Last year, an anonymous entrepreneur detailed on Forbes.com the many obstacles—and sometimes outright harassment—she faced when trying to raise money from venture capitalists while female. There were unwanted back massages and a pitch meeting at which she was asked, “Did your daddy give you money?”
It's not just the old guard doing the discriminating, she wrote:
Justin Mateen ... stated [allegedly] that having a young female cofounder at Tinder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” it. Or the comments of the male 20-something Twitter employee, who told me, “You should really hire a nerdy looking dude to represent your company publicly. You know, to make up for your looks.”
Women are now the majority of college students and about half of all managers in the broader workforce, but in the startup world, they number comparatively few. According to the Kauffman Foundation, they account for only about 16 percent of employers, and they make up only 10 percent of founders of so-called “high-growth” firms—startups that quickly add workers rather than fizzling out. Overall, women own only 36 percent of all small businesses.
The reasons for this disparity are hotly debated in the tech world. Some blame the stereotype that women are supposedly less tolerant of risk, or that they prioritize motherhood over the punishing hours of startup life.
Others point to the hyper-macho atmosphere of Silicon Valley and other venture hubs. Just this week, interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, a former junior partner at the investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, testified in a lawsuit against her former employer that she was allegedly denied a promotion because of her gender. Among the issues involved are whether Pao's personality was deemed too "prickly" and why the company organized a men-only ski trip.