By Shelly Kapoor Collins (CEO, Enscient Corporation)
“To achieve the economic expansion, we all seek we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come… By increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can have a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the APEC summit.
As the founder of a startup and ardent fan of Secretary Clinton, I 100% agree with this statement. I am a female entrepreneur who runs a technology startup, a mother to two young children both under the age of five, and wife to a C-level exec husband in Silicon Valley with a very demanding job.
I felt compelled to share my story in response to Penelope Trunk’s article in TechCrunch, “Stop Telling Women To Do Startups”. Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to respond to Trunk’s post is that I am a technology startup founder who is so proud of my decision to follow this path, every single day, and very thankful for my decision.
Ms. Trunk might be interested to know that I actually launched my startup when my husband and I were expecting our second child, and our first child was 10 months old. I was in my mid-30s. But, even launching my startup was not enough for me. While the firm I launched started as a technology services firm, my vision was to develop my firm into a software company, which is what we are now.
Do I have any regrets with my decision? Yes, you bet. The only regret I have is not following my passion sooner, and launching my firm well before I did. While I am a big believer in “timing is everything”, my reasons for not starting my company sooner are the most bothersome to me.
I listened to the advice always being given to me, from friends and family alike, whenever I mentioned starting my own business. First, the advice was “wait until you get married”, then it was “wait until you have children”, and the last straw, “wait until your kids are in school”.
Would there ever be a right time? The underlying message behind this advice seems to be that women can’t have a career AND a family at the same time, and therefore must put their lives on hold. When was the last time someone suggested that women should try to do both? It’s not that women don’t feel capable of doing what they want, of course we do.
We are the best multi-taskers out there, capable of maintaining all competing priorities at #1. Instead, we as women are constantly being put in a position of having to make a choice between career and family. We are hardly, if ever, told that it’s ok to want both.
So, we as women do need to be told to do startups, because we need to know it’s an option. We need to be told to run for public office and to do those things which are outside of our comfort level. As for women having a positive impact on global economy, it makes sense. We are the other 50% and can have a major collective impact if we create jobs with our companies. So, yes, we should we encouraged to launch startups.
Trunk refers to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook in her article, and Sandberg’s advice that women should lean into their careers (great advice, by the way).
Trunk should have also mentioned that other article from Sandberg, “The Most Important Career Choice You’ll Make is Who You Marry” (I, personally, am a living example of this).
With the right support, women don’t have to make a choice between startups and children but can have it all. The right support also means that we as women encourage one another but it does not mean that speak on each other’s behalf as to what we want as a group.
Supporting each other means that we compromise but not necessarily sacrifice. The worst thing we can do is look back on life with a “coulda woulda shoulda” attitude.
About the guest blogger: Shelly is CEO of Enscient Corporation. She is also Founder of Root Square, an innovative fundraising platform which enables political candidates and nonprofits to raise funds and awareness across leading social media sites. Shelly is a technology advisor to the Office of the Attorney General, Honorable Kamala D. Harris (CA), and a Technology and Social Media Advisor to the India-Senate Caucus co-chaired by Senator Mark Warner (VA).