Stop Telling Women To Do Startups

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Penelope Trunk, writer and founder of Brazen Careerist. Her opinions are her own.

We need to get more guys who are running tech startups instead decide to be stay-at-home dads.

What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That’s what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.

If you are worried that women don’t feel capable of doing whatever they want, you can stop worrying. Women outperform men in school at such a huge rate that it’s easier to get into college as a male than a female. And women take that to the bank by earning more than men in their 20s. Women would probably continue out-earning men except that when men and women have kids, women choose to downshift way more often than men do.

Clearly, women have a choice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for women if the women would just continue working in their 30s the same way they did in their 20s. So clearly, women don’t want to. Women are choosing children over startups.

So it seems that women are making decisions for themselves just fine. It’s just that they are not the decisions that men make. This should not surprise anyone. Men and women are different. So what?

On top of that there is evidence that the members of the VC community go out of their way to attract women. Of course, this makes sense. VCs look for underserved markets. Women are likely to address different markets than men, and since there are so few women founders compared to men founders, it’s likely that women are addressing an underserved market. So VCs want to talk to women.

So VCs are definitely giving women a fair shake, it’s just that women don’t pitch. And women are definitely feeling that they can do whatever they want, it’s just that women aren’t choosing to create tech startups.

So what?

Let’s look at all the women writing articles saying that we need women to do startups. Here’s an article by Jean Bittingham. She says the world needs women entrepreneurs now more than ever. But what has she done? She’s an author and an academic. Of course. She has no idea what life is like running a startup, so she thinks it’s a good idea to tell other women to do that while she writes books. I’ve done both startups and book writing, and book writing is like a vacation compared to a startup.

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. Is that okay? I actually wonder why Tara cares, because she’s a web site producer. I don’t think she has ever raised money for a startup. But I can tell that all three times I’ve done it, raising money for a startup has been hell, so I think we should really be asking why anyone would want to try to convince someone to do it.

Really, how is it making any woman’s life better to say that women should be doing startups? And hey, if startup life is so great then how about trading in the writer’s life for a founder’s life? It’s really different. Try that for a few years, and then tell all the other women you know, who are out-earning the men they know, or taking care of kids, to trade their life for startup life.

The people trying to give solutions are as lame as the people pointing to a problem.

Whoever started the TED Women’s conference is pathetic. Which would you rather say you spoke at? TED? Or the TED Ghetto?

Fred Wilson says there aren’t enough women running startups. What does this mean, exactly? He acknowledges that women don’t want to do startups in their 30s. And he himself points out that by the time women are 40 and they want to go back to work full-time, these women are not going to relocate to Silicon Valley.  But the truth is that if there were really a problem with there not being enough women running startups, then people like Fred would fund startups in suburbia. He’d fund startups that run at half-speed to accommodate carpools. He’d fund startups that have part-time ambitions. He’s not doing that, though. So clearly there is not that big a problem that women are not running startups: The market for funding has spoken, and it is still funding mostly men.

Peter Thiel recommends that women start companies from age 20-25 so they have one under their belt before they have kids.  But why? Is he noticing that women who are 20- 25 are sad about where their life is going? Peter, here’s some news for you: Women are most happy, in their whole lives, at age 28. So I don’t think you are identifying a problem here. I don’t think women are lamenting at age 28 that they did not found a startup at age 20-25. (Something to think about: Men are most unhappy at age 28. Maybe it is because they are so obsessed with launching a startup.)

Sheryl Sandberg says that women need to “lean into their careers.” Sandberg runs Facebook. She’s doing a great job. She also has two young kids, and a husband who works at a startup. 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.

Pew Research shows that most women who have kids would rather have a part-time job than either work full-time or stay at home with kids full time. This sheds a lot of light on why there are so few female founders, doesn’t it?

But now I have an idea: How about giving some respect to women who grew up in the 1970s, with feminist revolution baby boomer moms, and are still brave enough to say “I don’t want to work full time. I can work full time. But I don’t want to. “

Here is a Blueprint for a Woman’s Life which I published. It is full of recommendations for how to make choices based on what we know women really want for themselves. It does not involve getting VC funding.

Because women are earning more money than men in their 20s and underrepresented in the startup world in their 30s and 40s.  And I don’t hear a clamoring of women in the US who are saying “I want to do a startup and no one is letting me!” In fact, women are starting small businesses without VC help, at a very high rate.

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. And I don’t see anyone on TechCrunch addressing that when they address women.

Men could change the world by staying home with their kids and parenting them. Men would provide a totally different perspective as the lunchroom parent. They would ask for totally different after-school programming. Men would hire different babysitters and different SAT tutors. Because men are different than women.

This is the same argument people use for why more women should do startups: They will have a different perspective, think of different models, lend a different sensibility to the industry.

The problem is that people do not need to be told what they should choose. People are pretty good at making choices for themselves. Men can stay home. Women can do startups. The thing is, most don’t want to. And that’s okay.