Too Few Women Starting Tech Companies? Blame Yourself

For years people have been endlessly speculating about why there are so few female entrepreneurs. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal on the lack of women leading tech startups has fueled the fire again with TechCrunch, twitter and every feminist, misogynist and trivialist adding their two cents. Everyone has an opinion, with the notable exception of women like me who have actually done the seemingly impossible (according to the media) and started a tech company.

In a recent post, "Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming The Men." Michael Arrington conjectured that "the problem is that not enough women want to become entrepreneurs," and that "statistically speaking women have a huge advantage as entrepreneurs, because the press is dying to write about them, and venture capitalists are dying to fund them." He's right, up to a point. Women do have a huge advantage when starting a business, because we are so novel. We do make for an interesting press angle and we may get an important meeting with a VC if we have the right idea because they want to round out their portfolio. What hasn't been my experience is VCs, event organizers or reporters going out of their way to find female tech leaders or entrepreneurs to fund, write about or invite to speak on their panels. I suppose my experience would be different if I were Marissa Mayer or Carol Bartz, the two tech poster-women generally called on by default. Trust me, we're here, we may just not be as forthright in promoting ourselves as some of our male counterparts. We're probably too busy running our companies and taking care of our families to boot.

So why don't more women go the entrepreneurial route? I think that the answer is pretty simple and probably the same reason that so few women rise to the ranks of CEO in our businesses. Women are forced to make an agonizing decision right around the time that their careers start to take off, "What's more important, my career or my children?" Any mom knows what a loaded question this is. An excellent NY Times article, "A labor market Punishing to Mothers" pointed out the steep price that women pay for taking time off from work. For some, motherhood results in years off the job, years which normally coincide with big leaps in responsibility and titles at work. For entrepreneurs, who regularly put in 90 hour weeks getting their businesses off the ground, balancing motherhood seems like a non-starter.

I suspect that we don't see enough female entrepreneurs for the same reason why only 15 Fortune 500 Companies have female CEOs -- because many of us have decided that ultimately our families come before our professional growth.

Here's a secret I'd like to share with all of the women and men out there -- being an entrepreneur and a mother is possible. And while it may be hard, it's a lot easier than working for someone else. As a business owner I don't have to ask someone's permission to run home if one of my kids is sick, and I've managed to be present in my sons lives by trading in Fridays off with working late nights at home. Am I superwoman? Far from it. What I do have is an amazingly supportive husband, who is neither threatened by my success nor afraid to take on his share of the responsibility in the raising of our children. I suspect that if more partners were willing to take on a full 50% stake in child rearing, and more women stopped looking at the reasons why they can't balance their kids and their careers, we'd get ourselves out of this debate once and for all.