Tag

Penelope Trunk

Equality

Techcrunch, Penelope Trunk and the damaging stereotype in pursuit of traffic

When someone takes a strong, clearly personal position and claims it is the majority is it journalism, controversy for it’s own sake or an unprincipled pursuit of traffic?

Penelope Trunk’s recent blog Stop Telling Women To Do Startups is one such example that begs the question. With statements like :

“Here’s a post by Tara Brown wondering why women don’t comment on VC blogs. Here’s the answer: Because women don’t care.” We don’t? All of us? Are you sure? Maybe we are just very focused in the use of our time as we run tech companies.

“Women can do startups. The thing is, most don’t want to.” Do you know these “most”? If you lived in Silicon Valley you’d know many, many women do want to. I mentor them continuously.

“For the most part, women are not complaining about the lack of VC funding in the world. They are complaining about the lack of jobs with flexible hours.” Are you not listening to the number of women trying to figure out how to break in?

I guess this type of “stop changing things we are quite happy not having equal opportunity” thinking is not new.

In 1852 the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin played a strong role in the anti-slavery movement by popularizing the discussion on the wrongs of slavery. In response the pro-slavery South published a series of novels romanticizing that slaves were happier and better off being slaves than being free.

In 1913, as women campaigned for the vote, Helen Kendrick Johnson wrote Women and the Republic, stating the reasons why women did not want the vote – “Because the influence of women in social causes will be diminished rather than increased by the possession of the parliamentary vote.”

In no way do I equate the issue of equality of opportunity for women in tech startups to the struggles of the anti-slavery movement or women’s suffrage but come on Penelope, do you need to, in our own little world, repeat the pattern and stereotypes?

Today less than 5% of venture capital goes to women led startups. Startups are not only fun they are also a way to create products and personal wealth. It makes sense that women want to get funding too. And they should be encouraged to try if they are interested.

For many women, maybe not you, career and family go hand in hand. You snark at Sheryl Sandberg but she, like me, and many others, is having both a vibrant career and children. Many of us enjoy the challenge and the role model we create for our kids – oh and by the way have happy, normal kids.

Don’t stereotype us with generalizations like “I think you’d be really hard-pressed to find many moms with two young kids who wants Sandberg’s life. Which is why women are not “leaning into their careers” like Sandberg says they need to in order to get to the top.” Many women ARE leaning into their careers and I take my hat off to them. I know it’s hard but it’s also fun, rewarding and creates more opportunity for the next generation of women.

But maybe this is about ad traffic? Maybe this is about creating a platform for yourself as a speaker and a blogger ? If so your strategy is working. But you are doing a disservice to the women working hard to build an equal role for themselves in the male dominated field of technology.

Equality

Another ugly stereotype of women in the workplace

Sometimes I read articles about women in tech that make me angry, sometime they make me laugh. They rarely make me sad but this one did.

Penelope Trunk wrote a piece for BNET titled: Are Startups Better as Single-Gender Affairs? Based on the author’s experience in three startups it reinforces the stereotypes that women and men can’t work together because they are too different and just can’t get along.

This is just simply not true, but feeds the confidence of the men who don’t want to bring women into the workplace, or who want to pigeon hole them into safe roles. Why do women do this to themselves? Why do they reinforce stereotypes that hold women back?

Penelope cites that while she cried, the guys threw a fit, and this was too much drama for a small company. Ugh. Women cry, and trust me men cry too. Women use anger, and so do men. Everyone is emotional under pressure, male and female, and they show it in different ways. Some are overly timid, others are assholes. The tension certainly shows up but it’s not gender related.

Maybe I should not give her opinion credence by reacting to it, but BNET published it so it’s out there. Maybe I should ignore BNET from now on?

Diverse teams are simply more effective in small and large companies. They produce better results most of the time. But like any creative force they take management and leadership. Without that any team, all men or all women, will not succeed. And as female leaders we need to be very skilled because there are still too many people who are biased or ignorant of the benefits of women in leadership positions alongside of men.

And instead of hurting women’s chances in new ventures, women need to help other women until we have a decent balance in tech.