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Am I The Female Zuckerberg? No, I’m The Next Busque.

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By Leah Busque (Founder, TaskRabbit)

Editor’s note: TaskRabbit Founder Leah Busque will be speaking at the PITCH Conference on February 14, 2012 in Mountain View, CA. Get your ticket now!

We’ve all been compared to someone at some point. It’s often a physical comparison — “you look just like so and so!” — but sometimes it’s a reflection of similar personality traits, mannerisms, or behavior. However, it’s not often that someone is compared to one of the most famous people in the world. But, that’s the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago.

The best way to sum up my reaction when I first saw my head on Mark Zuckerberg’s body in the December 2011 issue of San Francisco Magazine — surprised. I’m confident that anyone would feel the same to see their face on the body of one of the most famous technologists on the planet.

What made it even more shocking though was not the hoodie I wouldn’t wear (probably not ever), nor the frighteningly over-sized hands. (Mark — don’t worry! They look good on you.) No, it was much more basic. What made it surprising is that I’m not Mark Zuckerberg or any man for that matter. I’m a woman and proud of it — right down to my petite hands and fun, trendy outfits.

After I got over the initial reaction, being compared to Zuckerberg was a paradoxical experience. I was, at once, deeply flattered and somewhat shocked. As I said, he is one of the most brilliant technologists of our time and one that I am honored to be compared to. But, at the same time, it was disheartening to see my head placed on a male’s body — as if masculine features are synonymous with uber success.

On an all-too-frequent basis, I am asked what it is like to be a “female founder in tech.” From the very first time I was asked this question, my philosophy has remained the same: it’s a non-issue. When I get out of bed each day and rush to the office to work with my team, not once do I consider that I have one more X-chromosome than my male counterparts.

Like all tech founders, male and female alike, I am 100% focused on building an awesome product (in my case, TaskRabbit). What makes us all successful is that we are uniquely talented and innovative. Zuckerberg is not good because he is male and, similarly, I’m not successful because I’m female. We’re successful because we are just plain good (and work really hard) at what we do, irrespective of our gender.

While I appreciate the spirit of the SF Mag article, I would have preferred that the piece celebrated the amazing companies I, and the other female entrepreneurs, are building, leveraging our unique skills and passions. I, for one, would have much rather seen Susan Gregg Koger, founder and chief creative officer of ModCloth, in one of her impeccably fashionable outfits — the very thing that has made her and her company such a success — rather than a stale hoodie.

For our part, instead of focusing on how we stack up against our male counterparts, we will continue doing what we do best – build successful products and companies — with an eye towards being the next Busque, Koger, Bianchini, or Fake, not the next Zuckerberg.

Editor’s note: TaskRabbit Founder Leah Busque will be speaking at the PITCH Conference on February 14, 2012 in Mountain View, CA. Get your ticket now!

Photo credit: Modern Luxury

Leah BusqueAbout the guest blogger: Leah Busque is the Founder of TaskRabbit, the pioneer in service networking. TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that connects folks in a community to get things done. Since its founding in 2008, Leah has grown the company to more than 35 employees and expanded service to Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, New York and Chicago. Prior to founding TaskRabbit, Leah was a Software Engineer at IBM. Follow her on Twitter at @labusque.

  • Caroline

    First of all congratulations!
    I am confused however, if gender is a non-issue, why is it important that you are presented in a gender-specific manner? I would have laughed it off. I think it’s actually progressive that they ignore the gender difference and copy paste your head on a man, anyway. I suppose it would be even greater if they presented you in a way that resonates with the way you dress and present yourself in real life.

    However, all too often, when covering women in tech, I see articles with the angle ‘they might be in tech, but they ARE REAL WOMEN. Look at their high heels and impeccable makeup’. I have more of an issue with this (that somehow one has to compensate with something to make up for being a woman in tech) than with the photoshop job here.

  • David Zilberman

    Leah,

    Congrats on being recognized in the SF Magazine’s issue honoring great entrepreneurs (who happen to be women)!

    Being a male founder, I’m not sure if I should have a seat at the table in this discussion/debate. What I would like to say, though, is that as the proud husband of an amazing women who has at times been challenged by the realities of what is still unfortunately a male dominated business environment, I’m glad that the press takes note of the achievements of female leaders like yourself.

    I think that as a society we need more women founders, more women technologists, more women executives, and more women corporate directors. Females make up more than half of the population but less than 10% of the executive roles in business. That’s not a world that I want for my daughters (or my son…)

    I do think the male hands were a bit over the top… but I’m sure that the featured article (photoshopped hoodie and all…) does help to increase awareness around women role models, which should be encouraged.

    I hope we all have a great 2012!

    David

  • http://twitter.com/nayafia Nadia

    I echo the same confusion above. I absolutely love your comments about gender being a non-issue in your day-to-day work. But if that’s true, then I’m not sure why it matters whether you were pasted on a male or female’s body. I think the deeper issue with the magazine coverage is being portrayed as the “next” anybody besides yourself, whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg or Susan Gregg Koger.

  • Laura

    Thanks Leah for writing this response! Both my boyfriend and I found the SF Magazine article to be slightly offensive. I never like when someone or something is “the next X” as I feel that people (and startups) should be appreciate on their own merits and for what they bring to the space.

    My main issue with the SF Magazine piece was that it was defining these women in terms of the standard definition being a male founder instead of their amazing accomplishments and thriving companies. It would do us all a bit of good to stop focusing on gender and instead on individual accomplishments.