Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gender: Gobsmacked by the Younger Generation

How the internet works in 3 steps.

Step 1
Someone makes a post that points out a problem. In this case the general problem is the lack of female entrepreneurs forming high tech startup companies. Specifically the lack of women participating in the Y Combinator program that invests in and helps startups. Tereza Nemessanyi wrote an article called XX Combinator in which she proposes a female centered version of the Y Combinator.

Well... not quite just a female centric version of it. She proposes something slightly different.
The XX Combinator program would provide women who know their target market extremely well, based on personal and professional experience. They’d have a huge innovative idea in a huge market and a clever idea about how to crack it. The program would help define their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to get to market. Benevolent hackers would work side-by-side with them to build it, for equity and possibly paid salaries by sponsors and can convert into CTO positions.
It would be scheduled and located so that women with families could actively do it. No “3-months in Silicon Valley”.
The post is informative, offers a possible solution, lays out some of the issues, and is a call to arms for people to create what she's proposed.

Step 2
Someone in the field makes a valid counter post. Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist, wrote a reply also called XX Combinator. He doesn't make light of the underlying problem. He doesn't suggest it isn't a problem. He does however point out some problems with the proposed XX Combinator solution.
XX Combinator is a cute name and makes the point well. But I suspect a different model is required if this were to work. First, it is not so easy for 40 something women to move to silicon valley for three months. Second, if you have a team of hackers in-house, then you are an incubator more than an accelerator program.
Fred doesn't suggest the problem isn't real and he thinks her idea might work. But not quite the way she originally thought. And... he's not against the idea. He closes by saying:
If there are entrepreneurs out there with the idea, the plan, and the passion to do this, please contact me. I'd be happy to help get something like this rolling.
His reply understands the original issue, discusses and adjusts the proposed solution a little, and continues the call to arms to help solve the problem.

Step 3
Somebody misses the point spectacularly, misuses outdated ideas from a historical figure, tries to apply 'science' to the result, and proves what their thinking on the subject really is - all while adding nothing of value to the discussion.

In this case it's Beatrice Pang's post called Freud explains why there aren't more women entrepreneurs. In which she doesn't seem to think there is actually a problem because there are good reasons why women aren't entrepreneurs. The reason? Time to drag out the historical figure.
The answer is very obvious. Freud is right, sex is the ultimate driver to explain most human behaviors. It's primordial but often the most powerful driver explaining human behaviors. Why do you do all these things to look good? To attract potential sex partners, consciously or subconsciously.
Okay... let's leave Freud and move to evolution as a reason for women not being driven to be entrepreneurs. After all... there are reasons women wouldn't want to work hard such as:
For women, the price to be an entrepreneur is much higher and the return is not as attractive. First, the cost of maintenance is much higher for women - clothes, skin care, hair, shoes, etc. Second, working long hours in stressful conditions age a woman. Given beauty is often a more important criterion than success, women are less willing to make such a bet. Finally, women often need a partner before they reach the end of their safe childbearing ages, and that's typically before they reach 40. 
If you think this is an isolated opinion think again. I quote:
For girls at GSB [Stanford Graduate School of Business], taking an entrepreneurial path right after the expensive school means financial uncertainty while your well-earning classmates lavish on travel, food, fashion, beauty or simply socializing leisure time. Few can stand such tradeoffs in personal lifestyles, especially when you are at the optimal age to find a partner.
Don't worry... there's more to come if you read her piece. Let's throw in an unproven claim that would be considered offensive if a man said it. Beatrice extends her argument in a simple fashion by saying:
Beyond entrepreneurship, if you look at any career (except for fashion modeling or nursing), it's difficult to pick one where there are more successful women than men historically. Men often spend more energy on becoming successful in career.
The result? Well... we don't need to change things, improve things, or hope for equal treatment since:
How can we make more women successful? Without fundamental changes in how men and women perceive attractiveness, it will be difficult to change the status quo.
Let's hear it for being held back by biological determinism. It bothers me that bad science, overextended analogies, and almost backwards views of equality and progress can be considered the norm. And all by a young woman who's the beneficiary of the hard work and struggle of so many women before her.

Regardless of how their biology limited their ability to change and improve society. After all they didn't make any fundamental changes in how men and women perceive attractiveness now did they?

No comments: