It’s Not About Being A Woman (Or A Man)

Startup Culture Has Gotten Too Focused on Gender

There’s a lot of talk about the gender disparity in tech startups these days. Everyone can cite a study or two about how few female CEO’s there are, how little they get invested, so on and so forth. Everyone and their sister writes an article about “How we need more women in tech” and “we need more women in startups.”

The thing is, nobody is on the other side of this argument. Nobody needs to be convinced of this. Nobody is saying “bah! there are enough ladies around.” By writing an article about how we need that, you’re merely soliciting agreement and nods from your fellow coworkers. 

Congratulations, you brave, brave soul. 

In reality, I agree; there’s definitely a problem somewhere. The startup gap seems much wider than what the gap would naturally be (based on life choices, e.t.c.). But standing around writing soulful blog articles isn’t the solution.

We’re not going to fix this problem if we continue to focus on the gender of it all. The answer is not to obsessively focus on women in entrepreneurship just because they’re women, to the exclusion of more qualified men. The answer is not to create communities of women in tech that are characterized only by what’s between their legs; where we all get together and sit around and talk about what it’s like to have lady parts under our pants at work.

These communities can be important in limited doses, but too much of it and you have a whole group of people who are focusing on the negative in their life and belatedly sighing about how hard they have it — instead of actually getting up, going out, and doing stuff. 

I wasn’t even aware I faced any struggles as a woman with a tech startup career until I was invited to speak at one of these events — and that’s exactly what I said. “Perhaps it’s because of my generation, or my age, but I’ve never faced any extra difficulty or prejudice because I am a woman with a tech startup…

…if anything, I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for it. Many scholarships, awards, competitions, and other opportunities were afforded me that were not afforded my male peers.”

When we focus on gender with these gender-based career rewards, we’re saying that the equality of the outcome — ’having an equal amount of men and women in entrepreneurship’— is more important than equality of opportunity. In other words, we think that a 50/50 split is more important than rewarding the best and most motivated people.

I don’t know about you, but I want the people who worked hardest for something to get the reward — even if that person is a white, upper class male in San Francisco. 

“But Megan, that won’t fix the problem! If we get rid of those things, there will be less women!”

You’re right. That alone clearly wouldn’t fix the problem at all. But what is currently being proposed is a painkiller, treating the symptoms and not the disease.

When I go to the doctor for a broken arm I don’t want him to treat me with a lot of painkillers, I want him to fix my arm.

So how do we fix this? Why aren’t there more women in tech and startups – why are they turning away?

We have to ask women why they did or didn’t choose the startup life. Then, we sift through those answers. Some women will say “it’s not what I wanted for myself,” and we have to accept their personal choices. What we’re looking for is people who said “I wanted to, but — ” and then find out what stopped them.

This doesn’t occur in late high school or early college, where most of the earliest female-startup efforts are being targeted. Entrepreneurs seem to know by that age that that’s what they want to do at some point in life.

Any entrepreneur knows that being an entrepreneurial sort of person is partially a question of personality, so we have to discover why these personalities are being turned away so early in life – in early high school or even before.

The answer is not to make entrepreneurship disproportionately easier for women who are already there, but to get more women interested in the first place. Women-based awards, competitions, e.t.c. only reward women already decided on entrepreneurship, not women who were chased away before they even had a chance.

In the recent past I have seen some groups like this start; CoolTechGirls being one of them. They are few and far between but much appreciated.

I can be found on Twitter and my personal website, among other places.

Going to work with a startup: The method to my madness

Jay Clouse is a business builders alumnus, and is currently the COO of Tixers, a Cincinnati startup focused on changing the way tickets are sold and traded.

Let’s do some quick math.

There are 24 hours in a day, 8 of which are recommended for sleeping, at least 8 of which are traditionally earmarked for working a job, and so that leaves a final 8 hours per day (A THIRD!) of traditional adult life to be used at your discretion. Obviously that’s a very simplistic calculation, but you get the point.

Approaching the end of my college career, that was a fact that I just couldn’t shake. Especially during the few months where I had convinced myself that I wanted to go into consulting and came to terms with working constant 12+ hour days and traveling four days a week. “I’ll just do this for a couple years, learn a ton, pay my ‘dues’ and use it as a jumping off point.”

Well, I didn’t get an offer from Deloitte or McKinsey. Those interviews were the two most difficult interviews I’ve ever done, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy the process — clearly it wasn’t a fit for me.

That soon became an apparent blessing. I’ve just drudged through four years of college work, and I was signing up to drudge through another 2-3 years of consulting as a means to an end? What end? Jumping off point for what — another job that took up way too much of my time that I wasn’t passionate about? There were plenty of other prospects, and I would be sure to learn a lot…but I couldn’t get enthusiastic about any of them.

I started thinking. The problem, I reasoned, was that I was thinking about a job. I was worried about making a good salary — even if that meant filling up all the time that I would want to put that salary to use for things that I wanted to do.

Well here’s the thing: having a job [expletive] sucks, and I don’t want to do it. Having a job, to me, means my mind compartmentalizes 8+ hours of tasks within my weekday of things I don’t really want to do. That meaning, if the pay were nonexistent, I wouldn’t do it. It would be, simply, a means to an end.

**Disclaimer** I realize a ton of people “love their jobs.”  That’s great! I’m arguingmy concept of the word “job” and not that people can’t love what they do — including working for someone else.

For me, that meant finding a means of income that integrated into my lifestyle, gives me an opportunity to learn by building and growing a business, and allows me to work outside of an imposed organizational hierarchy.

“Listen to your heart, that’s what I do.” — Napoleon Dynamite

Frankly, my passions were evident to everyone else around me.

“So what are you going to do after graduation? Start some big company?”

What’s next? Are you going to Silicon Valley?

Truth be told, I would love to jump in and start a company right now. On a small scale, I have with Boosted Brands. I will continue to make sites here and there when I have time and there is a need, but it’s not my central focus. I have a ton to learn before I start a company, and I don’t have my own idea to chase right now (or the money to afford doing so!)

I want to work on something where I can have a measurable impact every day. I want to work on something that isn’t a “job” and something that makes me excited to get out of bed, solve problems, and meet new people. I want to work on something where the working hours are Necessary a.m. — Necessary p.m. and not defined by an arbitrary corporate structure.

I want to work on a startup. That’s important — I want to work on a startupwith a team that really values what I bring to the table (yes, I know this could just be called “semantics”). And that’s why I have accepted an offer to work with Tixers as Chief Operating Officer!

What is Tixers?

Tixers is a member of the second class within the UpTech Accelerator, and a former Startup Weekend Cincinnati award-winner.

Tixers does two things. First, it allows customers to trade tickets that would otherwise go into waste or need to be resold into the site in exchange for immediate value in the form of credits on the site. For the ticketholder, the process is quicker and easier than resale, and provides guaranteed value rather than simply trying to sell them for cash. For example, now, your extra ticket to that Cleveland Indians game can be used towards a Browns ticket in the Fall.

Second, we offer traditional ticket brokerage (like Stubhub or Ticketmaster) paired with flexibility for those buying tickets on our site. When customers are buying tickets, they can choose to buy them immediately from our current and featured inventory, or they can submit a request with how much they would like to pay and where they would like to sit. We then go to work finding you the best value for your request. Tixers wants to even the playing field and unlock new experiences for loyal fans. Check out today’s article in Cincinnati Business Courier.

So if you’re looking to unload or pick up a concert or sporting event ticket, check us out. I would love to help you get the best ticket possible!