounded. I’ve been republishing your posts on Business Insider’s War Room and SAI.I thought you made a lot of good points. The only thing I didn’t understand – you say industries women are interested in, like fashion, men don’t always know enough about to invest in. Don’t you think you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities? Shouldn’t VCs hire more experienced women to broaden out their firms and speak for what women will want?I’ve gone to one too many startup competitions where someone pitches a women-centered idea to a panel of male VCs. All the women in the audeince think, “I’d never use this.” And all of the guys think, “This sounds like something my wife would use, it’s brilliant!”Anyhow, here’s the article I wrote from your talk last night. Thanks for the interesting discussion. http://www.businessinsider….

    1. fredwilson

      i think you are rightthe more women VCs there are, the less these issues will matter

      1. Nithya

        Fred, I’m a woman in the tech industry, a lawyer representing emerging and later stage tech companies. I’m interested in possibly making a leap to the VC side. Would love to hear any advice you might have about how to do that. Can I shoot you an email (which will perhaps make it through your priority inbox) to discuss?

        1. paramendra

          I think you will find a ton in the blogosphere. Search around online.

    2. fredwilson

      i went and read your posti particularly liked your 9 reasons

      1. BI War Room

        Thanks Fred, I hope I did your conversation with Rachel justice, it was great food for thought.

    3. Tereza

      Hi Alyson,Thanks for the article and the link. There are a few additional parameters which weren’t talked about but loom large in affecting women’s perception of high-growth entrepreneurship as a career path.1. Talking versus doing. I never wrote publicly about entrepreneurship, although I’ve worked in and around it for years, until I experienced some unexpected resistance while I’ve been starting my own company. When I wrote XX Combinator, I was not seeking to start a ruckus. But I’d experienced some that were real and very logistical/seemingly solvable. I was very surprised to find less acceptance in the ‘progressive’ startup world than I had for years in seemingly conservative companies. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have resonated like it did if I weren’t ‘doing it’2. There are other -isms at play in startup tech, that compound the situation for some pretty large groups of women, but affect men too. They are real but cloud the gender conversation, because they’re not universal across all women entrepreneurs. Agism is one; in the Y Combinator world, 30 is considered old. And if a 40- or 50- year-old woman comes to pitch, her typical male peer will already have several startups under his belt and is “serial”, whereas she’s both unproven and possibly viewed as not having the energy of a 25-year-old.3. Another -ism is non-parent/parent divide. It is not uncommon for tech entrepreneurs and Investors to view the word “parenthood” as a euphemism for “retirement”. It’s just messy and complicated and they’d rather not go there. On the other hand, they become a parent and their world view of the business opportunity changes overnight. I’ve seen guys whose wife has a baby and they start seeing the cash flows and the credit card bills and pretty much overnight they have respect for some of the more typical “Women’s” markets, because now they’re living it, and spending lots on it. They learn by experience that it’s an economic force the strength of Hurricane Katrina and some people are gonna get rich doing it. This happens to women too, by the way. I’ll be the first to admit that before I had kids, I totally didn’t respect the “mom” and family market. Guilty. 4. Engineers vs. Non-engineers. There are women who vehemently oppose the women-in-tech debate. Most often, I find they are engineers with deep technical expertise who’ve been going toe-to-toe with male hackers and they’ve won. To them, efforts to “even the playing field” cheapen what they’ve worked so hard to accomplish. And the fact is, we absolutely need more of them. I am not one of them. In this debate, we have to be clear when we’re talking about women with deep technical skill, and “women in tech” who see a market opportunity that can be attacked by smart application of technology. It’s dangerous to clump us together because our experiences and needs are extremely different and even possibly conflicting.5. Childcare is the elephant in the room. Fred said this to me yesterday in the post-talk chatter, and I think it’s true. One, it’s very expensive (I spend $2 in childcare for each $1 in my startup). Also women need help to ‘learn’ how to set up a childcare situation that works well for them. This is one area where Women’s mentorship can make a big difference. In the corporate world, I benefitted from having an incredible mentor who guided me in everything from hiring a nanny, breastfeeding, selecting schools. We need more of this in the startup world. I am very happy to contribute what i know in this department and will write a blog post (or a few) about it. Tips and tricks are key.6. Women helping women. You say in your article that women aren’t wired to help each other the way men are. I think it’s more nuanced than that. I think women help women they know. They have less time and inclination for strangers. At the same time, especially if they are working mothers, they have very little spare time to give. (I barely have time to put on the brakes when I drop my younger daughter off at preschool). But we need to do it, it is critical. Why don’t we create some kind of game, a reputational one, that affirms and confers status and kudos to women that do help other women? Sort of a reputation index. That could be fun…and very “today”. 7. It’s so important to remember that this is not an anti-male discussion at all. At least it’s not for me. Lots of men were there last night. Lots of men have been amazing contributors to advancing this opportunity. I would not be able to do any of what I do without the huge daily support and encouragement from my husband. I truly believe this is not about taking away from the guys, but about making the pie bigger for all.ADDENDUM: I just reblogged this comment here:

      1. paramendra

        Was good to see you yesterday.

      2. ShanaC

        5 is for guys as well. I believe in the XX combinator post someone admitted to getting a divorce. How to get everyone on board at parity to raise kids is a societal problem across the board.6 is a truism, but I don’t think a game will help. I think because of the same effect, we’re more protective of our networks that we have.

        1. Tereza

          50% of American marriages end in divorce. Certainly, some are caused by startups. But they are not limited to startups.I do think women need to have the ethos of helping other women, simply because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve been helped by women ahead of me, and we must pay it forward.Whenever I help other people out, I always say, I’ll help you on the condition that you help the next person who comes to you. You must take the call.

          1. ShanaC

            I believe as much as you in paying it forward. I just think some of the shyness comes from how to expose how without feeling vulnerable about how my network works (it may be a young person thing too)It’s lower by far for college educated people: Newly available Census Bureau data show, for example, that in 2008, 2.9% of all married adults ages 35-39 who lacked a college diploma saw their first marriage end in divorce in the prior year, compared with just 1.6% of a comparably aged group that had a college education. There were similar gaps in divorce rates in 2008 among adults in other age groups. (…hence the worry about divorce. if there is a trend for divorces within startups over other professions, why would women want to enter it when work life balance after the two year mark is that important

          2. PhilipSugar

            Not to nitpick but the 50% is untrue. Somebody here said 76.9% of stats are untrue :-)I was sitting rather bored in Pre-Cana and this one came up.I thought man, that’s a tough one to track….and you know it doesn’t really seem right to me. So I questioned. Well they had no backup…..But they did come back the next week super proud! Here is a link from the government:!! They said….6.8 marriages per thousand per year 3.4 divorces per thousand per year….50% of all marriages end in divorce!Whoa!! My wife’s parents were each divorced 5 times for a total of 10….they make up for my mothers entire family of 11 that never had a divorce!

          3. Tereza

            Pre Cana — hey, that’s where, when we did it, they had a couple teaching us about birth control via “natural family planning” — and the woman…was pregnant…with their fourth!I haven’t looked at the source data, but I just on Sunday I had coffee with *the* leading divorce lifestage/family planning expert. She was saying that the most recent numbers — and I’m not sure where she gets them — have dropped slightly because of the economy. Basically there are plenty of people who can’t afford to get a divorce.I will ask her where she gets her numbers….but not in a way that is timely to this discussion.What they were also telling me is the average age of divorce is 32. The net result is a huge number of weddings are actually second and third weddings (as evidenced by your wife’s family). We call them “encore weddings” and actually this is an underserved market which I have my eye on.

          4. PhilipSugar

            Remember mean versus median….also just because divorce rates are down this year doesn’t mean squat about your chance of getting divorced during the “life” of your marriage.

          5. Donna Brewington White

            Do you think it’s in our nature to try to make the circle wider? After we get past cliquish adolescence that is.

          6. Tereza

            Hard to say! And I hate to generalize since personality plays a big part.But I do think there are life stages when you have less bandwidth to expand your circle of acquaintances, let’s say, professionally, because you have a lot going on in other pockets of your life such as a demanding family life.It’s also so great when you have professional friends who are personal friends and vice-versa. And then your spouses, kids become friends too. That is nirvana because no sitter required and weekend socializing is turnkey.In fact a kooky business idea I’ve had is a dating-type site for families — e.g. Which families should you be hanging out with because your kids are same ages and genders and you all have similar interests.

      3. RichardF

        Childcare for anyone who is bootstrapping is a real issue, I’d say the biggest I’ve come across. Not just the monetary side either, we just had to change our child minder after 3 years and it is traumatic.

        1. Tereza

          Childcare is a HUGE issue. And clearly, for the dads as well as for the moms.BTW I call nanny-poaching the Third Rail of working parenthood.Once someone tried to poach my nanny and it released my inner Kraken.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            But then influenced by my profession, I think whenever someone is offered a more rewarding and more fulfilling opportunity, so be it! It fits into the capitalistic way! ;-)Except the only nanny I’ve ever had stolen was by some young punk who asked her to marry him. Now they’re among our closest friends and we’ve come full circle — my daughter babysits for her previous nanny. Don’t you love that?

          2. Tereza

            Totally agree Donna. And part of my responsibility as our nanny’s employer is to, if we want to retain her, have a package that makes her want to. Money is part of it but it’s not all about money. I will blog about it.

          3. fredwilson

            i still remember when one of the gotham gal’s “friends” tried to poach our nannythat was the end of the so called friendshipand the poaching was not successful either

      4. atryon

        Thanks for your thoughts and great to see you last night. I’d like to echo you’re last two points. I couldn’t disagree more with the idea that women are not ‘hard-wired’ to help one another. I think you hit it on the head Tereza above in saying it is more about time and access to the women who need help. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from women entrepreneurs I have reached out to, including some very busy ones who comment here. I’d also like to echo the point that this is not a male vs. female discussion, but a male+female one. I am always hesitant to join discussions on ‘glass ceilings’ or ‘women in XYZ field’ because they tend to miss the often highly nuanced reasons an imbalance may exist. The startup space will not be better if we add women at the expense of men, but it will be better with the addition of more women – as founders, engineers, and VCs. A more well rounded space in terms of gender will eventually lead to more successful jobs with products that serve their target market well – and more jobs to go with them.

      5. Donna Brewington White

        Saw this on your blog (thanks to the recommendation on Rachel Sklar’s blog) — enjoyed, appreciated. Can always count on you bring an especially astute viewpoint pulling the salient points from out of the woodwork.Point 1: “I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have resonated like it did if I weren’t ‘doing it” — I do think that your “doing it” definitely lends both credibility and strength — but your other experiences and the contrasts and comparisons you are able to make help to further lend credibility as well as drive the points home at times — not to mention giving you a broader framework and perhaps even stronger conviction.Point 2: I’m in the age group of women that you describe and have been thinking about “energy level” because it is a key factor. But, I am absolutely certain that I am more productive now with four kids and approaching mid-life (or squarely in it by many standards) than when I was 25 and could devote every waking hour to my work if I wanted to (and a lot of time I did). However, not only can I accomplish much more than when I was 25 due to greater efficiency and wisdom, I can also say that I have even more focus and drive…not to mention confidence. I would much rather have the me I am now in a startup than the me I was then — so much more to offer! I imagine this is true for a lot of people — not just me, or even just women.Point 5: Childcare. Nuff said. But on the other hand motherhood is the creator of invention.Point 6: Love the “game mechanics” you introduced. Why not? And yes I know Mark Suster says this term needs to die, but its only about the second time I’ve been able to use it.BTW, I’ve never been a “feminist” per se, or jumped onto any of the “women’s issues” bandwagons, but for some reason this “movement” strikes a deep chord and I have become more aware of wanting to be a support and encouragement for other women, both those who are younger and those who are on-ramping.But, I feel a similar passion for entrepreneurship in general — I am convinced that it is a huge part of our economic future — or the hope for that future. I am also convinced that we will never have the most robust startup ecosystem possible until women are playing a larger role in it and operating from their uniqueness as women.Point 7: Absolutely cannot be, must not be, IS NOT “anti-male”! To make it so or perceive it to be so is immature and small. It’s not about cutting a pie into smaller slivers. It’s about making more pie! I adamantly believe this!!! Isn’t that so girl of me? . Okay, that’s it for now.

      6. giffc

        Re: 6, while I liked Shana’s note about role models, I would rather see “entrepreneuers helping entrepreneurs” than a gender focus. I have some wonderful female advisors who I respect greatly, and I try to help younger female entrepreneurs whenever I can. And same with men. I think “entrepreneur” is the important community regardless of age, gender, race, etc. But I know you are not trying to be anti-anything other than bias.I am now talking to investors about a very female-oriented idea (and some of you know my co-founder and cto is a woman) and some men get it while others scratch their head and I find myself wishing for a woman in the room, but frankly that mix of excitment and puzzlement happens with any startup and any innovative idea.Here is what excites me: while I know it will probably take 10 years for women to permeate VC more widely, I keep on meeting week after week really interesting female entrepreneurs in New York.

  3. Mavreen

    Check out Female Entrepreneur Isabelle Mercier and her new online show helping other entrepreneurs! She is a great example of Women helping Women! (@leapzone)

  4. Andrew Greene

    Role models are key. One simple example is how amateur cycling exploded in popularity in the US because of Lance Armstrong.This is a probably a Quora question, but who are some female startup rockstars?

    1. Tereza

      Caterina FakeDina Kaplan…EDIT:Here is the list you’d want to see. Sara Holoubek, CEO of Luminary Labs, put it together.'s an excellent place to start if looking for speakers, mentors, you name it.

      1. David Haber

        I feel like reaching out to female entrepreneurs generally, would be a great place to start. If we accept that there may not be a very large community of successful female tech entrepreneurs (for whatever reason) (or those willing to take up this cause) – there must be female entrepreneurs in other industries who could be supportive…Inviting those women into the tech community and encouraging them to bring along their networks and resources could help foster a stronger support base for female tech entrepreneurs – both in the traditional tech world but more importantly for those looking to start businesses not normally considered by tech VCs.I think this will be a natural evolution anyway as technology continues to disrupt the way other industries do business. Just like the internet has largely transformed the media industry and (as Fred mentioned) many media folks have gone into VC, it has become easier to get media/tech companies funded… I suspect that as technology disrupts fashion … or consumer products.. or health care, etc… a VC’s definition of a traditional ‘tech investment’ too will change – making a female’s perspective invaluable and the companies they create more promising.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          That’s an excellent idea, David — the one about inviting women entrepreneurs from other industries to speak into the tech community.I’m thinking that as time goes by we will see more merging of tech with other industries anyway — for instance, technology-enabled consumer products and services — such as what happened in the merging of toys and technology to create interactive/educational toys and then merging technology with retail to create online retail, etc.It will be interesting to see what happens as industries with more female presence become more technology based.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Wow, great list. Nice to see some from this community on this list — duh, of course.

    2. Tereza

      I met with some terrific ones on the West Coast a couple weeks ago. I’d love to see some East/West connection there. It was really worthwhile.

  5. ShanaC

    I was also there last night. It sounds odd to say this, I didn’t realize until then that having a family full of people (including women) who start businesses makes starting businesses normal. It’s something that I’ll end up doing because that’s what people in my family do. So rodelmodeling any sort of business +family early on is kind of critical. (father’s side, of the two people I’m named after, one owned her own business, we’re talking that level of normal)That, and I do think being more pushy and less gendery towards women and math/stem helps somewhat. I don’t know lots of women computer programmers. And this is coming from someone whose mother has been programming longer than you’ve been a VC. So it would make sense that I would know women programmers- and yet I don’t. I don’t have lots of people to fall back on for ideas of how math should work, or product.Afterwards, I was talking to a number of people about how I wish I knew that my life was pretty normal/abnormal growing up. Even to this day, when I get alumni emails from my high school, very few females are featured for something beyond teaching (though one is a cookbook author). Just having everyday sort of presences would help.

    1. fredwilson

      Your mom is a great role model

      1. ShanaC

        You know, we disagree on many things (I think its normal to a point)- but I do look up to her for continuing on the programming. I don’t even think she knows that…

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I’ve seen time and time again what a ton of difference role models and examples make, Shana.So, you’ve got a running start. No wonder you’re so dang smart. ;-)I am trying to talk to my kids constantly about business so that they grow up with it being familiar to them. The other day it was so fun to say to one of them, “You know, getting a job when you grow up is only one option, you could actually start your own company.” I want this idea to seem natural to them. Of course, it’s their choice. I’m going to keep eye on you Shana.

      1. ShanaC

        Truthfully, it makes me feel oddball most of the time. I don’t always agree with a lot of things that have happened- it means also that i’m not impartial.Funny fact: I thought I would be a tech luddite growing up in terms of work

  6. CJ

    I enjoyed your thoughts Fred, I do wish the interviewer has been a little bit more prepared. She seemed to wing it which made the questions a bit confusing to me but you did a great job of expressing your viewpoint. Always enlightening. Loved the Facebook part about your Mom BTW. LOL

  7. Diego Saez-Gil

    Fred, Thanks for sharing your thoughts last night. I’m sure that with passionate female entrepreneurs like the ones I saw there last night, and open-minded investors like you, the ratio will definitely change in the near future.I also hope that the ratio Argentines in tech-startups will grow! =)Cheers,Diego

  8. Donna Brewington White

    Once again, thank you, Fred, for being a champion. This is history in the making.

  9. Cindy Gallop

    I signed up for this event the minute it was announced and am totally gutted I ended up having to miss it – ironically, because I am exploring raising funding for my startup, and with the difficulties I am likely to face in that context precisely the topic under discussion, had to prioritize a dinner related to helping me do that. Fred, delighted you engaged in this, and delighted to see it stimulating this dialogue.The commenters here might be interested in this post that went up yesterday on, interviewing me on how I designed IfWeRanTheWorld as a business operation (as opposed to the web platform itself), as an example of how a tech startup looks when designed from the ground up by a woman:http://authenticorganizatio

  10. Aaron J. Ruckman

    See above.

  11. Aaron J. Ruckman

    I enjoy the hell out of this blog, but I thought that interview was poorly done (style and substance). Maybe it’s because I’m a conservative white male founder. I’m sure there’s a way to approach this issue without turning off people like me, but this wasn’t it.

    1. susequinn

      I agree with you. The way she delivered the questions was quite tedious. And I’m a liberal white female founder.

  12. Private

    Trying to push more women into tech is as ridiculous as trying to push more men into nursing. There is no reason that representation is equal everywhere. What counts is that people are passionate in the careers they choose. Brainwashing women to think they are somehow lesser if they don’t go into tech is just silly. Girls should just start companies in whatever industry they love.

  13. fredwilson

    thanks for those links pemo