Tech Crunch article by Penelope Trunk

I got a few emails today from women who sent me the article posted on Tech Crunch today by Penelope Trunk.  Trunk is an entrepreneur who believes the main reason there are less women in the start-up world is because women want to have and raise children.

Her hypothesis has to do with her own experience.  Ridiculous hours, stress central, biological clock ticking, etc.  Certainly an interesting observation on her part.  Personally, I have others.

I love the start-up world.  I was involved in a 24/7 start-up when my kids were 6, 4 and 1.  It was a bitch but it fed my brain.  There is no doubt that juggling all aspects of my family life and job were a challenge but I seemed to make it work.  At least I thought I did.  Over time I did get off that ramp for a while but missed being in the game.  I do believe that times have changed and that there is a slow reaction to the change which is why this particular topic seems to be very hot. 

More women in their 20's and 30's are trying to figure out how to have it all.  Some will and others won't because perhaps they don't want to.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay home with the kids or not even having the drive to do a start-up.  Many men don't have the drive to do a start-up.  Regardless, women are different than men. We don't see women at the tech cocktail parties because they don't have time to go to these events.  Women network differently.  They are focused on their work, their friends, their family and the last thing is "the networking".  They'd rather spend their time at work focused on the job at hand then extending that to the cocktail hour. 

Start-ups are hard work and the hours are insane but I am hopeful that the next generation of start-ups will embrace the many smart women who are turned on by the start-up world and are entrepreneurs themselves.  How can I have the family and do the start-up?  You can.  It isn't easy but it can be done.  It is all relevant to how you manage your time and the partner you have ( if you have one ).  What is difficult is getting off the ramp which takes about two seconds to do but it can take years to get back on because there never seems to be an easy entrance.  Exiting is easy.  Getting funders to look at women in their late 40's as new entrepreneurs isn't easy because most entrepreneurial men in their 40's generally have a few successes already under their belt.  It is never easy being a woman.

My career has been all over the place.  I raised 3 kids and granted I never started a company myself but I have worked in start-ups, invested in start-ups and been involved with growing small businesses into big ones.  That takes a serious amount of time and energy because the job invades your head 24/7.  I tryed hard to figure out how to balance it all while still filling my intellectual need.  There is no doubt that everything becomes a negotiation for you and your time. 

Entrepreneurs are definitely a breed onto itself but that shouldn't stop women working with them or doing their own thing.  Its rewarding.  I appreciate what Trunk has to say, it is her honest voice of how she had enough of the total juggle.  I get it.  Believe me.  Maybe she will find herself in ten years back on the ramp trying to get funding for her next idea or perhaps not. 

Bottom line is the more people talk about this challenge and the more people think about ways to work with the smartest women in the room, who happen to have 3 kids at home to raise, the more this community will figure out how to make it work.  Making it work makes for better companies and certainly makes for strong role models for the next generation of women coming up the pike.  

Comments (Archived):

  1. TanyaMonteiro

    I never gave the on ramp as much thought when I left wall street, your spot on “….getting off the ramp which takes about two seconds to do but it can take years to get back on because there never seems to be an easy entrance. Exiting is easy.” surprised at the amount of energy onramping takes and i don’t even have the family to consider. again, persistence shows its benefits.

    1. Gotham Gal

      persistence always shows benefits

  2. Erin Newkirk

    Joanne, love your thoughts on women and start-ups. You have a very balanced opinion and I agree with what you said.But I have to say, Trunk’s post was really hard for me to read. I have a family. I co-founded a start-up. And I work daily with talented, hard-working men {most who are older than 20-something} and talented, dedicated women {some moms, some single, some married without children}. We all deal DAILY with the kind of stress that can only be brought about by pouring your heart into a start-up.The difference is, we deal with it. Sometimes it’s easier to deal than other times. Starting a company brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.But, we don’t classify other emotional problems as stress that is brought on by starting up a company. We are organized and pay our bills on time. Even when we can’t pay ourselves because sales are slow or non-existent, we find a way. We give thanks to our mobile phones because we can take calls and read email when we are watching soccer games and listening to piano lessons. Not proudly, mind you, but guess what? I also had to take phone calls on vacation and after 5/on weekends when I worked at a family-friendly Fortune 500 company. That kind of schedule comes with any kind of success.My business partners and I often joke that you have to be borderline insane to start a company, but it’s the kind of insane that comes with wanting to make a difference in the world and having enough chutzpah to think you can pull it off. It’s the good kind of crazy.So, Penelope Trunk, I’m genuinely sorry you didn’t pay your bills on time and you felt bad about yourself as a parent over and over. But I think in time you will see that your start-up did not actually cause you to do all of these things. That there are other demons at play here.And, in the future, I hope you can refrain from making sweeping generalizations about women AND men with children and start-ups. These kinds of posts are your opinion ONLY and instill unnecessary fear in people with passion + great ideas.

  3. Ryan Drew

    “My career has been all over the place. I raised 3 kids and granted I never started a company myself but I have worked in start-ups…”Do you ever wish you started a company? How many ideas have you sacrificed due to other pursuits which have left you to wonder, “If only I’d have followed through with X…”.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You have absolutely hit on something that has sat with me for years. Thereare many ideas I have sacrificed but at this point of my life, I am totallyfine with it. I wasn’t years ago. Maybe it is age but truthfully at thispoint of my life I feel lucky to have had the many opportunities I have hadand if I had chosen to start my own company maybe I wouldn’t have the samerelationship with my kids. You never know but I am not one to look back. Iprefer to look forward.

  4. Tereza

    Joanne I’m so glad you wrote about this — and Erin too. I’ve been behind on my GG because so busy…starting up this company. :-)Penelope certainly is entitled to her opinion and her own experience is real…for her. But what felt as a generalization for all women does not sit well with me at all. She put an extra 20 lbs in my already heavy backpack.There are markets and opportunities that are unaddressed because it takes a woman to see them, define them, and build to them. (In fact, there was a great article/speech by the CEO of Coca Cola a few days ago called the 21 c “The Century of Woman” — as the great under leverage human asset on the planet right now, bigger than BRIC. I will reblog)Starting a company is not for everybody. But it’s not for “no woman”, nor for “no woman who has kids”. That’s hogwash.What I do think is that many women get bogged down by guilt, and then they channel that into judging other people’s choices, to justify their own. If it didn’t work for Penelope, fine — but Penelope, please don’t piss in my well.Raising young kids is hard. It does evolve over time to different kinds of time requirements (not easier, but different). And every kid is different, some are more challenging to raise. I think people who haven’t had kids can describe parenting with a monolithic brush. But it brings a lot into my life too. On my tough work days being with my girls makes me feel better. And as we’ve discussed, but still a lot of people don’t realize, on-ramping doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger.There’s a post-war U.S. June Cleaver mothering ideal in our country which was in fact an historical aberration, and does us a disservice. What did they do before then? They ran the family farm, or the family store. And/or they had a LOT more kids.And — book reco: 168 Hours — time and motion studies show that women in that 1950’s – 1970’s were doing a lot more housecleaning than they were doing enriching activities with their kids.To women who have the resources to dedicate themselves to being enriching stay-at-home moms, I applaud them. It is very hard work and it is honorable work.For many reasons, it does not work for me. That’s OK too. And that’s why people like Erin and I cut a different path.Whether it’s a F500 job or volunteer work, we pour ourselves into it, and play to win. We use a lot of modern technology to be everywhere at the same time.Actually, that’s what my mom did (a businesswoman). In fact her mom had an amazing career too (a concert pianist). I grew up with no exposure to women who weren’t involved in something really important in addition to their family…and most of them were ‘start up’ in nature, because no one was handing them a job.As a result whenever I hear ‘shouldn’t’ or ‘can’t’, I just totally don’t get it.Thanks Joanne and Erin for continuing to push the dialog forward.

  5. Crystinabeckwith

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing. I believe that it is about being in a position to choose, that is important.