Nurturing a Baby AND a Startup Business

A recent New York Times article talks about women who are both mothers and founders of start-ups. The premise of the piece is that venture capital firms discriminate against women because start-ups require so much time and attention that a mother simply can’t do the job.

“If investors meet a male founder of a company, they don’t care whether he has two or three children because they assume that his wife will take care of them, Mr. Craig says. “But with a female founder,” he adds, “it’s a whole different story.”… Women make up 10 percent of the founders at high-growth tech companies, “and they raise 70 percent less money than men do because of their lack of access to capital,” says Lesa Mitchell of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she is vice president for initiatives on advancing innovation.

“All of the women I know who went to raise money did it when they didn’t have kids,” she says. “There is total discrimination in the start-up world against women who are pregnant.”

I don’t know much at all about Silicon Valley or VC firms and whether it’s actual discrimination or perceived discrimination.

All I see, from my perspective as a dating coach, is how anyone involved in a start-up (or related to someone involved) has to sacrifice personal time.

“Ms. Fleiss’s husband took care of Daniella for three days while she was in Los Angeles for work. They alternate doing the morning feeding. At night, he often puts the baby to sleep while his wife reads and replies to e-mail.” Or, from later in the article, “Outside help is essential. Ms. Roney says: “I barely have time to put on lip gloss. Luckily my assistant fills my work closet with makeup and dresses so I can attempt to look presentable for the potential meetings and TV segments I may have that day.”

This only goes to further my thoughts that

a) A highly driven, ambitious woman needs a man who can take on some traditionally feminine duties OR she needs a lot of paid help to mother her children.
b) Anyone dating a highly driven, ambitious person may come in second to that person’s career. Caveat emptor.

Read the article here and let me know if you’d like to be partnered up with someone insanely wealthy…but insanely busy.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Henriette

    I’d argue that even if a highly ambitious, driven woman doesn’t have children, she still probably needs a lot of paid help.

  2. 2
    susan

    And I’d add that it’s all a choice.  If you CHOOSE to put your career ”ahead” of your family ie that the job takes priority in terms of time and energy, then own that and don’t complain about it.
    And conversely, don’t give those who do the other a hard time either.

    Would I mind being with someone insanely busy? Yes.
    Do I want to be that insanely busy, pay-someone-to-watch-my-kids career woman? No.

    Can there be a balance. Yes, If you’re sensible.

  3. 3
    chris

    I am a consultant to start-ups, specializing in women and minority run businesses. It is difficult for these populations to find capital and financing. It is not because they can’t run a business as well as their white male counterparts, it’s because of societal barriers this article pointed out. Financial institutions, dominated by white males, think women and minorities are a higher risk, and I would have to agree that they could be. But it is not because they are less talented or likely to succeed. In the case of women, it is because of society’s views and values placed on them.
    They are expected to be mothers and wives first. If they want to be more, they need to figure out how to do it often with little help. They are also expected to have to choose between their passions, or do it all without complaint or expectation of help or sacrifice from their partners, or sacrifice themselves, their health and wellbeing.
    When a couple decides to get pregnant, it is still the woman who is expected to do most of the childcare. As stated in the article, if the man “helps” his wife by picking up HIS children a couple days a week, or helping with homework, or feeds them breakfast, he’s considered a hero. Until this expectation by society, women and men alike, is changed, it will be a struggle for women to be able to pursue their passion in the form of a start-up business, or any other career for that matter. It’s not about woman trying to find men that will help out with “feminine duties” (ugh that annoyed me!). It’s about men changing THEIR attitudes toward women (because as in the case of finances, banks, business executives, politics, wealth, etc men still hold the power over women).
    It’s about men who want children to realize that their responsibility is 50/50. If a woman wants to work outside the home, he better be doing half of all childcare responsibilities…picking up the kids half of the days, fixing lunches, breakfast, dinner half the time, cleaning the house half the time, etc. And we woman need to stop giving them excuses that their job is “more important” or “brings in more money” and educate our sons to know how to carry their part of the burden in this society. 
    (I am not referring to all men, so if you are or know a man that carries his full weight in “feminine duties”, no need to get your panties in a wad)

  4. 4
    Ruby

    EMK worte, “All I see, from my perspective as a dating coach, is how anyone involved in a start-up (or related to someone involved) has to sacrifice personal time.”
     
    I’d have to say that I’m in complete agreement with Chris #3.
     
    These women are already married, so apparently, their husbands are okay with the arrangement, and being very busy or ambitious didn’t have a negative affect on their marital prospects. I think that’s because they found partners who were similarly driven. Most of these “highly driven, ambitious” women did have help from their similarly “highly driven, ambitious” husbands, which is as it should be.
     
    I did not get the sense that the husbands of these women were coming in “second” to their careers, but rather that women who start businesses do need a partner who is also fully committed to childcare, rather than one who says, “that’s a woman’s job, I don’t have time, and my career is more important than hers.”

  5. 5
    Rachael

    For me personally being insanely wealthy isn’t worth the time, energy, and stress. I would not want to be with someone who had no quality time to spend. My goal in life is to be happy, comfortable and spend a greater portion of my money on experiences rather than material things. 

    I am finding I have to be very strategic in planning my professional life so I can start a family some day. I’ve set myself up in a decent paying career with the option of casual/on call work, and have a 5 year plan for starting a photography business. Both jobs will keep me financially comfortable without being insanely busy. I’m also lucky to live in a place where we are afforded an entire year of 65% paid maternity or paternity leave no matter what a person does for a living.   

    I’m trying hard, but I find little sympathy for these women. I would love to have a baby right now. I would start trying tomorrow. However, if I did that, I would expect that some of my dreams, plans, and goals would either be put on the back burner, or go out the window entirely. My children will be my priority, and I will not have them until I am in a place in my life where that is possible. I may never have them…I may have one by surprise. I am prepared to take on whatever comes with both situations and not complain about it.

  6. 6
    Mia

    This highlights the impossible position women are put into over and over. Getting told by nitwit dating advisors ( not Evan) that they have to fulfill a “feminine” role in which their husbands career must always take precedent and their success will threaten the guy. But many women have the same desire and right to achieve wonderful and meaningful things in life beyond kids. For a man , a wife and kids are an asset– but they’re a burden for women. I’m not sure kids are worth the trade off. Anyone can pump out a kid, but how many people can do something unique and meaningful like form a company, etc? I’m sick of women being made to feel that their primary value is being baby receptacles, penis receptacles, beautiful objects … It seems like we just can’t win sometimes. I know it’s not actually that grim, but articles like this get me worked up.

  7. 7
    Daphne

    @Mia, I am quite knowledgeable about Silicon Valley because my ex is a law firm partner there. The women in the article are tough-skinned or they’d have quit the business long ago. Not to worry.
    However, the hand-wringing over not having enough time w kids is just that. Evan has written about this plenty of times: you do what you *really* want to do. If you sincerely want to lose weight/ get an MD/ raise your kids w lots of attention/ be a Silicon Valley CEO- then you do it ! The way you live explains your priorities. If the kids appear to take a back seat, it’s because they do in your personal list.
    The Valley and San Fran are both jammed w women who have opted out of the rat race so they can actually care for their kids. What is sad is that there are not enough mommy track jobs (35 hours a week, flexible and stable at the expense of upward mobility). Many men would like those as well.

  8. 8
    Michelle

    “Anyone can pump out a kid, but how many people can do something unique and meaningful like form a company, etc?”

    Wow, this statement makes me nauseous.  It’s not unique and meaningful to bring a human beings into this world and SACRIFICE to bring them up to be functioning adults?  Those adults that will be taking care of you when you’re old and gray.  Another example of our society today that devalues human life, very sad.

    We cannot be everything to everyone all the time.  Men are not women and women are not men…it’s frustrating to hear people think that’s the way things SHOULD work, men and women SHOULD feel and be exactly the same, everything SHOULD be perfectly equal, that’s naive.  We’re put on this Earth for unique and special basic roles to carry on the species, we are built differently from physicality to hormones to brain makeup for very important reasons.  Why people don’t embrace and celebrate that is beyond me.

    Women can absolutely do what they want to do in today’s society, we’re extremely lucky to be able to do that.  Something will give though…time with a child that can never be recovered, inevitable damage to the marriage as the man is basically married to another man with a vagina, stress and health issues, depression and disallusionment.  Everyone is on their own path, and we often need to learn the hard way.

  9. 9
    nathan

    Michelle #8 There’s a big difference between having a child and raising a child well. Plenty of people end up having children, and raising them poorly. I’m guessing that’s what Mia was talking about. 
     
    “inevitable damage to the marriage as the man is basically married to another man with a vagina,” You don’t seem to have any respect for women who choose to live their lives differently from the old norms. Nor the idea that men have a diverse range of views about what constitutes a good partnership. While you say “everyone is on their own path” and that women are “extremely lucky,” it’s clear that you don’t really support those statements.
     
    I agree with you that our society doesn’t value human life well enough. But it’s not because of shifting, more flexible gender roles. Moving beyond the idea that it’s the duty of men to be sole financial providers and women to raise children actually supports those children you’re so concerned about. If you want to talk about destructive values, let’s talk about the excessive material greed so many Americans have. Or the focus on entertainment and pleasure above service and helping others. Something will – and already is – giving because of issues like this.
     
     

  10. 11
    Lesa Mitchell

    Chris I love you and will forever be in your debt for writing this.  As stated in the article, if the man “helps” his wife by picking up HIS children a couple days a week, or helping with homework, or feeds them breakfast, he’s considered a hero. Until this expectation by society, women and men alike, is changed, it will be a struggle for women to be able to pursue their passion in the form of a start-up business, or any other career for that matter. It’s not about woman trying to find men that will help out with “feminine duties” (ugh that annoyed me!). It’s about men changing THEIR attitudes toward women (because as in the case of finances, banks, business executives, politics, wealth, etc men still hold the power over women).

  11. 12
    Goldie

    To me, what most of these women do is not about generating “insane wealth”. Rather, it is about utilizing their talents and making a difference.
     
    I  completely agree with Chris, Ruby, and Mia on this subject.
     
    @Michelle #8: “it’s frustrating to hear people think that’s the way things SHOULD work, men and women SHOULD feel and be exactly the same, everything SHOULD be perfectly equal, that’s naive.  We’re put on this Earth for unique and special basic roles to carry on the species, we are built differently from physicality to hormones to brain makeup for very important reasons. ”
     
    I agree that it is naive to expect that everybody should be exactly the same. However, I do find it ironic that, in the same paragraph, you seem to insist that all women SHOULD “feel and be exactly the same” — in a traditional role, staying home, having babies. If that’s the life you want for yourself, great! But why do you need to force the exact same role on every woman on Earth? Granted, there are billions of women who could never run their own company, because their talents lie elsewhere. Likewise, there are billions of men who also do not have the skills to run a company. And then there are some people, both women and men, who are natural leaders and business people, and are good at starting and running their own companies. So can we let them do what they’re good at, regardless of what’s between their legs, because the latter is frankly none of our business?!
     
    Ugh. Sorry, this post got me worked up too. Must be my ladybrain, um, I mean my brain makeup.
     

  12. 13
    Fusee

    It truly is an humanity achievement that a woman’s life purpose is no longer defined by her genitals. Being a woman with pretty much no desire for children, I’m glad I was a born in this era and I’m grateful for the freedom of choice.
    However at this time, there are still a couple of hard facts to take into consideration despite a tendency to ignore them:
    1. There are only 24 hours in a day.
    2. Women – not men – grow new lives and give birth.
    3. Each person has a unique physical and emotional make-up that greatly differs from the next person.
    Some people – women included – have exceptional physical and emotional stamina. I know such a woman and she truly is brilliant. She needs little sleep, has a strong body, and the ambition to “do it all”. If someone can do it all, she would be a good candidate, and so far, she’s been pretty successful in giving birth to her third child by being a junior faculty in a prestigious university. And she is pretty, fun to be around, and generous to her friends.
    But! She gets a lot of help from her mother, and her marriage/husband being at the bottom of her priority list, I’m predicting that this is the fragile part of her “doing it all” path although everything still works fine at this point.
    There really is no way – no matter how little sleep you need and how strong you are – that you can be a really good wife + a really good mother + a really good career woman all at the same time. If you have the stamina, the ambition, the random luck, and either the help or the financial means to buy the help, with careful planning you can do it all in stages. Marriage and kids early on and then growing your career when the kids are already self-sufficient. Or growing a career, and entering a marriage and raising children when the career is on track. It’s impossible to do it all and really well and all at the same time. There really are only 24 hours in a day, and majors relationships (a marriage and parenthood) have to be nurtured NOW and IN PERSON. You can’t buy help for those, unless you do not care about being your husband’s wife and your children’s mother. And sadly lot of people see these relationships as “to-do list” items and not as the priorities that they must be in a happy and harmonious life.
    We now see amazingly successful women, but we also see a 50% divorce rate and kids being raised in front of the television or by expensive nannies. I’m certainly not into sending women back to their homes, but as women we need to prioritize and realize that we are still the primary emotional care-takers of our husbands and the primary educators of our children. Until days become longer, men bear children, and sleep is no longer needed, we’ll have to make choices.
    At this point it’s unlikely I’d become a mother. I’m not really interested in taking up this huge role. But if I do I will focus on being an excellent wife and mother. Relationships are priority. For me that will mean stepping out of the workforce at least until the kids will be grown up. It’s about understanding that we can’t be everything to everyone at all times and choosing who deserve our energy in priority.

  13. 15
    Ruby

    Miimi #14
     
    Anne-Marie Slaughter’s job was a different animal, though. She was not an entrepreneur with the flexibility to set her own schedule, and her home and family were almost 4 hours away, not to mention that her boss was the POTUS. Plus, she still had a tenured academic position to fall back on.


     

  14. 16
    Ana

    Mimi@14: I read this article a few days ago. My problem with it is that she is only talking about rich married women with demanding high-profile jobs (the NYT wrote about it in an article called “Elite Women Put a New Spin on Work-Life Debate”). Any parent, male or female, who is in an “elite” job is not going to be much of a hands-on parent–that has nothing to do with gender.

    So the article doesn’t address the reality for most of us, who are not in elite jobs and rich. She doesn’t speak at all about the challenges facing single parents, and conversely, she is very dismissive of women in elite jobs who are single and childfree. Which seems to be a good lifestyle to choose if you find that you are one of the few people who have the talent and opportunity to get one of those jobs.

    Sure, if you’re a guy you can easily find a woman who aspires to be a housewife. And now we’re seeing the emergence of the househusband, so things are looking better for ambitious women who want to find compatible partners. But in the article she’s talking about sharing responsibilities equally, which doesn’t work if you can’t hold up your 50% at home. If she had a househusband she might not have written that article.   

    That said, who really believes that they can “have it all”? What does that even mean? Life is hard.

  15. 17
    Mimi

    Evan,

    Please let your friend Lori Gottlieb know that there is no Nobel prize in mathematics: Alfred Nobel’s wife ran off with a famous mathematician.

    Other than that, her response to the Atlantic article is spot on. 

  16. 18
    Fusee

    @Evan #17:
     
    Wow, wow, and wow! I just had a look and have not read the whole article yet, but from the first page I realize that her opinion is pretty much what I was trying to cumbersomely convey @13! Looks like I’m going to nod enthusiastically at my computer screen when I’ll be reading her whole paper : )
     
    Some people totally get it!!

  17. 19
    David T

    @Fusee 13 
    You wrote a lot, so this may have been careless wording. I disagree with you if you meant this as written
    as women we need to . . . realize that we are still the primary emotional care-takers of our husbands . . . 
    That sounds more like parenting than partnering and not part of a healthy marriage. Granted there are always crises where it might get like this temporarily, but this can’t be the norm. A healthy adult is their own emotional care-taker. A healthy relationship is where two equal partners provide one another support and comfort when asked for, but do not try to manage each others emotional well-being.

  18. 20
    sarahrahrah!

    @ Michelle – #8
     
    ““inevitable damage to the marriage as the man is basically married to another man with a vagina,”
     
    You know I couldn’t let that pass, Michelle.  🙂
     
    Let’s we forget, mothers have *always* been full-time working mothers outside of their role as caretakers for their children.  Women’s labor has always been critical to the survival of the family unit, tribe and greater clan group.  Before the industrial revolution, women in hunter-gatherer societies focused on the “gathering,” which was a round-the-clock process.  Likewise, women in agrarian cultures worked tirelessly in order to help to ensure that the family unit had enough to eat and/or trade.
     
      It was only in the past century when men “went off to work” outside of the home that women were supposed to only sit around and play with kids without a vocation of their own.  Not that playing with children isn’t a lot of work, but to say that women who work with something other than children are “another man with a vagina” is not only ignorant, but an insult to our hardworking female ancestors — without whom we wouldn’t be here today.
     
    @ Evan
     
    Thank you for posting this and advocating for smart women.

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