Invest in Mothers

Mother at computer holding babyRecently I attended an event for entrepreneurs looking to accelerate their businesses. The event was billed as an opportunity to hear from leaders about how they’ve propelled their companies in terms of product development, technology, sales and marketing. Following the presentations, attendees were encouraged to eat lunch in groups dedicated to specific topics and facilitated by experts.

There were eleven presenters. One was a woman. There were twelve lunch experts. Not one of them was a women.

I asked the organizers where the women were. The answers ranged from (and I paraphrase), “I try to get women here every year. I think it’s too hard for women to start companies,” to “I can’t speak for women.”

I heard a similar refrain at another start-up focused event last month. A man there told me women aren’t willing to put in the hard work and the hours to run a company. Really? Tell that to Ursula Burns, Oprah Winfrey, Anne Mulcahey, Indra Nooyi and countless other women who run lesser-known businesses.

Perhaps the answer lies here: an estimated 90 percent of all venture funding goes to men and venture capital is a key ingredient for growth. The venture industry is predominantly male. This translates to fewer and less powerful networks and connections for women making it more difficult to get in front of key investors. When they do get in the door, it isn’t as easy for them to relate to the money men.

Don’t believe me? Read this. Paige Craig, CEO of BetterWorks and an investor with Good Angel, confesses in Business Insider that he almost didn’t fund a pregnant woman’s business  because of doubts he had she could start a company, lead a team, carry and then care for a child.

Perhaps I should be grateful Craig was honest and started an important dialogue. But actually, his article irks me. The insurance companies insist on labeling childbirth as a disability, but it’s not. Our bodies were built to have children. The many doctor’s appointments, and the frequent trips to bathroom during pregnancy do take time, but women still manage to get things done. We have smart phones now. We can check email and make calls from the waiting room at the OBs office.

And why is the idea that having a child is a great motivator for women so rare? I go to work every day to feed my children. I work hard so I can give my children excellent opportunities. I strive to make a positive impact in the world, because my children will inherit the results. And when I walk through the front door every night and see my kids, I gain invaluable perspective that fuels my effectiveness on the job.

Mother’s don’t check out. Mothers go through life with a heightened sense of awareness and of purpose. Work with us, harness that, and trust me, you’ll like the results.

Read the response from the entrepreneur Craig did ultimately fund. She says she has no interest in fitting the typical start-up CEO profile. She hopes to model for others a path that, “includes sharing their entrepreneurial journey (and, the financial and social upside they will create) with people who know their story, their context, maybe even their families, and believe in them all the more because of it.” Are men that different?

Last night, I had to have a talk with my daughter because she broke a serious rule. I was disappointed and concerned and wanted to tell her. But I chose a softer delivery so that she would feel comfortable talking with me the next time we needed to have an honest conversation. I know, I know. I should take a similar approach with Craig. So please forgive my initial crankiness. It’s just that  it baffles me that in 2011 the concept of women as capable, motivated providers, is still foreign to some.

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7 comments for “Invest in Mothers

  1. Anonymous
    April 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    “childbirth as a disability”

    Don’t even get me going, girl.

    Being a MOTHER is the lowest paying job in the world…and the most Significant…

    I mean, Come on, We are molding the next generation, the next leaders, the next PRESIDENTS & Prime Ministers.

    A disability? This person needs a spanking!!! xx

    • April 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      The insurance companies categorize maternity leave as short term disability.

  2. April 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    “Mother’s don’t check out. Mothers go through life with a heightened sense of awareness and of purpose. Work with us, harness that, and trust me, you’ll like the results”

    Great Great Line. :) .

  3. tinfoil hattie
    April 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I started my own business in 2006 and I employ two part-time women who are mothers. I’d have come to speak at the event! I did a quick & lazy google, and found that in 2005 in the U.S., women-owned businesses accounted for 28 percent of all businesses and 55 percent of new startups. So much for “Women just don’t like to start businesses! Golly! I just couldn’t find any!”

    Strange coincidence that we get 10% of venture capital funding. Move along; no patriarchy here!

    Side note: Childbirth isn’t a disability, per se, but it can be debilitating. It is exhausting and hard on one’s body. Then, there’s that new human being to nourish and care for.

    I agree it shouldn’t be CALLED a disability, but neither should we think of it as just another normal day in the life of a woman’s body. If anything, women who give birth should be accorded extra time off to recover, and in-home assistance to boot.

    You know, like civilized countries do it.

  4. Karen Deluca-Walton
    June 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    YES Being a MOTHER is the lowest paying job in the world…and the most Significant…

    I mean, Come on, We are molding the next generation, the next leaders, the next PRESIDENTS & Prime Ministers.

    I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PUT INTO WORDS HOW I FEEL… FORGET WORKING AND DO THE JOB WE WERE BUILT TO DO… RAISE KIDS.. I AM SORRY BUT YOU CAN NOT BUILD A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS AND GIVE CHILDREN THE ATTENTION THEY NEED AND MORE IMPORTANTLY DESERVE.. UNLESS YOUR HOURS RUN STRICTLY WHILE THEY ARE AT SCHOOL ONLY.

    • June 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      Karen,

      Disagree. Many children have two parents. Fathers can raise kids too.

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