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Why aren't there more female entrepreneurs?

Stashed in: Founders, 106 Miles, Venture Capital!, Silicon Valley!, @troutgirl, Best PandaWhale Posts, Blogs!, Political Correctitude, Feminism, @msuster, Interesting..., Change the Ratio, Women in Tech, Career - women

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Mark Suster asks the question:

There are no good answers.

He notes that only 2-3 percent of the pitches he gets come from women.

Maybe women aren't coming to him?

He also notes 3 percent of comments on VC blogs come from women.

Maybe women don't like to comment on VC blogs?

A year ago Penelope Trunk did a very controversial Techcrunch post on the subject.

I think the blaming children is projecting her situation onto others. For the demographic that entrepreneurs most commonly come from the number of women who never have children or delay having children until after the peak "founding first company" age is much, much higher than 3%.

For the overall (US) population, around 20% of women are never going to have children. For the educated and affluent, the rate is higher.

There's some research on this. I had found this article and Prof Patrick Murphy recommend some of his research on the subject: (It's academic so it's a bit dry, but read the intro and the conclusions.)

My $0.02 as the first female entrepreneur to comment....Females, through nature or nurture, usually don't like operating in undefined environments. i.e. Girls do better than boys in school because it is clear what the necessary steps are for success. Boys at this time, are often exploring other things, sometimes at a detriment to their grades, but they're okay with it. Girls are less "okay" with getting a "C" in any subject in order to get an "A+" in another, especially if the other is something outside of school that isn't graded.

Entrepreneurship is all about getting an "F" in some areas (and being OK with it) in order to get an "A+" in others. In some ways, I feel that until I can get straight A's (product, sales, revenue, traction, technology etc. -- all the things that VCs say they want) I don't have a place pitching a VC. I still *feel* this way even when I see a lot of really cocky guys pitch (and even get funding!) with a 2.0 GPA. I am trying to teach myself out of this habit!

Until we teach girls that its okay to draw outside the lines, and help women believe that "some rules don't apply to you," we're going to have a lack of women in entrepreneurship. (By the way, this is the same reason why non-entrepreneur women put tremendous pressure on themselves to be BOTH AWESOME moms and AWESOME employees -- we've been trained that we must be fantastic at everything)

Now why women don't get funded at the same rate as men is a question I hope to answer better when I have a 4.0 ;) j/k

Awesome comment Daria! I have often found this to be true when trying to encourage women to learn programming: the vast majority of educated women seem to be looking for a structured learning system rather than just hacking around. My theory is that certain forms of external validation -- praise, awards, grades, prestige of institution, completion of defined curriculum -- can be a crutch in building a sense of confidence and self-worth.

The thing is, in the end no amount of external validation makes you a programmer or an entrepreneur. The validation and fulfillment have to ultimately come from the joy of building something -- and also of overcoming challenges or coming back from failures. So in a way, women who spend too much time looking for the perfect learning method and external validation are just wasting their time when they could be failing faster instead!

I think you can ask the same question in any profession that involves risk. Why are there not more (any) female professional bull riders? Why are there not more female professional poker players? Why are there not more female bank robbers?

For some reason or combination of reasons more men seek risk than women.

Take bull riding. Most men and all women hear "Climb on this angry 2000 pound animal and you might be killed, you'll certainly be injured, but there's a slim chance you'll be rich, famous and adored" and say "No thanks". A small number of men say "If I get killed, will I look cool while doing so, and is it true that chicks dig scars? Sign me up!"

Founding companies involves a much lower risk of being stomped to death, but the basic equation is the same. You take a big risk because you want the win more than you fear failure.

I'd say it's a combination of lack of education, encouragement, and fear.

Growing up, I was (and still am!) heavily encouraged to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or to settle down and find a rich husband to take care of me. I understand that my family's concerns stem from their own lack of education, and the deeply rooted belief that if they had some kind of advanced degree, life would have been better for us because they'd have more money. I'd tag along with my family to the homes they tended, and yes, I'd see that the people in nice homes were generally doctors, lawyers, or somehow possessed some advanced degree. As a child, I didn't understand much about the way the world worked but I could see that in some way, education led to more money. It's disconcerting to see so much wealth so close to you and not wonder what the difference is between those who have so much, and you, who do not.

I thus made the decision to become educated, but it wasn't easy. To be honest, it was terrifying. By middle school, I could no longer rely on my parents for academic help. Going through the public school system, teachers were often apathetic at best and actively discouraging me at worst. Trying to cope with the social stigmas that come with being smart among my peers was a minefield as well: I often felt like I had to apologize for having aspirations and for failing to fit into most people's preconceived notions of the kind of person I was "supposed" to be given my physical make-up.

It's scary for me to be an entrepreneur because there isn't much encouragement from my family and it's tiring trying to explain to them why more education may not be better as in their eyes, me not getting more degrees is a form of failing. It's scary for me to be an entrepreneur because I see the majority of my peers going down other more stable career paths, and the life of an entrepreneur seems to be anything but stable financially. It's scary for me to be an entrepreneur because I look around and for the most part, it's nearly impossible to find any entrepreneurs that I could even look to ask for mentorship that would have similar life experiences as I have, because that would be important to me.

It'd be a huge relief and motivating to know that there were others like me who had succeeded, but that's exactly why I should be an entrepreneur: because the world needs to see more female success stories.

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Interesting: startups that hire women early perform better.

I couldn't tell if that study included Startups with female founders.

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