By Morra Aarons-Mele (CEO, Women Online)
There is constant discussion about whether women, tech startups, and ovaries mix. Despite the fact that women start small businesses at a faster rate than men, the hand-wringing only seems to reach a wide audience when the startup in question is in the tech or social media space, and it might require venture capital to grow.
The argument goes that men have the money and they make the decisions about which startups to fund. And men might hesitate to fund a woman of childbearing age because she might have kids (or she does have little kids) and might lose interest in the business/not work hard enough.
This is an all too common topic of discussion on tech blogs. Alexia Tsotsis on TechCrunch highlights the blowback from a typical article by Penelope Trunk on this topic. Tsotsis quotes a reader who perfectly sums up her anger about stupid articles about fertile women and tech startups:
When a publication like TechCrunch spews some nonsense about what women want, it means that the next time I go into an interview with a male founder (and they are overwhelmingly male for some reason that I’m not going to address here, but that Penelope assures us has nothing to do with bias) who has read that nonsense, he may be thinking, consciously or subconsciously, “she doesn’t really want to work at this startup because she wants to have a baby.”
Here’s my approach, and I think it makes sense. I actually would encourage male VCs to think about it when they see a woman with young kids, or who is looking broody.
When you have children, your deepest motivation is to give them the best life you can.
I have a one year-old and a three year-old. I work full time; I have a consulting firm and I’m about to launch a social media startup. My kids are in full time care, and I benefit from a wonderful, flexible husband and my mom. I have mom guilt, wife guilt, and a messy house.
Apart from the fact that I love what I do, I work my ass off building my businesses for this reason: I want to be there for my kids in 10 years. I want the flexibility to meet them at 3pm each day, or whatever it takes. Right now, my boys are small and they love their life.
I make sure to have enough time to be with them but I also know they love their dad, their caregivers, my mom and often even the occasional babysitters we have for a night out. My three year old likes anyone who will talk trucks with him.
I take seriously the saying, “little children, little problems.” My dream is to be able to be with them when they are preteens and teens and the problems get bigger and mom needs to be there, really there.
Even more so, when I (god willing) have grandkids all those years from now, do I want to have to work? It’s not like I can count on a social safety net or even a 401K.
What if, I work really really hard now, I get lucky, and I can have those precious moments in 10 or 15 years, even if my kids don’t think they’re so precious?
For me, the flexibility to alter my work to the needs of my kids as they grow is the biggest motivator I can think of to work really, really hard right now. It’s sort of what men have been working for all these years, no?
This post was originally posted at Huffington Post.
About the guest blogger: Morra Aarons Mele is the Founder of Women Online, a digital PR and marketing firm. She is an Internet marketer who has been working with women online since 1999. She helped Hillary Clinton log on for her first Internet chat, and launched Wal-Mart’s first blog. Morra at the White house. She has covered events from the White House to the campaign trail to Harvard Law School in her role as a blogger on women, politics, and work. Follow her on Twitter at @morraam.