I have no problem with that person being a male or female. But I can't imagine any person (mom or dad) being able to put 15 hours a day to a company with the baby after the baby is born. That's the first thing the article should deal with.
Now a man might be able to deceive me by simply not disclosing this while a woman is going to have a very difficult time. But I wouldn't say this is unfair: the man is simply easier able to pass off his awfulness than the woman.
It's like saying a woman is more likely to be able to shoplift and get away with it than a man and this is unfair. I don't know if that is true, but if it is, it's certainly not 'unfair'.
The woman, by virtue of being visibly pregnant, will have to suffer the potential investor guessing which of the three she is, while the man will not. The investor doesn't know what that person's family dynamic is.
Similarly, lots of people make incorrect assumptions about what a physically disabled person will be able to accomplish, and the person with the disability suffers their bias. I think it's up to the person with the disability, or the parent, to judge whether founding a company is appropriate.
Of course, that doesn't mean you have to fund them. After all, it's your money. All I'm saying is that there are a lot of preconceived notions we have about parenting based on very deep-seated cultural norms and biases which may not always be accurate.
If you truly want to be present and have an active role in your child's life, growth, development et al it's going to force your priorities to shuffle around.
If your "startup" is still a priority (but not above your child) you aren't going to be in the office from sun up to sun down. Period.
You'll have to make up those hours later (when the child is sleeping) however, in months 0-24, that's really tough as most children (at least not mine) didn't sleep well during that phase.
During those years, and for me it spanned 5 calendar years given multiple children, working late at night was a luxury, not an option I could plan on.
I however, disclosed that when taking a CTO position at a company that just wrapped up a ~$20 dollar round. It was transparent to them and set the right expectations.
I do acknowledge that a company in that stage albeit not out of the woods, is not in the same position in the seed, Series-A phase.
If you look in my comment history I gave a "day in the life of" for my schedule on how I manage running a startup and keeping my family, health, self priority #1, #2, and #3. It's buried in there somewhere.
I don't have have reliable scientific evidence either way, but my speculation is that the vast majority of differences in outcomes between kids can be attributed to: genetics, nutrition, parental wealth, and education (in that order). I've found no reason to believe that "hav[ing] an active role in your child's life" (versus hiring good nannies and teachers to do the same), has much long-term impact on kids. Sometimes, when I'm cynical, I think it's a kind of moralistic conventional wisdom that's mostly perpetuated as a way to keep women "in their place."
Of course with sufficient money you can buy excellent replacement care. I would slightly reorder you attribution list, putting parental wealth at the beginning, since that can practically overcome all the rest (especially nutrition and education - genetics is tougher, but short of life-altering conditions money can overcome that too).
I also take two lunches a week where I hit the gym and go two additional times (in the evening and once in the morning on the weekends).
My point being, the business I help run is thriving, dates/goals are being met, people are happy, and the world kept turning.
Making my career priority #4 has ultimately made me better at my career. No burnout, better focus and creativity, etc.
I honestly wish I did this when I got into the startup space back in 2004 where if you didn't work ~80 hours a week you were a freak.
I would say I've updated this to state that I am out of the house around 8:30 am now spending even more time with my kids.
I still get up around ~5:30 - 6:00 am, but don't bounce out of the house as early.
Also, my kids are sleeping better now that they are older (and sleeping in) so I need to stay home later to spend quality time with them each morning.
From a purely biological perspective this seems backwards to me. A desirable man could conceivably produce many children over the course of nine months, while a woman can have only one pregnancy.
Edit - I do recognize that in many species (humans included) females are more likely to reproduce than males. Given that the sorts of males who found companies are probably relatively high-status individuals, though, I would suggest that the likelihood of either being able to reproduce is pretty decent, and relates to choice rather than mate availability.
Of course either could adopt a child if they really wanted to. So really we need to determine are we comparing extremes to extremes, or are we comparing what actually happens in the population (and at what point do we disagree and thus need to begin supporting our ideas).
If I were working for any ceo who decided to have a baby, but particularly a woman, I'd want to know about his or her commitment to the business that I'm investing my time, life, and money into. Being a ceo is generally not a 9-5 M-F job, so explaining how you're going to juggle that with the demands of childcare, breastfeeding should you chose to do so, business travel, business needs, etc is fair game when my personal financial results are entangled with the business outcome.
If you're planning on doing what Marissa did and installing a nanny next to your office, great. If you're planning on taking 4 months off for your personal project, I'm going to re-evaluate my dedication to the business if the ceo isn't more dedicated than me.
NB: I currently work for a female ceo; she and her partner have an au pair but he has damaged his career to provide more childcare than her.
That's a fair assumption across an entire population, but I doubt it applies very well to the population of women looking for funding. They're going to be a lot more likely than the average woman to prioritize business over childcare, and a lot more likely to have a stay-at-home spouse.
Also, historically, lots of kids, particularly of the upper class, were largely raised by nannies and it appears to have worked.
If you can afford a nanny, I wouldn't think you'd be raising funding.
You can think that, but it is most certainly not going to be accepted as fact by the many caretaker fathers out there. Nor, I believe, can you take it for granted that mothers in heterosexual two-parent households assume they are better caretakers than their partners.
Would you argue that a child raised by two fathers is at an inherent disadvantage to one raised by two mothers?
One is your indulging in the naturalistic fallacy, aka the is-ought fallacy. What exists tells us nothing about what's right. If it did, then change would always be wrong. It's a big philosophical mistake, especially in one built around creating technological change.
The other is you're creating the sort of evolutionary "just-so story" that Gould called out as early as 1978. You have a personal fantasy that in our evolutionary environment each child was actively raised by a mother and a father. Is this based on careful examination of hominid fossils? No. It's based on very particular Western late 20th-century ideals of what a "family" is.
What you're doing isn't science. Its dressing your unconsidered prejudices up in a lab coat. And then using the authority of science to push a particular social agenda that involves keeping women at home. That's 100% horseshit.
(I find it slightly hilarious that you think that children had only two raisers In The Ancestral Environment.)
I think it's reasonable for investors to wonder if a person's commitment won't change when they have a baby. I would advise the authors that they really can't forsee what their priorities will be like when the baby comes. It sounds trite, but a baby changes your whole life. It will add an incredible amount of stress that will probably make you reevaluate your priorities.
If I were an investor, I would hold off until they had the baby, and it was at least a few months old. Then both the founders could really know how committed they still were to the company.
Is that you'd hold any founder expecting a baby to the same standard, male or female? (though it is normally easier to recognize a pregnant woman than someone with a pregnant partner)
Or do you see the load you describe falling primarily upon women?
I was simply trying to understand if the above poster was saying "I consider any founder about to have a child as more risky" or if the above poster was saying "I consider any WOMAN about to have a child as more risky". In the latter case it doesn't matter how easy/hard it is to determine if someone has a pregnant partner.
As that poster has indicated it's the former, this difficulty of detection does become an issue: One that I have no good solution to. As it happens, I fully believe in the difficulty of raising young children, for any gender, so I think it's a legit concern, but it raises an automatic advantage to men over women even when they're otherwise in the same situation.
This isn't just a coincidence. Females have the choice of having a child while males do not. Males only have the choice to give a female the choice of having a child with the male. Naturally, the person who makes the choice of having a child most likely values children more, which leads to a higher chance of becoming the primary care taker. There are also benefits that are exclusive to female primary care takers.
If a female and a male have the same profile and they both are expecting children, the male will have a higher expected value because of the physical/emotional complications of a pregnancy and a lower chance of being the primary care taker.
People are investing real money here. It is what it is.
In general on HN, it's better to keep one's comments anchored in something specific about the original story than to go off into provocative generalization. There's nearly always an ideological agenda behind the latter, and those are of interest to no one except holders of the same agenda and its opposite.
By your logic, before any investment is made a complete health scan of all founders should be completed, including a mental health assay.
If a founder gets cancer, should they be fired? They're going to have to take time off to get it removed, followed by months if not years of time lost to chemotherapy.
If you replace tumor with baby, and chemotherapy with pediatric appointments, is there any difference?
Anecdote: When I was 13, my father, CEO of a subsidiary of a large Japanese conglomerate, was treated for and cleared of prostate cancer. It runs in my family and killed his father and grandfather. When he returned to work about 4 weeks later, he was fired as the larger corporation had decided that it was too risky to have someone that could get sick be a C level employee. It is what it is?
Maybe it'd be more comparable to a chain smoker who smoked since ten and it's in his fifties.
Getting fired for health related issues is also another false comparison. Here we're talking getting a private investment. Difference is that the first case is already covered by law (and those also cover hiring, as difficult to prove discrimination can be)
Now, given EITHER ANSWER, there are discussions that can be had, but I didn't raise them.
Even so, there is physical strain that is likely to take a toll on the mother, which might cost a few productive months. Breastfeeding might also be an issue, waking the mother several times per night.
It's always a challenge to resolve the "separate but equal" concepts that arise from a mix of different biologies and desire for egalitarian society. I asked for the clarity because I wanted any such discussions to be directed at the right audiences, in the right context.
Apparently I failed at that, since you felt I was taking a strong position.
Thanks to modern contraceptive methods getting pregnant is a choice. The same as doing a time-intense hobby. If you would not finance someone who openly says that he/she will not give up his/her time-intense hobby for the company, isn't this the same as not financing people who are pregnant?
*But actually it's not really. In today's world, with varying family types and options for care, it is possible for people to have children and give their all to a company. For many (most?) people that isn't the best option, but it is possible.
From the perspective of the founder - obviously that's a personal choice. I personally wouldn't be looking to start a new venture and actively seek funding if my wife was pregnant, more than likely waiting it out for a few months won't hurt anything. Even if you are in a situation like you described, being pregnant takes up a lot of time that can't be outsourced, like pre-natal doctor visits. Also in both of my wife's pregnancies so far she's had to be rushed to the hospital during the pregnancy and spend a few days there, and on the last one she had to have a fairly intense emergency surgery. Honestly in my anecdotal experience those situations aren't uncommon.
On the other hand if I was already actively working on a startup before the pregnancy and needed to close another round before the baby came, I'd do my best make that happen.
Actually, there's a strong argument that biases based on appearance produce gendered discrimination, but that's another issue.
This is the part that I don't get and that I feel like a lot of comments on this thread are talking past each on. This isn't about just having a family (right?) it's about actively fund-raising while expecting a child. I would not only agree with that last point you made but go so far as so say that I strongly prefer to work for people who have children / families (or at least a respect for the institution of family) as I believe that makes them more empathetic and relate-able. That still doesn't mean it's a great idea to start a startup and raise funds while also expecting a child.
EDIT: FWIW I also don't think that our system should enforce this, whether it's a good idea or not, and yes it's absolutely unfair that it's gendered - or at least it's unfair that an expectant father is more able to hide the fact that he's expecting than a mother. I'm not sure that it's reasonable to expect a VC to ignore that once they know, though.
You mean like reading HN?
> On a call last month, a male investor finally raised the issue of pregnancy
> After the call with the investor who questioned whether her pregnancy would affect her ability to close the round, Na’ama was stirred. She told me that this is the first time she felt what it is like to be a woman, rather than a person, in her interactions with investors.
This feels like it might be a reason (although I'm sure there are others) that investors don't bring it up. You talk about being uncomfortable with people not bringing it up, then someone does (in a way that didn't seem inappropriate based on what you wrote, but I could be misreading), and then it makes you uncomfortable that they asked. It feels like there's really no way to win from the investor side.
Na'ama sounds like she handled the question really well, which seems like a big win for her in an investor's eyes (at least the good ones). From your perspective, if she's got a great answer to the question, wouldn't you want an investor that asks you how this major, life changing event is going to affect your team? For the sake of conversation (since this is being had in other threads) let's assume that said investor would also ask a man that question if they knew his partner was about to have a child.
- anything else
because every pregnancy is different, and every woman is different, and every family is different. You cannot safely assume anything about a pregnant woman. So her pregnancy can't help you reliably judge whether she can handle being CEO.
For that matter, you can't safely assume a woman is pregnant even if it seems obvious. I knew a woman with an abdominal tumor who kept getting asked when the baby was due.
Couldn't this logic be applied to almost anything about any person and thus leave one saying that nothing can reliably be used to judge whether someone can handle being a CEO?
That could be fine. Or not. I may evaluate the company as simply having a temporarily inactive co-founder. That's hardly uncommon. Not ideal, but if everything else is in place (remaining team can meet or exceed expectations) then, sure I'd invest.
And no, I don't expect founders to put in 15 hours days as a rule. That means you're hardly getting adequate sleep and will end up making moronic decisions. That's frankly idiotic. I don't care how much you work. Focus on the metrics that matter. Some startups require 10+ days, some don't. Some require greater time commitments in some periods and less in other periods.
There's so much rigid thinking in the comments about this story.
Learn to focus on the most relevant aspects of the problem. Namely, a major life event is coming up - is there a reasonable plan in place to handle it? If yes, then proceed to follow your usual path of analyzing an investment.
It's funny how men get so irrational when faced with a woman's pregnancy.
I would say this though. It's incumbent on the founders to initiate this discussion. Just like it's important for an employee who is expecting to take significant time off to put in a request well in advance.
tldr; I don't care if you're planning to take two months off to go surfing or to have a kid. Just let me know how you plan to handle that and I'll evaluate your company on its merits.
Another serious question is wouldn't a nursery at work be disruptive if there is a lot of crying, etc. or how will it be set up so as not to bother people who are working.
Speaking of assumptions, there is no reason to assume a CEO mother would have a nursery at work. She might well have a stay-at-home spouse (I do) or a parent or nanny or any number of things.
Even 25 year olds in the shape of olympic champions take a week or so to be back in the full swing of things. The first few days are limited movement. A couple of weeks is more reasonable, particularly since two weeks of bonding is highly recommended (for both mother and father). Skin to skin! :)
I'm not saying there isn't a woman out there, somewhere, who had a kid at noon and was ready for work the next morning. But that's incredibly rare, certainly not anything to expect or plan for.
That being said, if a founder missing a few adequately planned for weeks of full time work kills a company it probably wasn't going anywhere anyway. Not that the investors would see it that way.
"Incapacitated" is the wrong word. "Sleep deprived" because junior demands he be fed a couple of times during the night is more accurate.
Having an infant at the office would be very disruptive. Their cries are designed by Nature to be annoying to adults so that they get the attention they need.
Regarding stress and exercise during gestation, there's a lot of research that shows that high stress levels during pregnancy should be avoided, and high-impact exercise is generally out. Low-impact exercise is generally fine, though your doctor will tell you to avoid it if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
Every woman is different. I have known women who have gotten right back into their exercise routine, and others who have taken a fair amount of time before becoming active again. Do what you're comfortable with, and talk to your doctor/mid-wife if you have questions.
Maybe in the future it will be possible to grow babies in incubators. There is actually a force in action to make it likely: the attempt so save prematurely born babies. The more that technology advances, the more possible it will become to shorten pregnancies and have them carried out in the incubator instead.
There are a lot of logical reasons for this that you already know, so I'll just vouch for the emotional one, which is a style of thinking that's going to become more prominent in you as soon as you hold your child. I'm really glad I waited. Unless fundraising now is life-or-death for your company, I think you'll both be really glad if you wait, too.
Pregnancy is one of the protected classes. If they talk about it and then don't give you funding, there are potential repercussions, just as if they discussed religion, race, etc.
AFAIK protected classes don't apply to investors.
You can't be a CEO and pregnant.
You can't be a lead programmer and old (> 30).
You can't love both Linux and Windows.
You can't be Democrat and vote for a Republican.
How did we become so decided.
It's bad from the child: stress on the mother can be transferred to the development of the child.
It's bad for the investor: this founder won't be able to dedicate the requisite amount of time to the venture as another unpregnant founder would.
"There are some data to show that higher chronic stressors in women and poor coping skills to deal with those stressors may be associated with lower birth weight and with delivering earlier," says Ann Borders, MD, MPH, MSc. She is an OB/GYN in the obstetrics and gynecology department, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, at Evanston Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem. (source http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/stress-marks)
In my opinion: Things that only affect her (abortion included) - her business. Things that negatively affect anyone else - her children included - societal, varying on impact.
Here are some links, to pieces regarding people who have had kids and startups, really the only people who're qualified to comment on the subject, and you can choose to educate yourselves (or, you know, not):
This is your bonus piece: http://madamenoire.com/599068/pregnant-woman-finishes-psych-...
Finally, I'm going share a story about my friend from grad school who wrote her thesis while 7-9 months pregnant, landed a tenure track faculty position in the physics department of the university where she teaches straight out of grad school, gave birth, returned to successfully defend her thesis, and she currently has 2 incredible children and a 25-person lab. Her partner is a very talented chef. So, you know, two demanding careers.
I honestly don't even know what else to say, other than suggest that a better more fruitful question would be, "What can be done to help technical founders who are pregnant and/or have families?"
No individual (regardless of sex) can run a startup as a CEO if they are incapacitated somehow
Individuals (regardless of sex) need to prioritize. NOBODY can have it all.
With that in mind, women need to understand that:
1. They will be incapacitated if they get pregnant
2. They need to choose if they want to be CEO or a nurturing mother. Both cannot happen concurrently because the woman will be overwhelmed and do worse in both roles.
It is also unfair on both the child and investors to give only half of yourself. So choose one.
This also applies to men. A man cannot go become a CEO if he's broke and needs to feed his family. Go get a job and get rid of immediate concerns first so that you can give your best to both your family and investors.
Your biases are showing. But really, I'm not sure what you're saying here. People living in partnership with others can raise children AND do other things. This is not "having it all", this is working hard to make your life what you want it to be.
- As much as we want it, a man can never become pregnant. The woman will have to do the pregnancy part.
- As much as we want it, a pregnant woman can never work at her optimal. The man will have to do the optimal working part.
So, if the partnership desires a kid, it means pregnancy for the woman and for the man to provide stability in those times.
Is this a personal bias or reality?
Pregnancy is one of many factors that play into your idea of "optimal" performance, alongside experience, intelligence, drive, etc. My wife did a lot of physically demanding labor and was more effective at her job than many non-pregnant coworkers right up to the day before she gave birth.
Person A: A 6 ft man
Person B: A 5 ft man
In basketball, even if person B trains for 23 hours/day more than person A, he is impeded because of his height.
Is there a guarantee that person A will do better JUST because of his height? No
Is there a guarantee that person B will do better JUST because of more hours invested in training? No
But person A can train and become better whereas person B cannot change anything.
Such is the nature of physical differences.
Person B would be better served playing a sport that doesn't require height...aka, Basketball is not "Optimal" for person B.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11361318 and marked it off-topic.
Evidence: Some children are raised by single fathers. It was only pretty recently that we managed to reduce the chance of death in childbirth for mothers to not-quite-terrifying levels.