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.

Recap of the 1st Ever Emerging Entrepreneur Competition

Mark Zuckerburg was 19 when he started Facebook. 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio sold his app Summly to Yahoo! for $30 million in 2013. Brian Wong, at age 19, founded a gaming rewards program called Kiip which earned over $15.4 million in funding and a spot on the DOW Jones FASTech50.

These few examples go to show that when it comes to startups, age is no boundary. These tech-savvy teens have proved that in the 21st century the pups are perfectly capable of playing with the big dogs. Little did we know, Ohio is home to many teens who share the same vision.

At the beginning of the year, the BBC decided we would set out to spark interest and support for Ohio’s youth entrepreneurs. We decided to host the 1st annual Emerging Entrepreneur Competition to take place March 29th in the Ohio Union. We invited high school entrepreneurs from all over Ohio to pitch their products and ideas to a panel of judges for feedback, advice, and the chance to grab a $500 grand prize.

After each entry came in, we were more and more thrilled at how many high-schoolers wanted to come out to OSU and pitch their projects. Students with improved 3D printers, digital liquor control devices, and online live personal training platforms greatly exceeding our expectations. On paper these ideas seemed great, but once we saw the full presentations, we were blown away. Some of these students had spent years developing their products, establishing LLCs, patents pending, and working prototypes. Who knew there was so much talent and ingenuity right here in our own backyard?

Taking home the grand prize was Carson Fox from Saint Francis DeSales for his company Head Hoodies which produces stylish head protectors for lacrosse sticks. The 2nd place prize was given to Matthew Boles, creator of a microwaveable, totable oatmeal. In 3rd place, Sammie Sommerkamp who designed the WorkoutWonder, an easy, simple to use piece of equipment which helps strengthen and tone core muscles.

Overall, the judges and the BBC were more than impressed with the great ideas and products that were presented. At such a young age, these students sure were able to bring their wow-factor! Congratulations to all presenters. We are greatly looking forward to see what the future has in store for you.

We at the BBC would like to thank all judges, participants, and spectators for helping to make a very successful Emerging Entrepreneur Competition.

See you next year!

 

Judges for the Event:

David Comisford

Doug Myers

Brooke Paul

Dan Rockwell

Greg Ruf

Cherylyn Rushton

Guest Speaker:

Steve Gacka

 

Chris Anderson: Gauchos on the Pampas

This week we were pleased to welcome Chris Anderson, a Business Builder himself, he shared stories that were both comical and enlightening.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Get organized, make charts for your industry, your organization, and your life
  2. Don’t let school get in the way of a good education
  3. The most important decision is who you choose to work with
  4. Believe in yourself, believe in the Midwest, believe in the people you’re working with
  5. Speak the truth and see what happens

His support for the Business Builder’s mission was overwhelming. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Chris!