Women leaders in IT/Startups

Vivek Wadhwa has started yet another interesting conversation on startups – this time on the dearth of female leaders in the IT space. I left a comment on Brad Feld’s blog in response to his response… and here is my response to Brad’s response and the original article. I guess it’s my response2.

The original point is summed up by Vivek as: women make great entrepreneurs but represent a tiny % of leaders at technology startup companies. (That’s not a direct quote, that is me summarizing in a 7th grade book report style.) As usual, Vivek has done a real study and has numbers to back up his conclusion.

Brad nicely hits the point: This is “about innovation, competitiveness, and entrepreneurship.” (That is a direct quote.)

This whole point is something that my wife and I talk about a lot. She is at a tech startup; as am I. (We have some fascinating dinner conversations around HTML and the SalesForce Force.com API.) My comment on Brad’s blog pretty much explains where we are coming out on this issue:

Brad, I think a large part of the problem is pretty easy to understand. My wife and I both work at different startups; last night we were both at work pretty late. She didn’t finish up until around 10:30; I got done an hour or so before her but kept working for a while. We don’t have kids, but this lifestyle is not going to be possible when we do. Our highest performing women tend to marry high performing men (in my case I got lucky with my wife…). Since the burden of taking care of kids tends to fall on the woman, and since our best and brightest women are marrying men who have similar hard working lifestyles, something has to give. And it is usually the women’s careers.

There has got to be a business model taking top tier women with kids and getting them back into the workforce part time. That may be my next startup, but I’d be happy if someone else beat me to it.

This is a real issue. A couple of points that I see as “proof” that our best and brightest women are leaving the workforce: 1) A very high percent of female MBAs drop out of the workforce and become full time moms, much more than other professional female grad schoolers and 2) At the venture firms where I’ve worked, not a single one of the male partners’ wives worked. This is dozens of women, many with advanced degrees and who had very solid careers prior to doing the whole mommy thing.

I know that a lot of these women love being moms, but would also like to participate in the workforce. They are people who added a ton to the places they worked, but who don’t have the 70+ hours a week to commit now. There has to be a way to get them to find fulfilment both as a mom and as a startup exec.

Author: Healy Jones

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