Saturday, August 6, 2011

Startups don't need diversity, they need misogyny?

There is an article up on some website called BNET, which is the CBS Interactive Business Network apparently, declaring that startups don't need diversity. The post is written by Penelope Trunk, who earned herself the coveted position of tech feminist enemy number one when she wrote on TechCrunch that women don't want to do startups because they want children. Penelope says:

I have done three startups and each time it has been with a male co-founder. And each time, the fact that I am female has been a distraction to us. It has been a source of friction. When I was young, people thought my co-founder and I were a couple. (This is not surprising. The majority of male-female co-founder situations for a funded startup have a sex component.)

The problem is that men and women are different at work, and the intensity of a startup magnifies these differences ten-fold. In my last company, Brazen Careerist, I had two male co-founders. Sometimes I’d cry. Or throw a fit. And the guys would say I was so difficult. I am a woman who has been in tech startups for 15 years. I thought, if anyone can deal with men, it’s me. And still, I was too emotional for these guys. You know what? Most women cry at work. And most guys throw a fit.

The point of her post is to tell male tech startup founders exactly why they shouldn't co-found a company with women, why they shouldn't hire women for their principal team. She claims that men cannot handle the emotions in the workplace, that women cause drama and are distractions from the task of growing a business. Sounds like a load of "blame the women" to me.

I've worked for two different startups, one that was co-founded by two men and one that was co-founded by a woman and a man. Both of them operated well, both of them ended up in being sold to large companies for a great exit. There was never too much creativity or emotion, or too much diversity. The fact that we had a co-founder who was a woman did nothing but enrich and broaden the perspectives behind the company - something that helped us make wonderful products that pleased our customers (and our investors).

Forming a company should be about passion for creating great products and services for your customers. It should be about being entrepreneurs, finding success, growing and mentoring a team, finding great talent, becoming profitable. If having a woman around hinders this process, than no one was really focused on making a successful company. They probably shouldn't be in the business of starting companies.

I can only think that Penelope has had bad experiences at mixed gender startups because of bad management and bad business skills, perhaps bad interpersonal communication skills. I think she's assigning blame on gender because it's a controversial topic that will get her hits on the internet. I think she's taking an easy way out, making herself more attractive in the eyes of potential investors who don't want to deal with enormous pains in the ass (eyeroll) like workforce diversity.

Once again, we have an ignorant woman hating on her own gender writing as if her opinion represents all women. It doesn't. I'd be honored to co-found a startup someday with someone talented and business-savvy, as long as they're not promoting misogynist ideals like Penelope. It seems as if her lack of success in business has been probably due to her attention-seeking and has little to do with the fact that she's a woman.

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