Why Aren’t There More Female Entrepreneurs?

Posted on Oct 3, 2011 | 253 comments


I’m often asked the question about why there aren’t more women who are entrepreneurs. On my blog I’ve been hesitant to take the topic head on. Somehow it seems kind of strange for a man to answer this question that obviously comes from a man’s point of view.

But last week I noticed a blog post by a woman, Tara Tiger Brown, that asked the question, “Why Aren’t More Women Commenting on VC Blog Posts?” [it’s short, you should read it] . In it she observes that only 3% of the comments on this blog are from women. I would love to see Tara follow up with blog posts on: why she believes this is the case & what we can do about it.

The truth is I have been thinking a lot about the topic, I just haven’t been writing about it. And when asked about the topic, I definitely don’t shy away from the topic as you can see in this 8-minute YouTube interview that Pemo Theodore asked me to do on the subject of Women in Entrepreneurship.

She also does a WONDERFUL 9-minute collage of the best-and-brightest in our industry talking about the topic. Please watch this. She has a quote from literally every major VC from whom you’d want to hear. Every single one. And many of the best women founders.

My inspiration to become an entrepreneur came from my mom, not my dad. She was the dominant figure in my family and was both an entrepreneur and a community leader. She opened a bakery and a restaurant. She was president of the UJA (United Jewish Appeal). She bought our first computer – an IBM XT with a 10MB  hard drive – in order to do her books electronically. It’s how I learned to build spreadsheets. She encouraged me to get a job when I was 14. She encouraged me to take acting classes as a child, which gave me confidence as a public speaker.

I love my dad equally, of course. But he was a doctor and a long-distance runner and cared little about business.

So the role is a strong woman leader has always been a comfortable idea for me.

Even more interesting is that at GRP Partners (the VC firm where I’m a partner) our two most successful returns from our previous fund [which is ranked as the top performing fund in the country for its 2000 vintage according to Prequin] were both run by women!

But then the truth sets in. My guess is that probably only 2-3 out of every hundred pitches I receive are from women. This certainly isn’t anything conscious on my side. It’s just the facts.

I’ve tried to ask some strong women whose opinions I greatly respect what can be done about it as a way to get to answers without my having to weigh in directly. That’s the basis of this awesome discussion with Joanne Wilson, aka “the Gotham Gal.” But given her background as a successful salesperson and entrepreneur I didn’t want to make the whole discussion about women.

The thought that I keep returning to in my head is that the future is likely to be much better for female entrepreneurs than that past has been. At least that’s my hope. We need to start encouraging it in our youth. In colleges. In recent grads.

The genesis of my thinking came from my discussion with Joanne. She noted that in our generation everybody wanted to be a lawyer. Perhaps it’s because everybody used to watch LA Law. But this coming generation is much more likely to be inspired by The Social Network and want to be entrepreneurs.

The environmental factors are likely to have an even bigger positive impact than just the inspiring movie.

In my post on what has changed the venture capital industry more than any other factor I talked about Amazon.com’s role. AWS helped lower the cost of starting a company by 90%.

When I started my first company at 31 year’s old I had to raise at least $5 million. The infrastructure alone cost $2.5 million to launch a SaaS software company and we took $2.5 million in costs over 18 months to launch our products. On AWS and with open source you can achieve amazing results for $500k. Heck, you can launch your company if you’re a developer for $50,000.

And I believe these price points are pushing entrepreneurs to start at a much younger age. I plan to write about this phenomenon soon. But think about it – if you only need to risk $250,000 as an investor (or $50,000 across 5 people) to get an entrepreneur started then why wouldn’t you back younger teams [in addition to more experienced ones.]

So I’m increasingly seeing entrepreneurs getting funded at 22. At 20. Even at 18. The latest entrepreneur who has been pitching me, Shahed Khan, is only 16! And truthfully he’s pretty impressive.

Ane more groups are focused on furthering this cause. You have “Teens in Tech” founded by Daniel Brusilovky. You have the super impressive Cory Levy who founded the NextGen Conferences (as well as One, Inc.)

Back to women.

If women can get funded to run startups at 22-25 then they can get well into their experiences as entrepreneurs before having to navigate the tricky years of balancing being a mommy with running a company. If your first chance at being a startup founder coincides with your first child it’s really difficult for either gender. But for women it’s probably even more challenging.

I speak a lot on college campuses. My crusade has been to correct my biggest mistake as an entrepreneur: That I didn’t start younger. I talk about the minuscule costs of starting a company these days. I talk about the benefits of real world experiences over paying money to get advanced degrees but I still believe fervently in undergraduate educate for most (but not all).

And I talk about women. And why starting young isn’t as scary as it once was.

Peter Thiel started the “20 Under 20″ program to encourage young, talented people to give entrepreneurship a shot. Perhaps somebody will champion a similar initiative to get more young women funded straight out of college to start to reverse the trend and help lead our next generation of innovation.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    So agree. Stick out, period.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Liz, I am curious as to how you have come to the perception that failure and success are viewed through different gender goggles…failing – my conceptualization – is only a negative if it is a result of factors well within one’s control that were neglected and/or a massive lesson was not learned and/or one does not get up, dust themselves off, and get back on the horse. Regardless of gender. I recall on old stat – 9 of 10 start-up ventures “fail” – whatever that means to you. It is relative. If a female professional allows herself to be “driven out of their field” by males – then she does not have the cojones to be a viable entrepreneur worth backing. I by no means condone that behavior – but at some point we all need to develop thicker skin, shrug the small-minded morons off, and focus at the task at hand. I personally am not willing to accept that my successes or failures represent anyone but me, myself and I – not half the human race. And seriously – we as women need to take some responsibility – I choose not to allow others to limit me to the extent I can. And not all boys are meanies…

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Fiorina did not start HP. Big difference between executive & entrepreneur.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    It is fun, isn’t it…

  • Dave W Baldwin

    In most households, you’ll find the wife more obsessed with insurance, due to good reason.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Do you have any data to support that? I do not see the connection between entrepreneurship / females / insurance preoccupation…

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  • www.reflectionmedia.com

    I’m a woman entrepreneur working in the entertainment space and I see a lot more women taking this route to building their business, rather than the traditional career paths offered at studios. Maybe this has more to do with economics right now, or a perceived inequality in opportunities. But as a member of a number of women entrepreneur groups over the years, involving tech and entertainment, I can see more women coming up behind me. Those rooms were filled with women energized as much about creating their own destiny, as they were about whatever venture they were building. I was inspired to build my own business from a neighbor who built a t-shirt empire with $300. I knew if she could do it, so could I. I think we’ll see the numbers even out a lot more in the next 5 years.

  • Joanna

    That’s not fair. People are born good looking or not just like they are born m or female. Has nothing to do with the brain or capabilities.

  • http://twitter.com/sirpa_aggarwal Sirpa Aggarwal

    Awesome article! Thanks! This should inspire all women, young and older.

  • JamesHRH

    Fiorina accepted and/or promoted her status as brilliant CEO.

    She got that shoved down her throat, not because she is female, but because that is what happens when you do that.

    Hero or bum is the only outcome when you set yourself up as brilliant, before you have done anything.

    Not gender related, IMO.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Sooo… no responsibility lies with the hiring team?

  • http://twitter.com/yossarianslive Liz Carlson

    They’re actually hosting Women 2.0 tomorrow at the Press Club in san francisco. http://founderfridaysf.eventbrite.com/  

    In Palo Alto here:
    http://founderfridaysv10711.eventbrite.com/

  • JamesHRH

    Absolutely – blame all around.

    My point is that the media are like jackals. If you present yourself (or allow yourself to be presented as) a genius of some type, the media will serve you your head on a platter if it does not pan out.

    Not a gender issue, a PR issue.

  • Lisa

    There has never been a better time in our society for women to do it all.  The wife, the mother,  & the mompreneur/ entrepreneur.  That being said , i think a majority of women are also very busy.  Many times they observe and only comment on something if it truly matters to them.  Just because there aren’t many women commentators does not mean they are not reading or watching they’re just not interested enough to contribute at that time.  

    I haven’t investigated the numbers but there are many women entrepreneurs.  All you have to do is be a mother thinking of starting a business and the research is endless on women who have gone ahead and paved the way.  So I believe if you don’t see alot of women, well it’s just a field that doesn’t interest us -

  • http://twitter.com/RachaelWright8 Rachael Wright

    To answer the question everyone will have to agree on the same definition “entrepreneur” otherwise we will skip over thousands of women who have built their individual businesses from scratch. Because it wasn’t an “original idea” do we exclude the Avon Lady who’ve for decades have been hitting the streets and whose tenacity has grown Avon into an 8.8B corporation? Kiva.org says 80.91% of their loans were made to women entrepreneurs, but their businesses were in Sub-Saharan Africa so couldn’t make it into a Fast Company tweet. Millions of women in this country are stretching their family dollars – boot-strapped startups know nothing about making every penny count. We cannot overlook the entrepreneurial qualities women DO posses just because they don’t fall into our TechCrunch mentality.  In the evolutionary timeline of business “tech” has been around for a hot-minute. Don’t worry folks, we’ll get there – we just weren’t as well positioned as our uncles in big cities who happened to have Computer Science or Finance degrees when it mattered. I grew up in a small town where everyone was told they could become a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. I was lucky enough to stumble upon great mentors who didn’t care about my gender. My neurobiology degree now feels meaningless but at 26 am in a director-level position at an enterprise software startup with my own personal consumer facing application currently in development.  With women attending college in record numbers, I am confident more will channel their creativity and drive into this new industry. Until then, the few other women and I will enjoy the short line for the ladies room at demo days and tech meetups, but will gladly welcome them when they arrive. 

  • www.reflectionmedia.com

    Here! Here! The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving and I only see more opportunities in the future.

  • Cduggi

    The question is no different from why aren’t there more Asian NBA players? Should there be more? Why? I do not have a problem with individual opinions whether you think there should be or should not be more of something. The more important question for me would be how many more individuals want to be entrepreneurs and are they able to? What are their problems and what can we do to enable or help them individually? I also disagree with”we should progress inequities in society” . I know it’s a fashionable opinion but will mark invest in a company because it is headed by a woman? Is that even a factor in your decision making? What is your optimum ratios for equity in society in various spheres of life among various races/genders/sexes/religions?

  • Anonymous

    Loved the article! Thinks its timely encouragement for people like me :).
    Just saw the Midas Touch list for the few years past (its just a list, so taking it with a grain of salt makes sense) – There was only one woman in the list over the last few years – I am really looking forward to seeing that change over the next few years.

  • Jaya Hangal

    For a woman with a family,  there are two important things that are required  for her to venture entrepreneurship:

    1. Strong support from spouse.
    2. Time and scope to prove herself. It takes a lot of effort (especially time) to break into the men dominated startup world. People easily give up on you when they hear that you are a women with a family.

    But, on the brighter side there are institutions like women2.0 encouraging more and more women to build their dream companies.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Well said, Liz. 

    And very fair that you’d be coming from a tech vantage point.  Tech startups are the locus for many of us connected to/interested in the entrepreneurial world — especially those of us reading VC blogs.  ;-)

    I agree that changing the ratio in itself is not the issue.  The ratio is just an indicator that something is wrong.  And my guess is that some of the barriers to women entering startups are closely related to (if not the same) barriers to success once they are in the startup world.  

    While I commiserate with those who are concerned about the “women in tech” issue, really, for me it is a much larger issue.  As someone who is convinced that entrepreneurship is critical to economic and social wellbeing on a macro level, I get frustrated when the status quo becomes a threat to that —  and when unnecessary barriers are created for the many based on the comfort or ignorance of a few.  

    And to be honest, the status quo has never worked in my favor anyway.  If you know what I mean.

  • Robin Pam

    You’re right–MBA is definitely not a prereq. 

    I was just supporting the notion of early encouragement by pointing out that other areas of business (MBA programs, big corporations like Deloitte, etc.) have validated Mark’s assumption that the  younger women start on a path and have encouragement to do so, the better odds they have of sticking with it when the critical family-starting years arrive. And, they’re seeing results from it.

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  • Obi Offorjindu

    Hi Mark,

    I’m a first time visitor to your blog from the UK. What an interesting topic!

    I wonder if the problem has more to do with women not being able to find technical co-founders to start an internet company? I’m making a big assumption that women tend not to study technical subjects at college or work in technical roles. Tech startups seem to be founded by people tapping into these networks. So if women tend not to have developers in their networks it must be much harder to get an idea of the ground.

    I’m a 30 year old male, ex-banker (don’t hate me), with a solid professional network, but found it extremely difficult to find a technical co-founder I could work with. I went to countless networking events such as Startup Weekend, but had no success. Having quit my job I was on the verge of giving up when my cousin decided he wanted to join me. Phew! Now I realise I just couldn’t have worked with any of the strangers I was considering as those personal relationships are so important.

    I think my experience would’ve the same for most women. What do you think? I wonder if anything can be done to help bring together female non-technical co-founders with technical people who they could work with. Perhaps invite some to your dinners or other networking events.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Hi Obi,
    I think it is an issue for everyone – finding the right, complementary co-founders for a new venture. It is a tad it of an assumption that women tend not to work as developers; by the same token, women tend to bring to the table skills men (again, typically) do not.
    Just my experience – in working in several start-ups I went out of  my way to get to know the tech “guys” and got to network that way. As well, – and as a true entrepreneur should – if you know your weak spots, chances are so do the “tech peeps” and that facilitates networking.

    I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me.

  • Obi Offorjindu

    Thanks Emily. From your experience are there growing numbers of women involved in tech startups? If like me you haven’t worked in the tech industry before it really is hard to develop relationships with potential technical co-founders. You want to know about their working style and how they handle pressure etc. And it’s tough to get this from general networking alone. So I really do wonder if this obstacle restricts many female entrepreneurs. It very nearly did for me. All of my business contacts turned mouth to be of little use.

    So I think it’s less important that you have lots of women in technical roles but more working in any role in the tech industry, so they have the networks to help them succeed.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Obi, I don’t think women face any higher barriers than men do in finding suitable co-founders, period – much less tech co-founders. It’s tough to evaluate a potential partner when you are not well-versed in what they do – and vice versa. I too found little utility in my first degree contacts…but have met adn worked with very capable people a couple degrees away from my “primary” network. Female entrepreneurs in “technical” roles or operational roles – either way, a more even gender balance would benefit us and the industry at the same time.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

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  • Anonymous

    Females are not predisposed to the risk-taking that is required to engage in entrepreneurship. Those few women who are capable of doing that don’t need any special help. Efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship through gender-based initiatives are going to fail at a rate that does not justify the expenditures to get any results, and thus in the long run, will damage the credibility of the small number of females who can actually pull it off. When billions have been spent on this well-meaning but wrongful desire to promote female entrepreneurs, the paltry returns will cause venture captital source to dry up at the mere mention of a prospective woman entrepreneur.

    This is a corollary to Elmer’s Law :

    Women are competing for jobs but are not creating them.
    Other than providing a mass market for their vanity products, they are not forging
    new industries or technologies. They are marginalizing that small percentage of
    men who passionately innovate, destroy, and create ideas and take the risks to
    drive them to actualization

     

    Though men shank me
    and insult me, only men provide me with opportunity. Women can only insult me
    and deprive me of opportunity. Only men, and only a small fraction of them,  take the risks that create industry and
    opportunity.

     

    Women can only
    serve as mere functionaries in man-created structures. When an organization
    becomes feminized, priority shifts from efficient and profitable production of
    goods and services to development of labyrinthine rules for the comfort and
    security of women. Ossification and organizational death are inevitable.
     

  • Ims

    As I read this I was curious if age is something VCs consider in funding, sounds like yes. Can you confirm, clarify

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Agree and disagree with line one. The degree to which one is risk-averse or the polar opposite has nothing to do with gender. I agree with you that – all other things equal – we do not need an affirmative action movement for female entrepreneurs. it is not a “wrongful desire'” to engender entrepreneurialism in  *anyone* – innovation is a commodity we can never have enough of.

    I tend to see the start-up/adventuresome/entrepreneur state of being as both nature and nurture. You cannot “create” an entrepreneur of either sex – but you can remove artificial, societal psychological barriers to entry.

    You speak in such denigrating swaths it is difficult to take you seriously. Women can only insult you and deprive you of opportunity?

    As a woman, I neither deprive nor have felt deprived of any opportunity;  on the whole. Word: take some responsibility for yourself and your fate – we all are largely responsible for our own opportunities in every aspect of life.

    As an optimist – I write this hoping against hope that you are merely spewing hyperbole….but I think not. How about some prime examples of your “ossification” experiences in”feminized” orgs?

    Comments like these make me halfway wonder if moderation of blog discussion may be at times warranted; but hey – everyone gets their two cents and a soap box.

    Thanks for weighing in.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Absolutely.
    To quote Steve Jobs: ” I want to put a ding in the universe”.
    I don’t want a fancy title, I don’t need the ego stroking.
    I want to apply what I have worked hard to learn, make the field I work in a little better off for it,
    and keep learning …

  • http://twitter.com/mattamyers Matthew A Myers

    Sameness isn’t fairness.

    Making sure everyone has the same isn’t what equality is. If that’s the case then there are educational grants for women to increase numbers in certain fields where there are low numbers of women, however that same grant and push to get men into the women-dominated field don’t exist.

    Men and women do have differences. And it’s not a fine line. Everyone has a nurturing side, and everyone has an energetic side. It’s still relatively difficult for men to get custody of children as well – and perhaps that is fair if agree with and strictly follow the stance that women have a higher concentration of nurturing in them.

    The solution is figuring out where there are genuine attempts to push any gender, race, etc. down – either with bullying or simply the group being ignored.

    The push which I have seen lately, which is a good start, is to have more female mentors in the “spotlight” – which only can act as positive role models, for women and men; You will offend/scare men who are bullies, but men who are gentle, kind, loving will cheer and help prop anyone up who deserves the recognition.

    One thing not to forget, people make mistakes and everyone is at a different point on the learning curve. One common mistake I see women doing in the ‘feminist/equal rights’ movement is that some of them get offended and attack / get defensive in response to some unintelligent / poorly written responses, instead of being understanding and understanding where things are at – and responding in a respectful / non-attacking way.

    I think the question of “Why Aren’t More Women Commenting on VC Blog Posts?” is absolutely brilliant and a fantastic observation. I’ve not noticed an absence of women posting at AVC.com where I regular, mostly because Shana Carp, Donna White, Tereza, and more recently Leigh – have quite the awesome presence at AVC; My apologies to anyone else I should be remembering.  I don’t also try to notice the difference, and don’t tell myself “oh a female wrote this – I should pay attention” (unless I’m trying to get a date..), mostly because I value everyone’s thoughts equally – and if they resonate with me then I take note of the author’s name.

    I hope that more women can feel comfortable posting if they don’t – whether it’s because they feel they won’t be heard or if they feel they’ll be attacked, etc.. Call out those idiots (politely/being kind) and/or find a community (like AVC.com) that will support you.

    P.S. I think everyone should be promoting entrepreneurism, though men having more of a ‘hunter’ mentality will jump into the spotlight without thinking through things at first; I don’t know if a women’s-only club for conversation would be beneficial, but I personally don’t like that idea because it doesn’t allow for people to be on the same page and can allow certain negative thinking to spiral out of control (it could also allow positive thinking to spiral out of control (good for creativity) – just be sure to squash negativity/put-downs of others.

  • http://twitter.com/mattamyers Matthew A Myers

    Re: Posting doesn’t have ROI

    I think it’s wrong to generalize that. People get to know you, your thinking style, your behaviour, etc.. It depends on what kind of ROI you’re wanting – and if you can get that better elsewhere, then cool, but if you need / want investors or potential partners for exposure (to show you know what you’re talking about and show analytical capabilities [or whatever strengths needed for your venture]) then you should post. People could learn this by your own blog and blog posts – but then how do you get exposure of the ‘masses’ to your blog?

    You should target where you post, and decide where to relationship build. I personally feel more comfortable writing in long long long paragraphs vs. initial small talk with a bunch of people to see if there could be a connection or mutual interest. Perhaps women are more comfortable networking in person, however that won’t as easily get them the same exposure they need (even if it’s only initially needed to get things off the ground).

    Also, I sort of dislike (not meaning to point you out, as most everyone does it) how there’s the dichotomy created with the use of girls/guys gals/dudes men/women – when it more relates to nurture/energetic, aggressive/passive, etc.. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. Yeah, my words are caustic and over-the-top, but based on my situation as an older male competing for work  as well as my life experiences. As I am married to a foreign woman who was a successful entrepreneur in a traditional male-dominated society, I have started asking her questions about the challenges she faced as a woman and will develop a Spearhead essay out of it.  My first questions have been answered with : yes it was very difficult; she started a shoe business because she had learned from her father, whom she revered; she and her partner recognized a need and when they started, could not keep up with demand; she borrowed from her extended network of friends and family to finance it. In no way did the government or anyone else outside her network encourage or support her.

    You may enjoy some of my Spearhead essays on work searching. Ignore the foaming anti-feminist rants as it’s targeted at today’s disenfranchised men. The tactics work for everyone :

    http://www.the-spearhead.com/2011/09/05/employment-game-part-iii-prospecting

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    Hey – thanks for taking the time to direct me to where I got  a better feel for your style – I dig it in context … see my comment there. Maybe you can expand your interview pool beyond your spouse for some additional anecdotes – positive and negative.

  • http://adingintheuniverse.com Emily Merkle

    I have found the pendulum swings both ways on that one.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. The Spearhead blog is run by Mr.W Price, I am just a frequent commentor.

  • Laura Yecies

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for writing this post – it’s a topic I feel very strongly about and I’m glad to see the great discussion.  I’ve been thinking about the post and the embedded video quite a bit and wrote this related post on my blog
    http://thekitchensync.co/2011/10/10/just-win-baby/
    I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback
    Laura

  • http://twitter.com/elasticGurl Saba

    So many of these comments resonated with me. I’ve worked in the tech field in traditionally male roles and it *is* difficult (though not impossible) to fit in as a woman and be treated as “one of the boys.”  That’s just a reality; it doesn’t mean it can’t change. It does take time and effort to “educate” people that we’re all just people working toward a common goal of building/growing a business. Not every relationship needs to be sexualized. Males are much more competitive by nature whereas females are cooperative/collaborative as is evident by studies and examples all around us. Each gender can gain a lot by adopting those attributes of the opposite sex. Parents can help that along by training their kids early to recognize these issues.  Women wanting to enter the start-up world need to learn to be aggressive, not abrasive, but aggressive in the positive sense. I should say though, that in the start-up environments I’ve worked in, there seems to be a bit less gender bias than other places I’ve worked. Hence the affinity I have toward start-ups.

    By the way, Mark, I just finished watching your talk with Mark Jeffrey on how to approach VCs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWHm5cfUBPs&feature=player_embedded#!)  Fantastic resource. I can’t say enough about the incredibly valuable amount of information I gained from it in just that one hour. But I did notice that when the question was asked about how to dress for a VC meeting, there was only discussion of what men should wear!… :) Would like to hear a more rounded perspective on that from you or any female VCs listening here…

    Thank you for elevating the status of start-ups in LA. There’s an incredible amount of talent and energy in this city.

  • Anonymous

    Wow…so many insightful and thought-provoking comments.  Where to begin….

    One way to help change the ratio is to increase the awareness of the women entrepreneurs out there building exciting businesses.  If we changed the conversation from “where are the women in tech” and “why aren’t there more in tech” to “here’s what these successful gals are doing”, it helps to start creating role models for younger gals to look up to.  

    This is one of the missions I am trying to accomplish through my own startup – Sassy CEO.  We do a weekly recap about what’s happening with tech companies (co-)founded by women.  My goal is that through this, my 13 year old niece, 3 year old daughter, 2 year old niece and all the other gals out there will have a role model to look up to.

    ps – if Mark and anyone else on this comment thread is ever in Chicago, let me know.  I’d be happy to introduce you to some of the awesome gals here who are building some exciting businesses here in the midwest ;)

  • Anonymous

    Emily, I agree with and can relate to almost all your points. I wasn’t sure what you meant by point #1 re interactive/adv. but the rest of your points are well taken. Looking and sounding young definitely creates an instant barrier I’ve found that some VCs (or even employers) can’t get past regardless of the level of intelligence, initiative and other relevant qualities in front of them. Some day this will change, I hope… 

    The reason why I asked Mark (see above) about the dress code acceptable at a VC meeting is precisely the issue that you brought up in #7. Where do you draw the line so that you are not “distracting” from your presentation by the way you’re dressed. Especially in the LA /SF jeans environment…  I tend to err on the conservative side because my goal is not to be seen, but to be heard. Apparently some VC presenters are expected to dress casually; See the video I posted above.  But this should be such a non-issue that I’m actually sorry to have to bring it up. It is important, nevertheless.

    Have you ever checked into Founder Fridays? http://www.women2.org  Personally, I’d rather be in an environment where both women and men are interacting with each other more or less equally, rather than a segregated one such as female-only groups. But I do understand the reason why it exists. 

    The smart, mature women need to start to change all of your points above…

  • Anonymous

    I fully concur with you , Donna, when you say: “I think it helps when a man takes a stab at it.  This is not a question to which women alone have the answer.”  I hope more men start to comment here.

  • Speedo13
  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Appreciate your comment Emily.  Relate to what you say about finding female professional entrepreneur groups.  But there is also the matter of time — especially for us who combine building a business with raising kids.  (My biz is not a tech startup, btw, even though I have a passion for tech startups.)   Probably why I comment on VC blogs — a way to interact with others who care about the same things I do.  I began commenting at my normal “stomping ground” AVC.com even I was sometimes the only woman, but must admit that when other women became regulars, this made it even more fulfilling.  Although I love the guy regulars at AVC as well.  They rock.

  • http://tarathetiger.com Tara Tiger Brown

    Mark said “I would love to see Tara follow up with blog posts on: why she believes this is the case & what we can do about it.”

    I’m a blogger for ForbesWoman now and will be writing about women in tech.
    My first post “Positive Role Models Needed to Increase Number of Women in High-Tech”

    http://onforb.es/prKwZU

  • Nonny de la Peña

    I wrote a post about being a female entrepreneur  in the PBS Mediashift blog last spring which detailed some of the challenges I have faced.  The piece is called, “Female Entrepreneurs Hit Glass Ceiling for VC Funding” and one example I note is that, frequently in is this very gendered technology environment, when I ask the questions, they get answered to my male partner.   Its the type of thing that takes the wind out of my sales and generates a self-doubt that simply is untenable if I want to make others believe in me and our startup.  As a Harvard grad, I have watched my female friends take high level executive positions in Hollywood and they all have children — just like Sheryl Sandburg, who has done some nice presentations on the issue — so I really don’t think that’s why women haven’t risen up the ranks in technology ventures.  I do know personally that it is hard to keep going back into rooms  where you sit at the table with a dozen suited guys and you alone represent your gender, even when no one makes an insensitive joke and your questions are acknowledged.  In fact, 1 and 1 would actually be easier.

    In the end, I have kept focused and I’m proud to say that our startup, Stroome, now has users in 126 countries.   BTW – we’d be happy to pitch to you, Mark.  I’d love to give you an opportunity to change your ratios.

    Nonny de la Peña
    co-founder
    Stroome.com

  • http://www.about.me/tgowland Tara Gowland

    As a woman who comments on VC posts I have to say I really don’t know why more women are not getting involved, but I suspect it is the same reason ahy ALL male entrepreneurs don’t comment on VC posts – they are too busy running a startup to worry about anything else…

  • http://twitter.com/Lana_L Lana_Lodge

    Thank you for that. The problem is self perpetuating. The % of women going into computer science has gone down over the last 20 years, and in places where they’ve done studies and introduced girls to this work at a young age and made them feel like it’s something that’s possible for them they’ve brought numbers up to 50%.  Something can be done and something should be done, because women should have the opportunity to feel this rush from the possibilities that life has for them that men get that I think is brought on by our culture and our history. Keep fighting the good fight :D <3

  • Anne Web Agent

    Why arent there more? well, for me its actually preference. There are a lot of women who, when they put thier mind to it, can be great entrepreneurs but i think, they prefer not to. Men prefer to build their careers (thats how they take care of their family) as women prefer to take care of the household first. Women are more hands on when it comes to family. just an opinion..
    to mark: i know how those 1-1 meetings feel. bromances are real issues. 
    i guess it comes down to choice.. 
    thanks for sharing