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XX Combinator (terezan.tumblr.com)
33 points by ssclafani on July 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

What I read is this, "I want a Y-combinator, except where I live, aimed at my gender and with a schedule I can accept. Oh, and please supply the tech talent I need. If things work out I can reward the coders with salary and possibly a CTO position down the road."

Need I explain what is wrong with that picture?

If you don't see the problems, you might start by reading http://blog.wepay.com/2010/03/5-things-i-%E2%80%9Cknew%E2%80... and seeing how many critical pieces don't work. Starting with the whole supply/demand issue around technical and non-technical co-founders.

I disagree, I think it's a perfectly legitimate request. I know Tereza personally, and I also went through YC, so trust me when I say that she is definitely more talented than the average YC founder. That being said, she would still benefit greatly from having some additional resources, a community, and a push in the right direction, but the resources and community that YC provides don't quite fit her needs.

Don't get me wrong, moving out to silicon valley and eating ramen for three months is a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, YC is still kind of an existential solution to a monetary problem. Which is great, and it's the best thing for a lot of people including me, but there are other people with other needs who are just as capable of being successful given the right environment for them.

I am not saying anything against Tereza personally, and she may be incredibly talented. But every single thing I said in my summary can be backed up with quotes from her article. Here is the summary I gave, with quotes from Tereza interspersed.

"I want a Y-combinator..." - I want a Y Combinator...

"...except where I live..." - I’d love to New York be home to the world’s first XX Combinator, and I’d love to be in it.

"...aimed at my gender..." - I want a Y Combinator for women. Let’s call it the XX Combinator.

"...and with a schedule I can accept." - It would be scheduled and located so that women with families could actively do it.

"Oh, and please supply the tech talent I need." - Benevolent hackers would work side-by-side with them to build it...

"If things work out I can reward the coders with salary and possibly a CTO position down the road." - ...for equity and possibly paid salaries by sponsors and can convert into CTO positions.

There is no part of that list which is likely to happen any time soon. Y-combinator itself found out the hard way that it is easier to get startups going in Silicon Valley. People who are investing money generally care more about return on investment than targeting women. Startups naturally don't stay within convenient schedules. The rate-limiting ingredient to starting tech startups is available good tech talent, so there is no supply of "benevolent hackers", particularly not ones who are willing to work the necessary hours with a random person they were partnered with. And given the amount of work it takes, plus the supply/demand issue, the reward the tech people need cannot be an afterthought "if things work out".

Oh, and I disagree with the claim that YC is just an existential solution to a monetary problem. If you're young, single, and capable, it isn't hard to save more money than YC offers. But that won't get you, for instance, the feedback and networking benefits that YC gives.

Objectifying tech people as reusable and throw away nerds seems to be a recurrent pattern along non-tech folks trying to create a startup.

Though not the successful ones... In Pittsburgh, it seems like everyone, even "old people", repeats the mantra of good hackers being a huge part of success.

Being a techie and the father of a daughter, I'm sympathetic to the cause. But stuff like

It would be scheduled and located so that women with families could actively do it. No “3-months in Silicon Valley”.

always rubs me the wrong way, whether it "should" or not. I'm a man with a family — in a "coparenting relationship" (kids spend a week with me then a week with mom, repeat) — and am exactly as likely to be able to move to Silicon Valley for a few months as a woman in the same situation would be (i.e. it's impossible).

Not that our field doesn't need more diversity; Lord knows it does.

EDIT: I want to add that I'm not in any way disparaging this project and I wish it the very best. Just wanted to throw in another perspective. As a straight white male born in the USA I've done quite well in the birth lottery, through no special work or talent of my own. But I think it's important and valuable (for all participants) as we move to a relationship/parenting model of each-couple-works-it-out-for-themselves shared responsibility that we recognize the implications and adapt appropriately. Easier said than done.

Yeah, if that's an accommodation worth making for women with families, it surely is for men, too, given that they're increasingly sharing parenting responsibilities.

Of course - which is why I would see it makes sense for differentiating between people with children.

It is somehow of more consequence that a mother misses 3 months of a child's life than a father?

I'm sympathetic to a cause here, but I can't help but think that things like this might do more to promote sexism than not.

I think the idea that women are somehow less capable of doing the "3-months in Silicon Valley" is harmful. I think that the (not directly) implied idea that it would be easier for men (men with families even) to do the startup dance on a string budget is harmful.

I think the idea that women just don't mature into people who are ready to tackle a startup until their 40s is harmful. I think that the idea that men are much more ready to tackle a startup in their 20s is harmful.

This whole article smacks of the idea that there is something fundamentally different about men and women and their capabilities at different points in their adult life. I think this idea is harmful.

I think these things are harmful, because I'd like to see the eradication of gender inequality as a social norm.

I suspect that while said differences may exist at this point in time, that they are cultural rather than physical in nature, and that if the goal is social equality, things like this do little more than reinforce cultural stereotypes about women and men.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very aware of the skew towards males in the tech world. There are a lot of reasons for that, almost all -- if not all -- of them cultural.

I assume that while only 7 founders have been female, that this isn't happening with 50% of applicants being female.

Perhaps doing a Y-Combinator style seed-funding ramen-profitable thing is only really appealing to people who are young. Perhaps we could use something like that for people who are older and have families and can't do the "drop everything for a few months in pursuit of this idea".


Damn, you started out strong and then things fell apart a bit. That's what I get for voting without reading all the way through.

This whole article smacks of the idea that there is something fundamentally different about men and women and their capabilities at different points in their adult life

Men and women are fundamentally different, and research from a wide variety of fields continues to support that. I find it ridiculous to believe that even though evolution has so completely obviously shaped our bodies differently, the male and female minds are the same, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, both scientific and experiential. A researcher would be mocked for making the claim that men and women have the exact same body, but since the mind is murkier and not as well understood, it's fine to claim that they're the same. This seems analogous to religious claims of miraculous healing, which always seem to affect something like cancer or headaches or something we can't see or touch. They never restore lost limbs or raise the dead. It's always in intangible areas we don't fully understand, and it seems for now that the belief that men and women aren't fundamentally different in their mental and psychological processes can enjoy the same safe haven.

Sorry for the rant, but it's always just struck me as the perfect example of starting with your conclusion (driven by political correctness), and then trying in vain to make the evidence fit the theory. I don't see how any honest researcher could just follow the evidence and determine that men and women are "fundamentally" the same.

Now, I agree that the eradication of gender inequality (in the sense of value) as a social norm is a worthy goal, but starting from the foundation of falsehood is the wrong approach.

Could you point me at some studies that suggest that there are intrinsic things about men and women that would make it more likely for women to not be capable of participating in a startup in their 20s?

I don't claim that the male and female mind are the same. I suspect that the differences between them have more to do with culture and pattern-recognition than biology, even though there is some overlap there. I'm also not anything more than an armchair neuroscientist, so if you'd like to point me at this "mounds of evidence to the contrary", please go ahead. (Edit: This sentence sounds a bit more snarky than I intended it to)

As far as I know, we're still in a big grey area as far as how much evidence points to the majority of someone's mind being nature, and how much nurture, and how those interact. I'm working with the assumption that people's mindsets are almost entirely a blank slate at (or a bit before) birth, and that the vast majority of what they think about the world and all the stuff that comes with that is created via pattern-recognition over the course of their lives, with patterns they're exposed to frequently when young being more strongly ingrained than others. Am I wrong here?

That is, I'm saying that I think that if you took a baby female, and raised it in an environment where the only exposure she had to what a "female" was and how a "female" differs from a "male" were manufactured (reversed even), that she would have those ideas about being a female instead of the ones in common usage.

My conclusion isn't driven by political correctness either, although I can see how you would make that assumption. I don't give a shit about political correctness.

Look I am intersexed and I have dealt with such stuff all of my life. The one thing I have learnt is that we aren't blank slates, but we aren't mentally engineered either. It is true that environment plays a huge role in the development of a child, but please understand this.

Gender is something that is innate to your mind. Be it through proprioception or something more complex than that. It is etched in you in the womb and the way it expresses itself is something that is acquired in tandem with the environment. Now understand this too, gender is a spectrum. What most talks center around are the peaks of the two bell curves, but there are lots of folks on either sides. There are kind, sensitive men and abusive, viscous women. The truth is just like skin color gender isn't exactly something to go on when dealing with another human being. Some people tend to conform, but a lot of folks don't and those are the interesting ones.

I feel like laughing my head off each time I read such things. It is true that it sucks to be a woman, but it sucks to be a man too. I will say this again and again, when you see the spaces society creates as an outsider then you begin to understand that things aren't absolute. I am sub-human to most people, and my right to access a lot of spaces that most readers of this thread take for granted is fought out in courts around the world. To most people I am a freak, but they don't understand. They've been taught to see a world that can fit in neat boxes, only that nature doesn't really care. [edit: This sounds really mean and rude when I read it again before going to sleep. To any reader I assure you this was not my intention. I am sorry if I came across like that to you.]

What I am trying to say is that don't create women only spaces, or LGBTI friendly spaces, or anything like that. Create human friendly spaces. Embrace and accept the differences in others and only then can you see that the world is far more complex than any label we can slap on top of it.

[edit: forgot grammar and spell check. Sorry.]

I'm on the same page regarding gender and the need for an effort for "human friendly spaces". I've been phrasing things in a binary-gender manner because gender being a spectrum is a bit tangential and distracting to the point here, and is something that a much lower percentage of the population seems to have waken up to.

FWIW, I've spent a fair amount of time explaining that it doesn't just suck to be a woman, or a man, or a whatever to people. I think it's very hard for people to see how much assumptions about the way people are supposed to act based on their appearances or physical features really affect peoples day-to-day lives. Whether that's avoidable or not is another discussion.

Anyhow, I wish you luck.

Interesting. I really wish that more people like you existed in this world.

Can I ask you something? How did you get interested in this? If you don't mind can you please drop me a line at yesthisisananonymousid [at] google mail?

Thank you.

[edit: This might sound weird to you, but I would really love to talk to you. All of my life I have to fake being a boy for the benefit of my parents. I have to talk differently, walk differently, gesture differently, adjust my posture differently, look at things differently. The lines were drawn in my childhood; I was either a boy or it was the streets for me. Of course, I doubt it that my parents would have acted on that threat, but growing up with such stuff changed me. It's like someone stole my childhood from me. I don't know what it is like to have a normal life anymore. It's something really profound to meet someone who just gets it without saying. Please do indulge me with that.

Oh and my parents aren't monsters they just followed the status quo. I love them and I shall continue to love them no matter what.]

I'd be glad to. I'll email you either tonight or tomorrow, probably tonight.

Effect of testosterone on economic behavior: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090824151254.ht...

Startups are very risky, men are more predisposed to risk: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/ep062942.pdf

I do not doubt that men are more predisposed to risk, or that testosterone does not play a role in the decision-making process of humans, but I do not think that these studies show enough of a discrepancy to account for the low amount of women involved in startups, or the low ratio of women in tech fields in general.

I would not be surprised if there were a somewhat higher percentage of males versus females in tech. As it is, that is not the case, unless you're using very large values of "somewhat".

(It's getting better though, and seems to be getting better as the idea that programming or tech stuff "isn't for girls" becomes less common).

On what basis? We have a low pool of female talent (in tech), I have given you a mechanic whereby women would be less disposed to getting involved in startups.

That gives us (statistically poor) evidence of an outcome and a mechanism which could cause it.

Why do you feel there must be some extra discrimination that must be limiting female Y-Combinator applicants with no evidence to back this up? What is the mechanic? How did it not apply for the 7 women who did get in?

btw - I am ignoring the 'not enough women in technology' point since it isn't the topic of the OP and is too large in scope for the time available.

You have given me a mechanic that accounts for a minor discrepancy in behavioral patterns, not a large one.

No evidence of women not getting involved in tech because they felt inadequate as women? This is something that people have been screaming about for a while.

A lot, if not the majority, of women are brought up surrounded by the assumption that they aren't good at math, or that they won't be doing much of anything but be housewives, as a lot of men are brought up surrounded by the assumption that they will be providers, and will chase tail. These are, obviously, simplifications.

A lifetime of being discouraged from "not your gender" activities is going to make an individual less likely to do said activities, regardless of their natural propensity for said activities.

The 7 women who did get in would be women who either realized that they were capable of it, decided they didn't care about the social pressures, or weren't surrounded by the social pressures to begin with. They could also be females that are closer to the average male in the ways that count for joining a startup. There's a lot of possibilities.

I dont think that Y Combinator has been discriminating against women. I do think that the cultural perception of gender roles in the US makes it less likely for women who would otherwise be applying to even get to the point where they'd have something to put on an application.

Less than a hundred years ago, women didn't have the right to vote. There's still a large percentage of the population that thinks that the place for a woman is in the kitchen, making babies. Do you really think that theses attitudes have no effect on the amount of women doing things like joining startups? You and I may not have attitudes like that, but if you think that those attitudes are rare, you are mistaken.

The same thing happens with men with different activities.

The studies you showed, while they did show differences between males and females with regards to risk-taking, did not show a huge difference between males and females. If we were talking about 11 female founders out of 30, it would be one thing. That is not the case. There is a large difference, and I find the "well men are more prone to risk taking" argument quite unconvincing when the data shows that men are more prone to taking risks -- but not nearly to the same degree as the discrepancy.

Furthermore, many of the social risk-taking activities studied may not be motivated out of anything that is intrinsic to being a man or a woman. A man may take risks as a form of mating dance. A man may also take risks because "that's what a man does".

This is not a simple issue, and I doubt it can be reduced to purely biological differences, other than in the very literal level that all differences between individuals can.

You've got this wrong. kaens did not claim that men and women are "fundamentally the same". He's saying, don't assume there are fundamental (crippling) differences.

All you've pointed out is that there are indeed fundamental differences of some kinds, but not of the sort kaens was talking about. The inconclusiveness you raise supports his point.

Edit: Wow. Downvoted. What on earth for?


There are, obviously, some population differences between men and women; for instance, on average men are taller. Blame the hormones. But people confuse mean and variance, and this is one case where instinctive ignorance of probability is tantamount to sexism. In fact, it's plain rude to do that to people.

Okay, an example. Let's say that on average, men are better fighters than women - whether that's societal or innate is neither here nor there, but take it as generally true. It doesn't change the fact that my sister could kick my arse. If I trusted in statistics there, I'd have been wearing my teeth as a necklace by the age of ten.

So even if the means are different, the variances are so high that you can't know what the person in front of you, male or female, is good at. What that means is that if you go into something like this with preconceptions based on gender, then you are being unfair to the person in front of you - male or female - by not judging them on who they are and what they can do. And if you fail to allow for the gender roles that society forces people into, then you're closing yourself off to talent. And if you close yourself off to talent you can use, your company deserves to fail.

I don't want to be that guy or that company.

(This is pretty personal for me, actually; my mother taught me BASIC when I was seven or so. She's a much better programmer than I am.)

Which is an excellent argument not to discriminate against an individual.

However, what the OP and this thread are discussing is ways of 'fixing' a low percentage of women in startups. Which could be caused by either women on average having a worse skill set for startups or on average having less of a desire to take risky economic decisions.

If these are the causes then there isn't likely to be any way to 'fix' it.

I'm fairly certain that the percentage of women in startups is much lower than can be explained by purely biological means.

I bet it can be completely explained by a combination of biological and environmental causes.

Just because the claim is made that there are biological differences between men and women does not mean that the disparity of women vs. men in startups is entirely (or even mostly) due to biological causes.

If you want more women in startups then you have to either change women or change startups.

I'm really starting to get the impression that people think that I've been arguing that there aren't any biological differences between males and females. I probably should have worded that sentence as "fundamentally different in regards to what they are capable of doing, minus some very obvious physical limitations like childbirth and ejaculation of semen"

"Don't assume there are fundamental (crippling) differences."

I think you should assume fundamental differences, because that's what both the research and experience show. Certainly more can be done for younger women, but if you don't think that businesswomen in their 40s are on average more capable than their younger counterparts then you probably haven't spent much time around businesswomen. (For reference, I took a class on women and entrepreneurship so I've been exposed to a lot of 20ish female entrepreneurs and a lot of 40ish businesswomen.)

Does the research and experience show that businessmen in their 40s are on average more capable than their younger counterparts? I bet it does!

You can make fun of me if you want, but the fact is that there are many, many differences between men and women. We don't really know what those differences mean in the real world, but we shouldn't pretend they don't exist any more than we should assume that they're 'crippling'.

As for which ones would prevent a woman from being successful as an entrepreneur in her 20s, it's impossible to say because success as an entrepreneur is multiplicative. There are dozens of factors, and only one has to be zero or near zero to make the whole thing fall apart. But the very fact that women are so different from men makes this theory quite plausible, albeit completely speculative.

I'm not making fun of you. I'm saying that women being more successful entrepreneurs in their 40s may not be tied to them being women, but to them being twice as old and experienced as a 20 year old

Yes, that's a much more succinct way of putting it.

Thank you. If you really want to attract scorn the question could extend to race as well. Too often we confuse equality with uniformity. Woman tend to be worse at math, black guys tend to be great at basketball. Who cares? We're all people.

Political correctness puts a thin outward veneer over real the issue -- that deep inside of us we all want to be better than the people around us-- race, gender, physical disabilities and class are only the most obvious ways that we all play the game.

I think that there are many things done in the same vein with the intent of alleviating minority's struggles due to racism that do more to promote the concept of racism than not.

I'm not confusing equality with uniformity, although it's hard to express why that is clearly.

deep inside of us we all want to be better than the people around us

I disagree with this, particularly strongly with the absoluteness of it, and I think that it's an attitude that is mostly propagated by a weird bunch of cultural catch-22s.

Male and female bodies are not completely different. I suspect for example knees work similarly across genders. So it does not automatically follow that the brains are different.

Sure, there will be some different things. For example female brains probably have learned to not bump into things with their chests, whereas male brains have learned not to bump into things with their groins.

I find this sort of reductio ad pundenda dehumanizing: it betrays a pathological contempt for subtlety; and an autistic insensibility to humanity.

  This whole article smacks of the idea that there is 
  something fundamentally different about men and women and 
  their capabilities at different points in their adult life. 
  I think this idea is harmful.
But what if it's true? I know it's not politically correct to say this, but there are biological differences between men and women, rooted in our different roles in reproduction. Yes, we are more similar than different for the most part, but we shouldn't just gloss over what differences do exist.

> But what if it's true?

And what if it's not? What's wrong with resisting the idea until we actually know?

Yeah, there are deep biological differences, no doubt. But the idea that women were fundamentally incapable of X for biological reasons has been the norm in history, and the history of women has been repeatedly proving that they can, in fact, do X.

> What's wrong with resisting the idea until we actually know?

Nothing at all.

> But the idea that women were fundamentally incapable of X for biological reasons has been the norm in history, and the history of women has been repeatedly proving that they can, in fact, do X.

No doubt, and I don't intend to assert that - in general - there is any specific thing that women can't do. But the idea that women would be more inclined/able/interested to do certain things, at certain times of their life, and that it might be different from men, for biological reasons, does not strike me as absurd. Look at the whole "biological clock" issue that prompts women to worry more about when they have kids, versus men, who mostly don't have to worry about that issue. (I'm just throwing that out there as an example, not saying that specifically means anything).

Anyway, to reiterate what I said in the other thread, in case anyone might misunderstand where I'm coming from: I am 100% in favor of gender equality and the idea that men and women should have equal access to opportunities and the ability to pursue their dreams.

It could be true, and if it is then we need to think about equality in a different manner, I suppose.

I strongly suspect that the vast majority of the differences are cultural in nature -- in fact I suspect that patterns exposed through culture that are identified as valid by the brains of the people experiencing them are biological differences, but they're not biological differences in the sense of what makes us a species (only that what people hold in their head about themselves and about how they should or shouldn't act, or what is masculine or feminine is stored, at some level, in a biological manner).

It really seems to me that the "classical" differences between "males" and "females" were really probably rather useful for a good chunk of humanity's history, and that they're really fairly useless now, and that people are recognizing that.

On a related note, gender and sex are a fuzzier topic for most than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

I freely admit that I do not know where the line between what part of a persons mindset is nature, and what part is culture lies, nor am I fully aware of of how they interact. Based on what I know, I strongly suspect that the vast majority of most peoples mindsets is based on culture -- based on patterns that they've seen since they were born that their minds recognize as valid (since that seems to be what our brains do).

I would suspect that if it was true, to a degree that would make it relevant for this company, that we wouldn't have had huge women's rights movements, and that feminism wouldn't exist. I suppose one could take the view that women and men are still somehow intrinsically predisposed to being better or worse at this or that, but have been able to be annoyed by it by being capable of higher-order abstraction, but I really doubt that that is the case.

I also don't think that the species is static -- that is, if there are said intrinsic differences, and our survival situation changes enough to make them redundant or change them, adaptation will happen. There's a large part of me that thinks that "you can't fight biology" is a hell of a cop-out for humans.

Eh, it's a can of worms really. I do work with the assumption that gender inequality is vastly more cultural than not. In fact, I work with the assumption that it is - for all practical intents and purposes - entirely cultural.

I could be wrong. I don't think I am, and I hope I'm not.

Cultural enforcement starts at a very young age. I've seen preschool girls tell boys that they aren't allowed to play with the plastic kitchen because boys don't cook!

Now if there is a large pool of 40 year old women who want to start companies we could:

A) Provide an environment in which this is possible B) Say that choice A is condescending because it's only due to cultural differences that they didn't start a startup 20 years ago

I personally will choose A because while I have no idea how to change a culture that is enforced by 4 year old kids, but I kind of think think seeing successful women entrepreneurs might help

Cultural enforcement starts at a very young age.

Yes, I'm well aware of that. It's more or less what I've been talking about.

A) Provide an environment in which this is possible B) Say that choice A is condescending because it's only due to cultural differences that they didn't start a startup 20 years ago

C) Provide an environment in which this is possible that is not exclusionary in nature. Just do A, but don't exclude non-women, and don't market exclusively at women.

When confronted with uncomfortable truths, most people will resort to the “cultural conditioning” argument. It is fear of the unchangeable that motivates them.

There are many things fundamentally different between men and women. Sure, some women have traits similar to men and the converse holds as well.

Personally, I don't think there is anything actually stopping women from being successful entrepreneurs beyond their own utility functions. Granted, those utility functions are in part a product of the culture in which they develop, but that does not mean something needs to change in the entrepreneur/investor community.

> This whole article smacks of the idea that there is something fundamentally different about men and women and their capabilities at different points in their adult life. I think this idea is harmful.

The vast majority of male humans are not capable of giving birth at any point during their lives.

We can argue about the consequences of that fact, but it's hard to believe that there are no consequences.

What other facts should not be discussed?

I absolutely think that should be discussed. I don't doubt that there are some consequences of that, but I don't think they're nearly as extreme as some people paint them to be.

Edit: I don't think that anything should be barred from discussion. Taboo topics are harmful, in my opinion.

> Taboo topics are harmful, in my opinion.

You get to argue that point with the person who wrote "I think this idea is harmful."

I wrote that. Whether or not I think an idea, or the implementation of an idea, is harmful has no bearing on whether or not I think it should be barred from discussion.

If 7 female founder is reflective of the Y Combinator applicant pool, and the only thing YC is doing to structurally to "keep women out" is to favor founders who have coding skills, then the issue appears to be that there aren't enough competent female coders.

Rather than a band-aid solution (e.g., creating a separate model of startup incubator that plays the types of jobs women currently do), if we want true gender equality in the tech space we should hit at the root: getting more women interested in tech. So instead of "XX Combinator," how about more programs designed to get young girls interested in science, math, coding, and entrepreneurism -- the supposed ingredients of a successful YC applicant.

That is, it seems to me that funding a whole bunch of startups run by people who may not be technically qualified to succeed simply because they're women isn't a great idea. Instead, the better solution is to devise ways to get more women interested in the things necessary to succeed (in this case coding and design skills+) and help them develop those skills.

+If you believe the apparent YC philosophy that technically adept founders are better positioned to succeed.

I think that what needs to be addressed is the cultural idea that math and programming and "science stuff" is a male thing.

On a more abstract level, I think what needs to be addressed is the cultural idea that $FOO or $BAR are a $GENDER thing, especially considering what we're discovering about gender and sexuality. There's plenty of examples of women being pressured to not do X and men being pressured to not do Y because X or Y fall out of what are considered to be normal social behavior for their respective gender or sex.

How to address it? I don't know exactly, other than stressing the point, and making a point of not performing that type of implied discrimination yourself.

I'm a big fan of meritocracy in this regards -- if I'm looking for coders (or dancers, or drivers, or artists, or bakers, or whatever), I care about what they can and have accomplished, not what they look like or what their sex is. If I ever start my own company, I very well might make the application process (as) entirely anonymous (as possible) to enforce this.

I really don't think that equality in genders means that 50% of YC applicants (or any particular career choice) should be women (or men).

"I want a Y Combinator for women" is an incredibly ignorant comment. First, it suggests that YC somehow is not suited to women which is insulting to both parties. Secondly it is suggesting that a woman only YC is a step forward - I see it as a leap backwards.

And then she goes to speak for women everywhere with statements like

"Y Combinator participants are for the most part very young — in their early 20’s. This is not when women would be most inclined. Women who start businesses like to know what they’re doing, and be trained and experienced in it.".

That is so ridiculous I feel ignorant for responding to this post.

I don't think any of the reasons mentioned here for keeping women out is gender specific. It's more hacker vs "idea person" or how I prefer to think of it, those who can code vs those who can't code.

This is more about "Y Combinator for non coders" than it is about "Y Combinator for women". This is something I see a lot of - people with some experience that want to start a tech startup but want to hire out some developers to build it for them. Not that there is something inherently wrong with that - there just isn't anything gender specific about it either.

The problem, as the author mentioned, is primarily that the number of women taking up coding is disproportionate to the number of men that take up coding. Y Combinator's heavily male population is a reflection of the problem, not a cause.

The 35-year old cut-off could be considered gender-specific.

I'm a 30-year old female entrepreneur and software developer. I would love to do Y-combinator or other incubator program. I also want to start a family. If I wait for years to have kids, there is a statistically higher risk of infertility. This isn't the case for men. I think the author is correct that women may be more ready to launch a start-up when they're 40.

Completely agree. I'm only 24; I just finished my CS undergrad and masters' degrees. I'm getting married next year and just took a high-paying job as a software engineer at an established big corporation rather than taking up any of the start-up offers I got from friends. I really wanted to do the start up thing but my fiancée and I want kids; I want them sooner to reduce the risk of infertility as well as mental and health problems that are statistically more prevalent amongst older mothers. Along with that I grew up very poor, so I want to provide for them with a house, steady food and small comforts, things I lacked until I was able to work for myself at 16.

I think that other women may take different choices - if I didn't want to have kids, I would be all over working on a start up, but as it stands, I wouldn't think about it until I am older.

I think that the article has its plusses and minuses but one thing we should all agree on is that the YC model should be adopted for the needs of many different groups. I won't want to do anything risky until my kids are more independent and I've built a solid nest egg. But my fiancée feels the same way as me! So, I don't see why the article needs to be quite so gender-specific. I would like to see this idea come to fruition, with emphasis placed on attracting more women to the field but maybe geared more towards anyone 35-40+ who has a family and responsibilities but would like to take on a start up project.

The 35-year old cut-off could be considered gender-specific.

The problem with this is that there is no 35 year old cutoff. Why does YCombinator have a high percentage of people in their 20s? People in their 20s are just more likely to be willing to try to do something like Y-Combinator. It's a difficult program to do if you're 40, have a well paying job, a family, and a mortgage, regardless of your gender. If you're a 40 year old person I'm sure you are more than welcome to apply to Y Combinator and that your age will not play a part in the selection process. I don't have the numbers, but I'm sure the vast majority of people that apply are in their 20s.

I'm in a startup incubator in Utah called BoomStartup, and while we also have very few women (1 out of ~25 or 30 founders) the average age is probably closer to 40 than to 20.

"I think the author is correct that women may be more ready to launch a start-up when they're 40" I think this is a valid statement.

However, the argument then becomes, 'Is it a good business strategy to invest and nurture a pool of 40 year old entrepreneurs?'

That is a good question; but as the life expectency of our population increases while the prospect of any of us getting social security decreases, the fact is we may be at a point where retirement doesn't happen until one is at least 70 or even older. A 45-year old entrepreneur with, let's say, 20 years experience in the field who doesn't plan on retiring until 65 or 70 still has at least 20 years to invest in the company; additionally, think of what you at 18 or 20 could have learned from an internship with someone like that. I think our culture is continually redefining what is and isn't "old"; I for one don't think 40 is truly all that old.

Thanks for offering your perspective, it's the best thing I've read in this thread...

Agreed. While I wish them luck, I think they're accepting a bunch of terribly flawed premises, about the willingness and ability of women to do the "startup thing".

Maybe that's not what the author of the article wants to do (and I'll be honest, it's not really my thing either; I live a very comfortable life on the East Coast), but I think she overgeneralizes a bit, extending her experience out to general truths about women in general. There's no reason why women shouldn't be equally represented among coders. There's no reason why women shouldn't be as eager to get their hands dirty in a startup when they're in their 20s. There's no reason why women ought to feel that they need to take a disproportionate role in parenting, or even feel pressured to have kids at all, if they don't want to.

There's definitely room for trying to make starting a business easier, for women and men who aren't in their 20s and don't want to move to Silicon Valley. But we should also be trying to figure out where the 20-something women coder/entrepreneurs are, or how we can create more of them.

It's not as though entrepreneurship or staying up all night coding on pizza and Mountain Dew are something where men have a biological advantage; there's no good reason why women shouldn't be equally represented. That they are not is symptomatic of a deep problem in both the tech industry and in the educational system that feeds the industry. Stopgaps are fine, but we need to be looking into the deeper problems at the same time, not just accepting them on premise.

Why are entrepreneurs mostly male?

I believe this deserves another look: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

TDLR: "For women throughout history (and prehistory), the odds of reproducing have been pretty good. Later in this talk we will ponder things like, why was it so rare for a hundred women to get together and build a ship and sail off to explore unknown regions, whereas men have fairly regularly done such things? But taking chances like that would be stupid, from the perspective of a biological organism seeking to reproduce. They might drown or be killed by savages or catch a disease. For women, the optimal thing to do is go along with the crowd, be nice, play it safe. The odds are good that men will come along and offer sex and you’ll be able to have babies. All that matters is choosing the best offer. We’re descended from women who played it safe.

For men, the outlook was radically different. If you go along with the crowd and play it safe, the odds are you won’t have children. Most men who ever lived did not have descendants who are alive today. Their lines were dead ends. Hence it was necessary to take chances, try new things, be creative, explore other possibilities."

The more I watched the Milan fashion show, the more troubled I became that 0% of the models on the catwalks were men. I realized that the men in the IT industry compose a vast, under-served market for high fashion that is being actively and sexually discriminated against by structural factors.

Factors which we can overcome with wishful thinking.

We need a fashion show. In Silicon Valley. For men. In their thirties and forties. Who can code. On nights and weekends so as not to disturb their working hours.

Benevolent designers and fashion models will work with the coders to make this happen in return for equity and possibly paid salaries by sponsors and can convert into CFO (Chief Fashion Officer) positions.

There is already a y combinator for your gender: y combinator. If the problem is that women don't know how to code, then we should start empowering them to code, not give them money to start a tech business despite that.

It's worth trying; I hope somebody does.

this old debate

memo to the planet: males and females are different

stop thinking, open your eyes and ears and get out in the world. do this for say 20+ years so you get exposed to a lot of reality, enough to overwhelm your theories/thinking, then revisit the issue.

one last point: I think universities and colleges are the main vectors for this "males and females are the same with exact same potential, desires, talents, predilections -- but mean old Society is oppressing/distorting them" idea. can't wait to see it die out.

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