Women in Startups & Babies
People fondly refer to their ideas/ startup / company as “my baby” — men and women unanimously. The metaphor is not a coincidence. Ask an entrepreneur about what the startup means to him!
A startup, A baby — are both very personal, a lot of times emotional, needs a lot of dedication, care, “nurturing selflessly” to grow them. And lets not forget how irrationally passionate & invested we are when it comes to our baby.
Women are a big part of bringing up a baby. She is resilient, strong and capable of growing, nurturing and leading. The sacrifices & commitment go a long way. So why wonder about women in startups ?
Do the same reasons that make her a better mother make her weak for the business world? Is there something core to the nature of women which is deterrent for them to run startups ? Or is it all just a social influence ?
I’m an entrepreneur, a woman, married for last 3 years, don’t have a kid yet but I have a great bond with my sister who is quite a workaholic, did surgeries till the day before of her delivery. I see her everyday and I am inspired.
Funnily enough, the last 4 paragraphs were written 2 yrs ago.
Today, I’m re-editing this post sitting next to “our baby”, all of 8 kgs and 7 months old, gifted with the ability to put up with a workaholic mother with her startup dreams. Ah, coincidentally he even let me work till late evening before his delivery the next day morning (natural birthing and without any noticeable pain, lucky me!)
So, back to the question:
Do I care less about the baby or the startup ?
Honestly, I try, I stretch & with a lot of drive to give them enough. Its hard. Its emotionally draining, knowing what more you could have done if you didn’t have to run back to the other. Does that make me completely incompetent to run my business or to be looked down upon as a choice for a founder ?
The reality, as I observe myself now :
Yes, it is sub-optimal and not the ideal state for a startup. Its hard to accept, but yes that is the reality. Its extra hard to manage too, for the female founder. I myself have questioned if it wasn’t a good time for the baby and pondered if it is even worth giving lesser time for our baby because of the startup. Its definitely hard to go through these feelings.
But I also wonder, however, that in the large scheme of things does it really hurt? If a typical startup run is about 4–6 years, would the 3 to 4 months of slight unavailability hurt a lot. What if a male founder fell severely sick and is bed-ridden for 2 months.
Can the startup community live with this increased responsibility of a women founder ? Do investors and the ecosystem recognise that female founders can be more resilient, have larger determination, are diligent and most likely have a natural talent to grow, nurture and to lead.
(a) I think it comes down to the world being aware that some of your time is going into attending to your baby. So, they know, you can do more. So at a subconscious level probably it makes the outside world feel that we are not giving (enough) all of it.
It is about 90/110 vs 95 /100 and not about 90 vs 95.
At least when compared to most men with a family or a significant other. Note: A bachelor / bachelorette would probably be at 120 on this scale.
(b) I think the fathers do care & want to be there as much. It can be equally taxing on them to be away, immersed at work — a startup or other — with a baby at home. Somehow the world connects the dependency to the mother so much more. This for the women makes the opportunities harder, and for the men, sadly, they are taken for granted.
(c) It can be quite exhausting. Undisputed lack of time and energy from women in early phases due to physiological changes. The first 2–3 months can be extremely tiring and physically draining. It is best to take it easy. And yes you would lose that time on your startup, which might even be crucial. You can only wish your team steps up and prepare them to, which leads us to ..
How to deal with it
(a) An expecting mother & founder should plan things ahead. The 9 months are typically sufficient although it could be quite unsettling for the team around. Make the necessary modifications in the mode of work, roles or responsibilities to suit the time. Luckily, many out there do understand, accommodate, step up/ own up more.
(b) We also need to take our own well being a lot seriously before and after delivery to be back in the pack sooner. Organise our time better. It is a crucial time and can lead to lot of regrets if not managed well.
(c) More than anything a female founder should try and not heed to the stray comments thrown irresponsibly without observing the actual effort or outcome of their parenting or about their work. People tend to be sympathetic or assume a general stance.
You are a founder for you aren’t just ordinary and you definitely know better.
Disclaimer: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITHOUT A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM, at work and at home for your babies (I mean the startup and the “baby”).
I am indebted to the support and sacrifices from my family and the huge support from my partners at work & the larger team that stood by strong. They made this happen.
As I anxiously look out for our little one to step out on his feet and work towards our product going into public beta. All in the next 2 months. The babies, who have kept me up all night!