Women are bad Entrepreneurs? Speak for yourself (part 1)

Going CrazyPenelope Trunk is an accomplished woman. She has had successful entrepreneurial ventures and has published extensively in publications like Boston Globe and Time Magazine. However if you read her recent article in Techcrunch, you would not be left with the impression that she is a successful entrepreneur and writer. Trunk begins her article stating that she hated what she did, despite being successful. As we all know success does not mean happiness. Instead of writing a post about finding her happiness outside of the entrepreneurial rat race to settle down with a new husband, kids, pigs, sheep and a panoply of furry farm animals. She essentially writes a post how women are horrible entrepreneurs and business people. She touches on the pressures and inequities of society. Yes women have harder times getting business funding. Yes women are still discriminated against in the work place, in competitive job positions and in salary ranges. Yes there is a traditional time in woman’s life when she is likely to have children. Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda can expound on this for us all.

Trunk sites a New York Times report that describes entrepreneurs as being manic. However, we are not all Charlotte Gillman Perkins ripping-off-the-yellow-wallpaper crazy because we want to be successful or run our own business. She furthers this insult by saying that women are not committed or focused enough to be good entrepreneurs. That we are not willing to sacrifice our private lives to be the next big thing. She even claims that 20-something year old men are better at startups than basically any woman because they have unfettered drive. Honestly, speak for yourself. My drive is hardly fettered and I am not a 20-something or a man.

Women face an uphill battle that has been raging on for not just decades, but hundreds of years. We have a society where a stay-at-home dad is lauded for making such a sacrifice and women are common place, and looked down upon, for the same sacrifice. Trunk says that children are the reason women do not have startups is because of kid. I say that is a load of sheep pellets. We make our choices. Some women want to raise a family, and they should be lauded for that! Some women want careers, and they have worked hard for them. Some women want to have a family and a business, maybe even a family business! oooh!

Trunk is obviously speaking from her own experience and unfortunately for the rest of us she seems to feel that she is speaking for our entire gender. She made a choice to focus on her career and was very successful. She then made a choice to focus on her family, and feels successful in that. Good for her. But lets face it, her success in her career is what is allowing her to focus on her family in the manner that she is. She stepped out of the rat race because she didn’t like it and it is a sweeping generalization that her reason for not liking applies to the rest of us.

So simply, speak for yourself.

Since she chose to speak for all of us, as a proud and loud Smith College alumnae, I decided to ask some Smithies what they thought of her post. Needless to say, I got some great responses!

Penelope Phillips-Armand says, “At least Ms. Trunk seems to realize that she’s been putting too many of her eggs in one basket. As Gail Shee…hy pointed out as early as the 1970′s in her book “Passages, ” many women have trouble integrating professional, family, and personal values until age 35 or so, when they have lived enough to know what works for them as individuals. Been there, done that. Even after developing a strong sense of one’s deeper self, one has to be alert to the many centrifugal callings that compete for one’s available resources. Men are by no means exempt from that problem: I remember hearing once about a young architecture student who quit school because he was desperate to do his laundry.

The “Brazen Careerist” blog draws mostly on the author’s experience, and it sounds as though she pushes for extremes–both in her endeavors and in her conclusions. That title, setting up startups versus children, is outrageous–not only because it might yet be taken straight by some benighted souls, but also because there are so many ways to run startups as well as to raise children.

Let’s not be horrified; we need our wits about us. Let’s hope, instead, that the next phase of her life brings her further integration, moderation and wisdom.” (Visit Penelope’s website here or here or her newest site.)

Anne Gonnella writes, “From personal experience as a mom, I agree and disagree. There is NO WAY IN HELL I would try to run a startup as a new mom. Even if my husband were to stay home and raise the kids, I would have to be ok with not taking part in raising my kids myself, and I’m not. On the other hand, I had my first baby at 39. Married at 30. If I had wanted to, I would have had plenty of time in my 20′s to start a business and work crazy hours to get it going, without interfering with the rest of my life plans for a family. I know plenty of women who had children later in life, too – it’s not that unusual and there is no biological reason not to have a rich and time consuming career before kids, or after the kids are older.

I take real exception to her claim that boys and girls are genetically pre-disposed to different behaviors at the outset. She says she did her research, bu clearly she only read some of the material out there. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary she missed. For example, Cordelia Fine points out in her book (read about it here and here)  that a lot of theories of gender differences are based on bad science. Barbara Mackoff, in her book uncovers many of the hidden ways we create gender bias without realizing it, and then call the differences we see innate. I could go on. Saying that boys use guns because they are hardwired to and girls just want to nurture their dolls just provides convenient excuses for gender discrimination instead of embracing individual differences and open minded attitudes.” – (Email Anne, @annathema, or read her blog)

Tiffani St.Cloud writes, “I think she has some valid ideas to share. She hasn’t shared them in any way I can agree with, however. I’ve worked and continue to work with women who have children and are excellent managers.

I’ve also worked with a man who had the pattern of disorder she attributes to all women who have children. He was co-parenting (with his wife), but he still couldn’t pull it together and have a work-life balance.

It’s one thing to want to share your personal experience — I’m all for that. It’s quite another to take your personal experience, generalize it to all women, then close by saying that 20 something males are superior employees/managers. That’s a model that worked for her, she’s entitled to express it, but she’s has no background to state that it’s true for others.”

…so many Smithies wanted to share, I decided to break this up into two parts.  Part 2 will post Saturday October 16.